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Woman who recorded police is off the hook

The Rochester New York District Attorney has dismissed charges against Emily Good, who was arrested while videotaping police making a traffic stop in front of her home. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

After a protest by supporters today outside the Rochester, N.Y., Hall of Justice, authorities dropped all charges against Emily Good, 28, who was arrested last month for video recording the police from her front yard and refusing an officer’s order to go into her house, NBC station WHEC reported

Good said she was recording a traffic stop in front of her home May 12 because she suspected that the driver, a young black man, was the target of racial profiling.

In a joint statement supporting the decision to drop the charges, Rochester's mayor, City Council president and police chief said today:

"Whatever the outcome of the internal review, we want to make clear that it is not the policy or practice of the Rochester Police Department to prevent citizens from observing its activities — including photographing or videotaping — as long as it does not interfere with the safe conduct of those activities."

Police across the country have come under scrutiny for arresting otherwise uninvolved bystanders who pull out video cameras and phone cameras to document their activities — a practice many civil liberties advocates say is protected because police officers are public officials performing public duties. 

The American Civil Liberties Union contended in an Illinois lawsuit last year that "individuals ... may make audio (and video) recordings of police who are performing their public duties in a public place and speaking in a voice loud enough to be heard by the unassisted human ear."

Other advocates warn that police first have a duty to protect the public — which can include bystanders with cameras, as well as other bystanders who may be imperiled by the officer's distraction with the camera.

"An officer who takes his or her attention away from the task at hand to worry about a person running video is going to suffer from split-attention deficit," Sgt. Ed Flosi of the San Jose, Calif., Police Department told PoliceOne, a journal for law enforcement professionals. "When a person is forced to focus on more than one item, the amount of focus on either item suffers. In other words, they may miss something that the primary suspect(s) is doing that could get them hurt or killed."