A film student at Manhattan's School of Visual Arts is suing the NYPD after he was arrested for exercising his legal right to film a police precinct earlier this year. Brooklyn resident Justin Thomas, 29, was arrested on April 19th outside of the NYPD’s 72nd Precinct on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn while filming B-roll for a documentary. “I knew I had the right to record a public building from a public street, and when challenged I stood up for those rights,” Thomas said in a statement.

Thomas was approached by NYPD Sergeant Viet Cao around 11 a.m. that day, and was told that he would require a permit to film the building. When Thomas refused, Cao subsequently confiscated Thomas' phone and arrested him. The arrest was captured in the video below by Thomas' friend. Unfortunately, the audio cuts in and out, which can be frustrating, but the things you do hear (including Cao talking about how filming will "jeopardize the security...") are illuminating.

After being questioned and finger-printed, Thomas was released three hours later and given a desk appearance ticket for Obstruction of Governmental Administration. The District Attorney later declined to pursue those charges. Thomas's lawyer David Rankin says, "The public’s right to record police activity has been well established in the law, but the NYPD clearly views itself above the law and the constitution in its interference with the press and the film making community."

This summer, a photographer was arrested for taking photos and video outside of an NYPD Housing Authority police station on Central Avenue in Bushwick. And there were at least three other nearly-identical incidents that also occurred this year.

As we've previously noted in similar situations, photographing anything that is in public view—including federal buildings and the police—is 100% legal (as long as you're not interfering with any law enforcement activity). The NYPD Patrol Guide Section 212-49 specifically states that “Members of the service will not interfere with the videotaping or the photographing of incidents in public places. Intentional interference such as blocking or obstructing cameras or harassing the photographer constitutes censorship.”