A First Amendment auditor in Texas proved that photography is not a crime in public lobbies of police stations – despite cops claiming otherwise.
CFW Carolina in Fort Worth entered the lobby of a jail in Tarrant County while recording to ask for a copy of the jail roster which is public record.
But a Tarrant County sheriff’s deputy working the front window told her the jail roster is not available to the public which is a lie. The jail roster includes the names of all inmates. It is important to access because jailers frequently lie about who is incarcerated.
The deputy then claimed she was not allowed to record inside the lobby.
However, there is no state law forbidding photography or videography inside the public lobbies of government buildings.
And in 2010, the federal Department of Homeland Security agreed to a settlement with the New York Civil Liberties Union that clarified that “persons entering in or on federal property may take photographs” of “building entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors or auditoriums for news purposes.”
Although that settlement applies to federal buildings, it affirmed that photographing in the lobbies of government buildings is protected by the First Amendment so there is no reason why it would not apply to a county jail lobby in Texas.
And apparently the Tarrant County sheriff’s deputies figured that out because they never did make any attempt to keep her from recording despite telling her numerous times that she was not allowed to record.
Although there is a sign hanging in the lobby telling people not to record, there is no statute number as there is with another sign posted in the lobby. Note the difference.
They are creating their own laws by banning videography when we have the right to record our interactions with public officials as we conduct public business. Just as they do to us.
But they know most people will never dare challenge police on this issue.
Carolina in Fort Worth is not one of those people. The video above is the four-minute version of her full 11-minute video which is posted below.
Unfortunately, it does not appear they ever gave her the jail roster.