The Scent of a Criminal

Courts have defended the filming of police as being protected by the First Amendment. Law enforcement agencies have tried a variety of means of preventing being filmed, including asserting the protection of the law enforcement officer’s privacy, but filming in a public space has repeatedly been treated as a free speech issue.

The Oregon Court of Appeals recently affirmed a decision in a case that provides an exception to the right to film the police. Generally, such rights cannot obstruct law enforcement officers from performing their duties. In the State of Oregon v Ryan James Gardiner, the defendant tried to film police in a way that involved trampling on the tracks of a suspect that police dogs were trying to track. This was interfering with the dogs’ ability to learn the suspect’s scent. Mr. Gardiner was ordered to get out of the way and was arrested for refusing to comply. Oregon’s appeals court agrees that Mr. Gardiner had a duty to comply because his right to film the police did not entitle him to stand in a specific location that threw the police dogs off the trail of a violent criminal, which makes sense to me.

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of We were winning when I was there.