New York City cyclist, Will Paybarah, was stopped for a traffic violation by NPDP, but got more than just a minor ticket for his moving violation. He tried to document his interactions with the police, but Officer Rich arrested the cyclist after he refused to put his phone away – even though NYC law allows citizens to film law enforcement activity.
When asked why he was asked to put his phone away, he was informed that iPhones were used as guns for shooting cops. It was not clear whether the cop was citing a metaphor because no such law exists or if NYPD police often ignore real laws when they are in danger of being recorded:
I was told by another officer while in the car that recording a police officer was illegal because people are using iPhones as guns and shooting cops through the camera lens…I told him that I have the right to be recording a cop and he said that there were incidents, specifically in uptown Manhattan where a kid shot a cop with his iPhone. Straight face. Very serious.
Everyone knows iPhone guns cannot shoot actual bullets, but still Paybarah spent thirteen hours at Central Bookings and was sentenced to one day of community service for running a red light, resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, and criminal mischief.
New York Civil Liberties Union’s (NYCLU) Executive Director Donna Lieberman, said, “New Yorkers have a constitutional right to film police activity in public. Cell phone cameras empower people to expose police abuse and hold law enforcement accountable when it violates people’s rights.” Last year the organization released an app to prevent such abuse of powers, but all is for naught if NYPD continues to arrest and charge citizens for metaphorical infractions.