US Police officers are to be reminded that "no general security regulations prohibit photography" outside federal courthouses, after a photographer, who was arrested in 2009, won a settlement in the lawsuit he brought against the United States Department of Homeland Security
The US Department of Homeland Security has settled a claim brought by photographer Antonio Musumeci, who was arrested after photographing and videotaping in a public plaza outside of the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan.
As part of the settlement, the Department of Homeland Security will issue guidelines to police and security officers working around federal courthouses that shooting images and videos in such public spaces is allowed. The written notice will clearly say that there are "no general security regulations prohibiting photography outside the buildings."
The settlement comes six months after the photographer, backed by the New York Civil Liberties Union brought the claim against the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the Federal Protective Service and one of its officers after he was arrested, in November 2009, while videotaping a political protest in a public plaza outside of the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan.
The photographer was charged with violating a "vague federal regulation that restricts photography and that appears to be inconsistently enforced." Musumeci argued that federal law-enforcement officials improperly use the regulation to arrest and harass law-abiding photographers.
The New York Civil Liberties Union added that the regulation was not being enforced similarly across the country, citing the examples of a Philadelphia courthouse and of the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC, both of which allow photography on its grounds. It also argues that the regulation specifies that it must be posted for the public to see on federal property. In Musumeci's case, the regulation was not displayed. For more details about the incident, read our full report US legal action seeks public photography rights.
As part of the settlement, the photographer will also receive $1500 from the Federal Protective Service. Musumeci will also see his legal fees reimbursed.
While the settlement will benefit photographers working around federal buildings, the deal also specifies that officers are allowed to ask the name of the photographer and the purpose of his pictures. The officers are also allowed to take any "lawful steps to ascertain whether unlawful activity, or reconnaissance for the purpose of a terrorist or unlawful act, is being undertaken," according to the Washington Post.
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