Police in Wilmington, North Carolina, have launched an internal investigation after an officer allegedly told a man he was not allowed to film his interaction with them.
Part-time Uber driver Jesse Bright said he took his phone out to record the police after he was pulled over in his car – but claims one of the officers told him it was illegal to do so.
Sgt Kenneth Becker was caught on tape asking Bright to stop filming and threatened to send him to jail if he did not. The officer claimed there was a "new law" that prevented citizens from recording police.
But Bright is also a criminal defence attorney – and knew there was no such law.
Asked to turn off the recording device on his phone, Bright told the officer: "No, I'll keep recording, thank you. It's my right."
"You're a police officer on duty. I can record you," he explained.
However, he was told by Becker: "Be careful because there is a new law. Turn it off or I'll take you to jail."
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"I know the law," Bright insisted. "I'm an attorney so I would hope I know what the law is."
"And an Uber driver?" Becker responded.
Bright had been pulled over halfway through a round trip with a customer who said he wanted to pick up a paycheck. But police told Bright that the house they had arrived at was under surveillance as part of a drugs investigation.
"They said I should have known it was a drug house, and I tried to tell them I was an Uber driver," Bright told the Washington Post. "They thought it was some sort of cover."
Police have confirmed that Bright was allowed to make his recording and that an internal investigation has been launched.
"Taking photographs and videos of people that are in plain sight including the police is your legal right," a statement from Wilminton Police chief Ralph Evangelous said.
"As a matter of fact we invite citizens to do so when they believe it is necessary. We believe that public videos help to protect the police as well as our citizens and provide critical information during police and citizen interaction."
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