LAFAYETTE, La. — Training officers on First Amendment rights, including the public’s right to photograph officers while performing their public duties, has been implemented at the Lafayette Police Department. The training was included in a settlement announced by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana today.
The ACLU of Louisiana sued the police department in March on behalf of a Lafayette mother who was threatened with arrest after she took photographs of a Lafayette police vehicle.
After cooperating with officer Shannon Brasseux while he arrested her minor son, Chelline Carter took a picture of her son sitting in the back of the police car. In response, Brasseaux took her phone from her hand, accessed and searched it, and deleted the photo – all without a warrant or consent. Carter was also threatened with arrest.
“People have a constitutional right to take photographs of things in public spaces – and that includes the police and other government officials,” said Jane Johnson, Interim Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “Chelline Carter had every right to photograph her son in the back of a police vehicle, and the First Amendment training Lafayette police officers are receiving is a credit to her courage and resolve. The ACLU of Louisiana will continue to hold law enforcement officials accountable for respecting the rights of the public, including the right to film and photograph the police.”
The First Amendment protects the public’s right to take photographs and record things that are plainly visible in public spaces – including police and other government officials carrying out their duties. However, there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs or video in public places and harassing, detaining, and arresting those who fail to comply.
As part of the agreement, Lafayette Police Department has also paid Ms. Carter’s attorneys fees.