Pennsylvania Police Department Claims Departmental Policy Forbids Them From Being Recorded in Public


A Pennsylvania cop responding to a report of an accident refused to talk to the citizen unless his friend turned off the camera.

The citizen insisted on his friend recording, so Lancaster police officer Philip Bernot walked back to his car and drove off, refusing to take the report.

The citizen said he called the desk sergeant to complain, but was told it is a departmental policy not to be recorded.

A departmental policy has to be in writing, so will someone please call them and ask for a copy while recording the conversation?

If you live in a two-party consent state, which you can find out through this link, inform them that you’re recording and just start asking them questions.

The audio in the video is inaudible, but the citizen posted the following on Youtube, including the number to the Lancaster Police Department:

Lancaster PA, I woman hit my car and walked away laughing. I called the police. When they arrived the officer, Philip Bernot. Told me that it was illegal to film police and refused to speak to me on camera. All I wanted to do was file a report for my insurance. I called the desk sergeant who told me that it is the Lancaster PD’s policy not to allow their officers to be filmed. He then proceeded to hang up the phone on me when I told him to send an officer willing to due his job and not violate the law. This is a violation of Federal and Pennsylvania Law. Please call the Lancaster PA police department at (717) 735-3300 and ask them why their policy violates the 1st amendment.

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

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  • rick

    Does Lancaster PD have a policy about their officers doing their jobs?

    The evolution of police antagonism towards video recording never ceases to amaze me.

    • Kenneth Bankers

      Apparently not.

  • James Dutton

    Contact an attorney and file a lawsuit on them for Failure To Act, and dereliction of duty. Check with the state certifying agency for law enforcement and see what their policy is on failure to act. Just remember a supreme court ruling made a few years ago says they have no duty to protect but they do have a duty to act and perform their required duties

    • inquisitor

      If this lady hit the guy’s car and walked away laughing, then she not only damaged property, but fled the scene of an accident.

      Should she hit someone in the near future and flees, like a hit and run, would this officer not be somewhat liable for not having pursued a criminal at large who was already known for fleeing the scene of an accident?

  • Eric Wallace

    So how do they deal with local media? Do they all scatter like cockroaches when the lights get turned on when a live truck from the NBC affiliate shows up at a crime or accident scene?

    • Jim

      When they show up, the cops start following the law and rules. The private citizen is a threat to them cause they never know when/where. SO they will always have to. That is a threat to them

      • Antonio Buehler

        Only because cops are a bunch of cowards who fear everything, from minorities, to homeless people, to pet dogs, to people in wheelchairs to people with cameras. There is no bigger group of cowards in society than tax parasite coproaches.

  • Frank

    Time to contact the DA. File charges vs the officer. You do not have to be a LEO to file criminal charges in PA.

  • Shawn

    Departmental policy does not trump law.

    • Proud GrandPa

      Quite correct!

  • Jason Blankenship
    • Difdi

      For a department with a Facebook page, they certainly are camera shy…

    • Flashing Scotsman

      I made a couple of comments there last night, on a thread about this story. Basically just asking questions, politely of course. They removed the thread. Today, when I noticed the thread being deleted, I asked in an unrelated thread if removing questions asked by law abiding citizens was also departmental policy. I suggest the rest of us do the same. Every day. Until we get an answer.

  • Difster

    You can bet no such policy exists in writing.

  • Shari
  • Rob Robinson
  • swiftHD

    Shoot it from the window inside the house, then when he demands you turn it off and you say no, he will get upset and wana kick your door in..that’s when it becomes trespass. Little 870 action salves that noise real quick. .. don’t listen yo me tho. Contact a lawyer.

  • TrevorLyman

    Here is a petition to require all police wear cameras:

    • kraz

      Signed. Thanks.

  • Phred

    Police department policy doesn’t apply to people who aren’t cops. The policy, if it actually exists, may prohibit officers from recording or recording each other. But it has no application beyond the cops themselves.

  • David Boerst

    They might have tried to make that so they can avoid being on that god awful show,Amish Mafia thats filmed there but a policy isnt a law. they still have to do their job

  • OzCop

    Since when does department policy trump the constitution? There are good cops and good police departments out there, but jeez o pete, there are many that make me ashamed of my own 27 years of copdom…now retired…

    • Farid Rushdi

      Thanks for your obvious righteous service.

      Americans want to love their police departments. They want to trust them, look to them for support and protection.

      They want to look up to them as the true heroes they are.

      But the 1% that believe they are the law makes the rest of the force look bad. Worse, try to find a fellow officer willing to speak out against the bad apples.

      When I lived in DC I was shoved to the ground and cuffed because the officer thought I was a bad guy he was looking for. When I tried to talk to him he punched me twice. After being cleared, I found his supervisor and explained what happened. He just walked away, and then threatened me with arrest if I didn’t “Leave me the f**k alone.”

      It makes it hard to support the genuine good guys.

      • Proud GrandPa

        You wrote Americans want to love their police departments.
        I agree. Them’s my sentiments exactly. I believe the vast majority of LEOs are good and want to obey the law. I believe the also despise the few bad cops that give all a bad name.

        • Antonio Buehler

          Q: If there are so many good cops out there why don’t they ever arrest the bad cops?
          A: Because good cops are a fairy tale.

          The coward/criminal cops give the other 0.001% a bad name.

  • IcedTeaParty

    But then right after that, one of the “good cops” we hear so much about showed up and took a statement on the accident…

    I’ll be laughing about that one for a few minutes…

    • Flashing Scotsman

      Being a good cop is against departmental policy.

    • CDJ

      No officer took the statement nor filed a report

      • IcedTeaParty

        It was sarcasm…and it was free.

        But thanks for stopping by to take me serious.

        Hope the rest of your week goes well.

  • Robert

    Doesn’t matter what the State Law or Policy says. “Glik v Cunniffe Trumps ALL. Supreme Court August 26, 2011. I carry several copies with me to “Enlighten” the Officer when encountering one who doesn’t respect my rights. Also you should buy and carry a “HD 720P Spy Pen Camera” from PENRECORDERPRO.COM for $99.99. No I don’t work for them. I can record approx. 60 min video and more than 8 hours audio. If I am Forced to shut off my camera due to possible assault by the LEO, I am STILL recording with the SpyPen as an Ace in the Hole.

    • Shawn

      Despite the precedent, the Glik decision technically applies only to states covered by the First Circuit. Pennsylvania isn’t one of them.

      • rick

        Gilles v. Davis and Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle

        • ExCop-Lawyer

          Neither of those cases articulate a First Amendment right to film. Giles v. Davis, 427 F.3d 197 (3d Cir. 2005) states that individuals ”may” have a right to videotape officers in public. Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle, 622 F.3d 248 (3d Cir. 2010) stated that “the right to videotape police officers during traffic stops was not clearly established.”

          In both cases the officers received qualified immunity and the plaintiffs lost.

          The cases out of the Third Circuit suggest that the right is not clearly established.

          • rick

            Glik decisions they are not. I am unaware of any other cases addressing recording the police out of the 3rd Circuit.
            The above cases would have been significant if Petit (from Giles) hadn’t taken a deal to keep his record clean and if Kelly had been conspicuously holding his recorder and/or made a declaratory statement that he was recording.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            “The Court concludes that the purported First Amendment right to record the police was not ‘clearly established.’” Matheny v. County of Allegheny Pa., CIVA 09-1070, 2010 WL 1007859 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 16, 2010).

            “Our case law does not clearly establish a right to videotape police officers performing their official duties….” True Blue Auctions v. Foster, 12-2996, 2013 WL 2664536 (3d Cir. June 10, 2013).

            “The Court found that the First Amendment right asserted—the right “to record the actions of police officers in public”—was not “clearly established” on the date of Plaintiff’s arrest.” Ickes v. Borough of Bedford, 271 F.R.D. 458, 460 (W.D. Pa. 2010).

            “First, it was, and still is, unclear whether Plaintiff had a First Amendment right to videotape the police stop at all.” Banks v. Gallagher, CIV.A. 3:08-1110, 2010 WL 1903597 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 18, 2010) report and recommendation adopted, CIV.A. 3:08-CV-1110, 2010 WL 1903596 (M.D. Pa. May 10, 2010).

            It is not a clearly established right in the Third Circuit. Yet.

          • rick

            How does the right to record become established? Plus, how will case law ever determine the point if every decision refuses to answer the question?

  • Elliott Whitlow

    I’m curious how policy can EVER override the law or the Constitution. These cops must be a special kind of stupid.

  • Antonio Buehler

    Coward cops, they won’t even take an accident report when being filmed. What are they so afraid of?

    • Antonio Buehler

      At least they didn’t murder anyone, like their buddies up the road in Hazleton did.

      • popacop

        Or their buddies down the road in Washington D.C.

    • inquisitor

      It is a deliberate lack of action to show the animosity he has toward the public filming cops.
      He is basically saying I own you and if you choose to buck my authority, by doing nothing illegal, but what he doesn’t like…then he will leave to you die and bleed out in the street should it come to that.

  • Seeking Justice

    I just called the Department to verify their policy, and they would not tell me ANYTHING since I refused to identify myself.

    • Antonio Buehler

      That’s one of the reasons we call them coward cops.

    • Flashing Scotsman

      You’re on the phone, and they insist that you identify yourself? “Yes, of course, sir. My name is Ferris Beuhler.”

    • Guest

      same here I call 2 sergeants & neither one would answer me,they hung up the phone on me. I asked if I ask for their name & badge no.out on the street, do they have to provide me with it ?

  • Film The Police Always

    This cop is a pussy, just look at him. Tactical vest to look cool. Puhlease! I know he’s reading this and know that we have your image and we will find out more about you. Wife, Kids,….we will find out. Coward! Lets find out where he hangs out, what bars, lets set him up for a DUI folks. We are good at getting even with rights violators. This pathetic little pussy is the reason cops are hated.

  • Proud GrandPa

    So the cop says that department policy forbids etc.? In that case get a few dozen of your closest friends and test the policy. Bring plenty of cameras and microphones, some hidden, some in cars etc. You lawyer will like the ammo!

  • pete

    Next time they catch me for speeding in Lancaster, I’m breaking out the camera. Since they can’t be filmed, looks like I won’t be cited. LOL

    • David Reinke


  • cdj

    It is the policy of the Manheim Township Police Department to recognize the legal standing of

    members of the public to make video/audio recordings of police officers and civilian employees

    who are carrying out their official police duties in an area open to the public, and by citizens

    who have a legal right to be in an area where police are operating, such as a person’s home or

    business. However, this right does not prevent officers from taking measures to ensure that such

    activity and recording does not interfere or impeded with the officer’s law enforcement and

    public safety purpose.

    It is the policy of the Manheim Township Police Department to recognize the legal standing of

    members of the public to make video/audio recordings of police officers and civilian employees

    who are carrying out their official police duties in an area open to the public, and by citizens

    who have a legal right to be in an area where police are operating, such as a person’s home or

    business. However, this right does not prevent officers from taking measures to ensure that such

    activity and recording does not interfere or impeded with the officer’s law enforcement and

    public safety purpose.

    Please show us the policy for Lancaster City PA
    thank you

  • Jeff Fowler

    When I lived in Gettysburg PA, a cop doing a routine traffic stop tried to charge the passenger under wire tapping laws for video recording the conversation on his cell phone. The courts ruled the cop had no expectation of privacy while performing work for the PUBLIC. The person being stopped has as much of a right to have a video and audio record of the officers behavior as the police have to dash cam all suspects at each stop. Both parties lie in court and need proof of who is telling the truth. By the way I do work for my local Sheriffs office

  • Paul Woolsoncroft

    Here is a more detailed article about the incident:–debate–.html
    The officer had to go back with his tail between his legs.

  • Chris

    I am pretty sure federal law trumps agency “policy”.