This Lie About Recording Police Was Exposed on Camera

March 11th 2017

Willie Burnley Jr.

A few weeks ago, Jesse Bright was working as an Uber driver one Sunday afternoon when he was pulled over by police in Wilmington, North Carolina. As Bright turned his phone on the officers and begun recording, he was told that a "new law" prohibited such activity and if he did not stop, he would be arrested. There was a problem for the police, though: such a law did not exist and Bright, who was also full-time criminal defense lawyer and driving with Uber to help pay off school loans, knew it.

The exchange between Bright and Wilmington police Sgt. Kenneth Becker got heated when Bright started filming.

The Washington Post outlined the details:

“Hey, bud, turn that off, okay?” Becker said.

“No, I’ll keep recording, thank you,” Bright responded. “It’s my right.”

“Don’t record me,” the police sergeant said. “You got me?”

“Look,” Bright said, “you’re a police officer on duty. I can record you.”

“Be careful because there is a new law,” Becker said. “Turn it off or I’ll take you to jail.”

“For recording you?” the video shows Bright asking Becker. “What is the law?”

A tense exchange followed, with Becker telling Bright to step out of his car, calling him “a jerk,” then warning him that he “better hope” officers didn’t find something in his vehicle.

Bright continued to record, saying, “I know my rights.”

“I hope so,” said Becker, the police sergeant. “I know what the law is.”

“I know the law,” Bright said. “I’m an attorney, so I would hope I know what the law is.”

“And an Uber driver?” Becker asked.

Police officers said that Bright had just picked up a client from a drug house and eventually searched the passenger, Bright, and his car. They ultimately found nothing.

Bright said that he was hesitant to speak publicly about the incident, which occurred in late February, but was convinced to do so when he received no apology on behalf of the officers who he believed violated his rights.



An internal investigation has been launched into the matter by the Wilmington Police Department, according to a statement from the Wilmington police chief Ralph Evangelous. In the statement, Evangelous encouraged citizens to record the police:

“Taking photographs and videos of people that are in plain sight including the police is your legal right. As a matter of fact we invite citizens to do so when they believe it is necessary. We believe that public videos help to protect the police as well as our citizens and provide critical information during police and citizen interaction.”

The right to record police officers in public spaces has been upheld in court as constitutional in the past.

In February, a federal appeals court ruled that the public has the right to film the police, "subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions." Several civil rights organizations, including the Americans Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have even created apps that allow citizens to record the police and immediately send the recordings to specific groups, people, or even upload it online.

It should be noted that when trying to hold police officers accountable in this fashion, it is important to record from a distance and not to interfere directly with any police work being done.