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public photography policy in Kenai Peninsula Borough

In response to a First Amendment Audit incident last year, the Kenai Peninsula Borough (AK) has issued a new policy detailing rules for photography, filming, and recording in borough facilities. It was established as a result of law enforcement being called to the borough's administration building in Soldotna due to a person filming employees. The policy could serve as a model for other governmental jurisdictions.


The policy, as outlined in a December 29, 2023, memo from the borough's legal department, allows public filming and photography in borough facilities but prohibits harassment of employees or disruption of borough operations. It clarifies that borough representatives cannot impede individuals filming in public areas of the buildings, even if they refuse to identify themselves. The policy excludes facilities used by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.


The policy defines "public areas" as spaces open to the public during business hours or public meetings, differentiating them from employee-only areas or those requiring an appointment. It upholds the First Amendment right to photograph, film, or record in publicly accessible areas, provided the individual is not threatening or abusive towards borough employees. The policy advises employees to be polite and professional, protect confidential information, and either remove themselves or manage the situation if encountered with someone filming.


Additionally, the policy introduces new rules of conduct for all areas of borough facilities, emphasizing that individuals must be conducting legitimate business or exercising constitutionally protected rights without disrupting borough operations or threatening employees. The memo also mentions forthcoming training for borough employees on First Amendment audits and notes that the legal department is preparing analyses on Second Amendment audits, which involve individuals carrying firearms into borough facilities. The policy advises similar handling for armed individuals, barring threatening behavior with the weapon.

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