The following statement can be attributed to Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties:
The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties was concerned to learn of the shooting of a Black man by police officers in El Cajon earlier this afternoon.
It is too early to know many of the details of the actual shooting and what preceded it, and we hope that the El Cajon Police Department and the San Diego District Attorney provide the public with answers as quickly as possible, with transparency and accountability for all involved.
Unfortunately, there are disturbing reports from a number of witnesses that police officers confiscated cell phones from people who witnessed the shooting. Confiscating cell phones is a violation of the Fourth Amendment (unreasonable seizure without warrant or exigent circumstance) and the First Amendment (interference with the right to record in public) under the U.S. Constitution and analogous rights under the California Constitution. It is hard to see any kind of Fourth Amendment exigent circumstances at issue here.
The First Amendment issues are also significant, because by seizing phones, police would likely be preventing the dissemination of video captured by bystanders. The public has the right to film police in public places, and police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your digital photos or video without a warrant. Under no circumstances may police officers delete your photos or videos.
We will be paying close attention as the details of this situation unfold and our thoughts are with the family of the shooting victim.