The video above was posted to YouTube about an incident that occurred on Friday in Suffolk County, New York. It came with the following description:
This was the end of a police chase and the Sgt. doesn't want video coverage from a credentialed member of the press. The photog asks how far to move back but the sgt. says no you can't shoot it at all. Notice the road is open to traffic, there are people without a camera that are standing there and even some kids walk straight through the scene. The photog moves a block away and shoots from the next street over and that's when he's arrested and charged with Obstruction of Governmental Administration….how can you obstruct from a block away.
LongIslandPress.com says the man behind the camera is Phil Datz, who works for Stringer News Service in New York:
Suffolk County police confirmed that Datz was arrested and said he was charged with obstruction of governmental administration. He was taken to the Fifth Precinct stationhouse in Patchogue where he was fingerprinted and had a mugshot taken. He was later released.
“We are reviewing the circumstances surrounding the arrest” of Datz, a police spokesman said. Datz can be heard referring to the cop as a “Sergeant” but the name and rank of the arresting officer was not released.
Ryan said a police officer apologized to him at the precinct, but told him nothing could be done about the arrest because Datz had already been booked.
From experience in writing about this topic, I am sure there are some who will laugh and say the only mistake the police officer made is he didn't destroy the camera and video. I find humor in lots of things many others find inappropriate. But this doesn't make me laugh. To me, it is extremely chilling and very sad.
As many of you who read this electronic rag know, I am very biased when it comes to this issue. I make no apologies for being hard-core pro-First Amendment. And I am kind of fond of that whole Constitution thing.
I know some who disagree with my position will start telling me how awful the news media is (and some in the news media are awful, as recently shown by the News Corp. debacle which now has possible connections to 9-11 victims). And others will tell me I don't know what's not on this video that the terrible man with the camera did. So, let me be clear I am only basing my opinion on what I see in this raw video.
What the police officer had to say on the video and the actions he took are plenty enough for me to once again point out that leaving decisions of what is and isn't okay for the public to see in the hands of uniformed and armed agents of our government is quite a scary scenario for the future of our country. And those who think these actions by police are just fine and call yourselves supporters and protectors of our way of life really need to study a little history and look closely at the countries where government does control the news media. This is my preemptive strike telling you to stop making excuses for people in uniform who are only selectively supporting the Constitution they are sworn to protect.
Below, are some other stories in recent months that help fuel my worries. Each has its own set of circumstances. I am sure many of you who feel differently than I do can find excuses for the actions of the police that will support your own interpretation of our rights. But I have to tell you it's not how they taught it to me in school.
Above is a video from the May 12 arrest of Emily Good in Rochester, New York. This case has received national attention. Good, who is described in news reports as an activist, shot the video of police activity while standing on her front lawn. The District Attorney quickly dropped charges against Good. The union representing the police has a different view on this and believes the safety of officers is what's at stake here. They also say that officers involved in Good's arrest have been threatened (read and watch that story).
James Sheppard, Rochester's police chief, ordered investigations of this incident and one where police ticketed cars belonging to supporters of Good gathered at a meeting (video here). Chief Sheppard told the Democrat and Chronicle on July 5 that he is waiting for results of the investigations before determining if there was any misconduct by Officer Mario Masic, who arrested Good. Here's more of the chief's comments::
He said he thought the video showed that Masic acted professionally, and said the stop that precipitated Good's arrest — the activity partly filmed by Good — was an example of "proactive" policing.
Police said there were suspected gang members in the car. No one was arrested from the vehicle.
Sheppard said the incident does show the need to remind police officers that they shouldn't be concerned if someone videotapes them without interference.
Chief Sheppard is exactly right. A lot of this is about training. Not just for police, but for all first responders who now have to do their jobs with cameras shooting them from all angles. As I have mentioned before, some EMS providers are using cameras during training to make sure when they hit the streets they can do their jobs competently despite someone taking pictures. I have watched law enforcement train for decades on how to ignore taunts and other actions of protesters during large demonstrations. Wouldn't it be smart to the same with cameras?
A story by Jack Minor in Colorado's Greeley Gazette looks at the attempt by some since 9-11 to declare photography illegal. It has some interesting comments by Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner who confirms that his city does not have any law prohibiting taping of police officers (by the way, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Protective Service, the FBI, the U.S. Capitol Police and most every other law enforcement agencies in the Washington, DC area confirmed the same for me when I was a TV reporter working on a number of stories about this post 9-11 issue) :
Garner said he was amazed at how a lawful act such as videotaping could be considered illegal. Garner went on to say that he tells young officers to, "Do your job so that if you were being taped and the tape was shown to your loved ones you would never be ashamed."
Great words to live by for all of us in the digital video age.
Above is the story of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a man taking pictures of an arrest in your Nation's Capital on July 3 (what is it everyone was celebrating the next day?). Click here to read more about this incident in Georgetown.
When you look at the story above from June 19, I think you will understand why the DC police officer in the July 3 Georgetown incident believes citizens have no right to go about their business unmolested when they are taking pictures of cops in action on a public street. Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Diane Groomes explains why it is okay for officers to confiscate your camera when you shoot an arrest scene. It leaves you wondering if the department will start taking the cameras of all news photographers who show up where people are being cuffed and stuffed. If not, what's the difference? And who is the press these days anyway? (For the record, as puzzled as I am about her comments, I have a great deal of respect for Chief Groomes and her treatment of the press based on my experience as a reporter in Washington.)
The video above is also from your Nation's Capital. This time the scene is not on a public street, but inside a public meeting of the DC Taxicab Commission. The officers are with the United States Park Police. In fact, the meeting is at a U.S. Park Police facility. Is it only me who finds it ironic that the people who seem the most outraged by the arrest of the reporter are taxi drivers who are immigrants from countries where the press and the citizenry don't have the freedoms that this country guarantees? Reporter Tom Sherwood wrote about this June 22 case here and has more to say here.
Now, before any of you make decisions about what my politics are are or start believing I don't support law enforcement or possibly mom, apple pie and the flag, watch the interview below with the reporter who took the video above. He was also arrested by U.S. Park Police. Notice who is doing the interview and completely supports the reporter's actions and thinks police were wrong. Judge Andrew P. Napolitano is the senior judicial analyst for the Fox News Channel. He also hosts the show Freedom Watch on the Fox Business Network where this interview took place.
Okay, I'm through. Have at me.
Also on STATter911 …
- Must see video: Paramedic arrested by police. Clashes over scene safety are apparently universal. – January 23, 2013
- Check this out: Scene safety or censorship? You be the judge as Miami-Dade firefighters confront videographer. – March 22, 2013
- The not so funny rest of the naked man on the PGFD ladder truck story. PGPD say he shot a man before climbing the rig. – May 16, 2013
- TV station probes violence claims against Detroit firefighter. Case of two women punched reopened. Commissioner looking at off-duty incidents as possible conduct unbecoming. – October 26, 2012
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