Now that more and more citizens are standing up for their legal rights to record in public, more and more public officials are resorting to unwritten policies to prevent people from recording.
And when that doesn’t persuade people to stop recording, they resort to unlawful trespass orders.
The latest incident comes to us from Oregon where Portland police and Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies were surrounding a homeless man whom they were accusing of sleeping in the county’s main library, which happens to be a violation of policy.
Sensing a possible violent altercation, Kif Davis of Film the Police Portland walked up and began video recording without saying a word.
That prompted two deputies to inform him of “a policy” forbidding him from recording people without their consent.
The Mulnomah County Main Library does has an extensive list of “behavior rules” on its website that must be followed, which you can read below, but not one mentions anything about recording.
But Davis wasn’t aware of this at the time, so he turned his camera off but continued observing the situation with the homeless man.
But, of course, that also created problems after the librarian and the deputies walked up to him and told him he had to leave.
When he turned his camera back on to document this interaction, he was told he was banned from all county libraries for a year. Not that they gave him any sort of documentation that would make it official as one would get with a valid trespass order.
But banning people from public facilities for video recording in areas under video surveillance seems to the latest trend with camera shy officials.
Below is a list of the Multnomah County “behavior rules.”
1. Committing or attempting to commit any activity that would constitute a violation of any federal, state or local criminal statute or ordinance.
2. Directing a specific threat of physical harm against an individual, group of individuals or property. Violation of this rule will result in a minimum exclusion of one year.
3. Engaging in sexual conduct, as defined under ORS 167.060, including, but not limited to, the physical manipulation or touching of a person’s sex organs through a person’s clothing in an act of apparent sexual stimulation or gratification.
4. Being under the influence of any controlled substance or intoxicating liquor. Controlled substance is defined in ORS 475.005.
5. Possessing, selling, distributing or consuming any alcoholic beverage, except as allowed at a library-approved event.
Any person who violates rules 6-19 while in or on library premises will be given up to one warning at the discretion of library staff; then the person will be asked to leave the premises for the day. Subsequent offenses by that person will result in that person’s immediate ejection and exclusion from all Multnomah County Library premises. Any person so excluded shall lose all library privileges for a period of up to one year.
6. Engaging in conduct that disrupts or interferes with the normal operation of the library, or disturbs library staff or patrons, including, but not limited to, conduct that involves the use of abusive or threatening language or gestures, conduct that creates unreasonable noise, or conduct that consists of loud or boisterous physical behavior or talking.
7. Using library materials, equipment, furniture, fixtures or buildings in a manner inconsistent with the customary use thereof; or in a destructive, abusive or potentially damaging manner; or in a manner likely to cause personal injury to the actor or others.
8. Disobeying the reasonable direction of a library staff member or library security officer.
9. Soliciting, petitioning, or distributing written materials or canvassing for political, charitable or religious purposes inside a library building, including the doorway or vestibule of any such library building or in a manner on the library premises that unreasonably interferes with or impedes access to the library.
10. Interfering with the free passage of library staff or patrons in or on the library premises, including, but not limited to, placing objects such as bicycles, skateboards, backpacks or other items in a manner that interferes with free passage.
11. Placing personal belongings on or against buildings, furniture, equipment or fixtures in a manner that interferes with library staff or patron use of the library facility, or leaving personal belongings unattended.
12. Bringing bicycles or other similar devices inside library buildings, including, but not limited to, vestibules or covered doorways if no bicycle rack is provided within that area.
13. Operating roller skates, skateboards or other similar devices in or on library premises.
14. Parking vehicles on library premises for purposes other than library use. Vehicles parked in violation of this rule may be towed at the owner’s expense.
15. Smoking or other use of tobacco.
16. Consuming food or drink that creates a nuisance because of odor, garbage or spills. Non-alcoholic beverages in closed containers and small amounts of snack foods are allowed. No food or drink of any kind are allowed inside the John Wilson collections at Central Library.
17. Bringing animals inside library buildings (with the exception of service animals), except as allowed at a library-approved event, or leaving an animal tethered and unattended on library premises in violation of Multnomah County Code §13.305.
18. Violating the library’s rules for Acceptable use of the Internet and library public computers, which are posted at every search station table.
19. Taking library materials into restrooms if the materials have not been checked out.
Any person who violates rules 20-23 while in or on library premises will be given up to two warnings at the discretion of library staff; then the person will be asked to leave the premises for the day. Subsequent offenses by that person will result in that person’s immediate ejection and exclusion from all Multnomah County Library premises. Any person so excluded shall lose all library privileges for a period of up to six months.
20. Sleeping in or on library premises.
21. Improperly using library restrooms, including, but not limited to, bathing, shaving, washing hair and changing clothes.
22. Using personal electronic equipment at a volume that disturbs others, including, but not limited to, pagers, stereos, televisions and cellular telephones.
23. Leaving one or more children under the age of 6, who reasonably appear to be unsupervised or unattended, anywhere in or on library premises.
Any person who violates rules 24 and 25 while in or on library premises will be excluded from the premises until the problem is corrected.
24. Entering library buildings with bare feet or a bare chest.
25. Disturbing others because of offensive body odor.
UPDATE: A reader who had emailed the library received the following response, informing him that the ban against the patron was rescinded. Thanks to all who called and emailed the library to let them know they had abused their power.
The exclusion issued Sunday, July 6 to a patron who was filming an interaction between the police and another patron has been rescinded. The library has apologized to this patron for the way in which the situation was handled.
Our library has an operational policy in place regarding photography and video in the library. Its terms include asking patrons who wish to film or photograph other patrons or staff for their permission to do so. The intent of this policy is to protect the rights of our patrons to access library materials, services and resources without concern of another person watching or monitoring their activities. The policy is also intended to address situations where a patron or staff member is being harassed by someone who takes unwanted photos of them. The policy is not intended to prohibit all photography in the library.
This message will serve as Multnomah County Library’s official response. Thank you for your inquiry.