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Cyclist's Encounter with Redmond Police Officer Causes Stir on Reddit

A YouTube video shows the officer threatening the bicyclist with arrest for recording him making a traffic stop.

 

A Seattle bicyclist has started a thread on the social news website Reddit asking for legal advice after a dispute with a Redmond Police officer over his rights to record a traffic stop.

In a YouTube video the bicyclist also posted, the officer is heard saying "if you record me, I'll arrest you...if you do this one second longer, you're violating a law in this state."

Both the video and account on Reddit were posted under a pseudonym.

According to the cyclist's account on Reddit, he was riding his bicycle with two other friends on Cleveland Street at around 2 p.m. last Saturday when the group was stopped by Officer Bill Corson for impeding traffic. The cyclist said he immediately began recording the encounter using a cell phone app but was ordered to stop and threatened with arrest. Here is more from his Reddit post: 

The officer asked what I was doing, and when I explained that I was recording him, he threatened me with illegal arrest under the state recording law. I presume he was referring to RCW 9.73.030, but that does not apply because RCW 9.73.030 only restricts recording private communication where the parties have not given consent. There is no expectation of privacy in public. Furthermore, Courts of Appeals in multiple circuits and the Department of Justice have said that recording the police in public is a first amendment right.

In one of the most recent high-profile cases concerning video recording of police actions, the DOJ has instructed the Baltimore Police Department "not to threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage an individual from recording police officer enforcement activities or intentionally block or obstruct cameras or other recording devices."

Redmond Police Chief Ron Gibson sent this statement to Redmond Patch via email: 

Redmond Police Department prides ourselves on maintaining the professional, ethical, and legal behavior of all our officers. We have been contacted by the individual involved in this incident with Officer Corson. The Redmond Police Department has policies and procedures in place to handle complaints of this nature and we have initiated an internal investigation into the behavior of this officer during this contact. The Redmond Police Department takes all complaints very seriously and we intend to thoroughly investigate this incident. We anticipate having this investigation completed per our policies within the next 30 days.

You can read the entire Reddit thread by clicking here.

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Editor's note: This story was revised a few minutes after it was posted to include a statement from Redmond Police Chief Ron Gibson.

Annie Archer (Editor) May 30, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Should people have the legal right to video tape encounters with the police?
Dale Knapinski May 30, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Have you ever watched COPS on TV? Some faces are blurred out, but it's usually the faces of innocent bystanders. If it's good for the goose....
Keith Moore May 30, 2012 at 06:06 AM
IANAL, but as I understand RCW 9.73.030, a voice conversation can only be recorded if *all* participating parties consent. Clearly, the offiicer did not consent. It *is* perfectly legal to record video only (without sound).
Dale Knapinski May 30, 2012 at 06:48 AM
A PRIVATE conversation may only be recorded if all parties consent. Conversations in public, where there is no expectation of privacy, can legally be recorded.
Chris May 30, 2012 at 07:39 AM
Even the DOJ (The Boss in this case) thinks recording officers in the performance of their duty IS and should be legal (undercover being an exception). Its a crucial check and balance. I expect most good cops don't care. I wonder about the ones that get all frothy about it. From the video I get the impression that Officer Corson was just uninformed. And judging by the response from the chief he will be re-informed. On a side note I wonder what his opinion of red light cameras is.
Sally Beth May 30, 2012 at 02:11 PM
We should thank this officer for doing his duty and stopping arrogant bicycle riders from purposefully blocking roads. This behavior has gotten to be outrageous and I'm sorry to say common place. It is typical behavior for the kind of person who would ride this way and then mess with an officer for calling him on it. Typical (wanna be sponsered) bike mentality. By the way I do bike but on the side of the road in single file.
Ron Olson May 30, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Really? Officer Bill Corson is the laughing stock of the town. I couldn't think of a better punishment for him then posting his commentary on YouTube. I played the video at least 5 times, and my friends were rolling on the floor in laughter. Way to go, Bill.
Bob Martinek May 30, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Hey Bill! Good job, you just cemented the image of bicyclists. Must be those skinny seats sticking up their...
Bob Martinek May 30, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Sorry Bill, got crossed up on names. Since the "cyclist" did not have the courage to give his name.
Ron Olson May 30, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Just a clarification, the cyclist did not post his name on the web, but the Redmond Police department does have his real name because he attached it to the complaint he filed with them. Posting your real name on the web may subject you to some unwanted midnight calls and visits for filing a complaint. I think the cyclist showed plenty of courage, but he needs to understand that sticking a camera in somebody's face might be met with something less than a smile...cop or not.
Local Guy May 30, 2012 at 09:56 PM
The officer should be reprimanded by his superiors. It is NOT illegal in this state as he asserts.
Ron Olson May 31, 2012 at 05:21 AM
This story will not be complete without a detailed explanation of video and audio taping laws. How about it, Annie?
Annie Archer (Editor) May 31, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Posted at 5 am this morning.
jim snodgras February 10, 2013 at 09:30 PM
No, sir. Absolutely wrong. There is no expectation of privacy for a police officer performing his duties in public. Therefor anyone may audio and video record the police in public. This opinion has been supported by federal courts such as the 7th circuit of federal appeals court when it issued an injunction preventing Illinois from arresting people for recording police in public. Glick vs Cunniffee also affirms the right of citizens to record the police in public under the 1st circuit of appeals federal court.

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