When is it okay to photograph or video the police? An interesting case

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  1. Ralph Deeds profile image63
    Ralph Deedsposted 10 years ago

    "No criminal charges will be filed against a Detroit Free Press photographer or the Detroit police officer who seized her cell phone and then arrested her last month, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said Friday.

    "Prosecutor spokeswoman Maria Miller said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge either party. But an internal investigation continues into whether proper police procedure was followed.

    "Mandi Wright, 47, was arrested July 11 east of downtown Detroit after she and a reporter came upon an arrest scene near Woodbridge and Riopelle. Wright approached a police car to film a man being led up to the car in handcuffs. Officer Lamar Penn, who was in plainclothes, told her to stop filming and wrestled her phone away from her. Much of the encounter was captured on Wright’s cell phone video.

    "Penn later wrote in a report that he seized Wright’s cell-phone camera so that it “not be used as a weapon” and said Wright then jumped on his back.

    'Wright denied the allegation. She said she was concentrating on taking her video and did not realize the man who grabbed her phone was a police officer. She was wearing a media credential and had identified herself as a working journalist. When her cell phone was returned later that night, its internal SIM card was missing.

    "Miller said prosecutors can’t prove any crime occurred, including whether police illegally removed the SIM card from Wright’s phone.

    “We looked at all of the relevant evidence, which would be physical evidence, speaking to police and civilian witnesses,” Miller said. “Once we completed that, it was determined that there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone in this case.”

    "Paul Anger, editor and publisher of the Free Press, said: “This is the right outcome for Mandi Wright, who was within her rights and did nothing wrong — but we’ve known that from the start. The police certainly have more work to do at their end.”

    'Police Chief James Craig said an internal investigation is continuing into whether Penn and other officers followed procedure in arresting Wright and handling her phone. They’re also looking into Wright’s account that she was put into the same room at a police station with the suspect she had been filming, Craig said.

    "She was held for about 6½ hours before being released.

    "Eight days after Wright’s arrest, Deputy Chief James Tolbert sent a department-wide teletype reminding officers that anyone can shoot video or take photographs of the police in a public place. He said in the message that officers “shall not seize devices for the reason that it has been used to record police activity and shall not under any circumstances destroy recording devices or cameras or delete recordings or photographs.”

    "The memo quoted a recent court ruling that “the fact that officers are unhappy that they are being recorded during an arrest does not make the lawful exercise of a First Amendment right a crime.”

    Contact Jim Schaefer: 313-223-4542 or jschaefer@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DetroitReporter   

    http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/arti … 3308230111

    1. Disappearinghead profile image60
      Disappearingheadposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      It is always ok to film or photograph the police carrying out their duties in a public place in order to ensure that their actions can be held to account.

      1. John Holden profile image59
        John Holdenposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Which is precisely why they don't like to be filmed or photo'd.

    2. AMFredenburg profile image74
      AMFredenburgposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      In New Hampshire a few years ago the legislature passed a law against videotaping the police and cops actually arrested a guy for recording the police at his own door on his security system as they made stupid comments about the situation. I think it's essential to be able to record the police, especially when they're interacting in an aggressive way with the public or a suspect. If they're following proper procedure, it should only help them, and if not, it can only help the rest of us.

    3. Credence2 profile image77
      Credence2posted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Ralph, this one is a challenge. I generally believe that the police should be subject to video and photos in any public place, just to remind them and everyone else  that they cannot do whatever they want without the possib ility always there of their being held accountable.

      However, there are instances, for example, minors being charged, the identifty of whom may for their protection  be concealed from access to the general public. With this and a few exceptions, I say 'roll em'/

  2. profile image0
    PrettyPantherposted 10 years ago

    Police are paid to serve the public, which means citizens have the right to observe and record their public activity on the job.

    1. wilderness profile image93
      wildernessposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Teachers?  Firefighters?  Governor's secretary?  Politicians aide?  Forest Service tree counter?  Road repair crew?  Water treatment worker?  School janitor? 

      The point is that that is a pretty sweeping statement, and nearly half the country works for the government in some form or another.  Do they all live in fishbowl as a result?

      1. John Holden profile image59
        John Holdenposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        I don't know about the US but in the UK it is OK to photo anybody in a public place whatever their job.

        ETA the police et al make great use of film and photo to keep tabs on us.

      2. Ralph Deeds profile image63
        Ralph Deedsposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Most of the others don't go around beating on or shooting up innocent citizens.

        1. HollieT profile image78
          HollieTposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          Exactly, and as those among us who have no problem with govts. spying on us often spout. "if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about" So, why are the police so opposed to being filmed?

  3. profile image51
    TheWizardofWhimsyposted 10 years ago

    A decade ago I tried to take a picture of a reflection on a glass display case in a local mall because I found it reminiscent of a Mark Rothko abstract painting.  I was literally taken to the malls's head of security by a young gorilla-esque security guard who wouldn't even listen to my reasons for taking the picture.  His boss was only slightly more intelligent, but he wouldn't believe my intent either. I was at least twenty years older than both of them and given no respect for being an elder. 

    On another occasion, I witnessed two young cops assault a black man at a local train station because he was with a white woman, and when I said something, they threatened me.  These are the kinds of experiences that destroy peoples' trust in people who are charged with "protecting the public" in the name of the common good.   

    "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" ("Who will guard the guards themselves?")

    1. wilderness profile image93
      wildernessposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      "Who will guard the guards themselves?"

      A perpetual problem that will never go away, and one without any good answer.

      The best (only) answer we really have is to have the people do it, but that has pitfalls nearly as great as people are not typically interested in facts but only in their personal interpretation.  People not only report radically different stories of the same event, but almost inevitably insert their own prejudices and feelings into their report. 

      Still, it's all we have.

      1. John Holden profile image59
        John Holdenposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        But not by photo or film, eh?

        1. wilderness profile image93
          wildernessposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          Be careful; you won't find any of my posts even insinuating that, let alone making the statement.

          Photos or film; truthfully, I did not respond to your earlier question on the legality of videoing people because I don't know.  I know that permission is required to publish such photos - does that mean they are inadmissible in court without permission as well? 

          Personally, I would like to see all police activity recorded.  Not necessarily made available to the general public, but recorded for use in court as required.  Even recognizing that such tapes will be doctored by both sides of an event as well as the media and other private citizens I would still like to see it done.

          1. John Holden profile image59
            John Holdenposted 10 years agoin reply to this

            You might think so but your " Do they all live in fishbowl as a result?" certainly read that you weren't in favour of doing so.

            In the UK permission isn't required to publish photos of people taken in public places. Can you imagine the work involved in identifying and seeking permission of everybody involved for a photo of crowds at a funfair?

            1. wilderness profile image93
              wildernessposted 10 years agoin reply to this

              Fishbowl was in response to the statement that public employes are subject to citizens observing and documenting their work.  Is it really reasonable that anyone can follow a janitor in a public building around, videotaping their job performance?  Or should we leave that to their supervisor?

              Pretty sure it is here, although not positive.  It's why faces are sometimes fuzzed out - they didn't get permission.  I could be wrong, though.

              1. John Holden profile image59
                John Holdenposted 10 years agoin reply to this

                That raises the question, is a place open to the public a public place?  I'd argue not.

                1. wilderness profile image93
                  wildernessposted 10 years agoin reply to this

                  A store?  No.
                  A park? Yes
                  Department of Motor Vehicles?  Yes, during open hours.
                  Governors office?  No.

                  But that has nothing to do with the general public critiquing and recording the job performance of anyone collecting a government paycheck.

                  Opinion only, but it seems to me that anyone authorized to use force on private citizens or carrying weapons should be recorded as a matter of course.  Police, national guard, game warden, border patrol, prison guards, etc.

                  Obviously impractical or impossible in some cases (who holds the camera videoing the game warden on horseback 20 miles into the wilderness?) but I'd like to see us do more than we do.

      2. AMFredenburg profile image74
        AMFredenburgposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        One answer to all this is to have security cameras everywhere, covering all public spaces, like they do in the UK. I know some folks object to it because of privacy issues, but think of the difference in the Trayvon Martin case, for instance, if every homeowner in that little area of that gated community had had security cameras in operation. Security cameras offer a dispassionate eye that can protect police if they're doing the right thing and catch 'em if they're doing wrong.

        1. wilderness profile image93
          wildernessposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          Not only extremely expensive as a national project, but that also leaves such recordings in the hands of private citizens.  Citizens that are all too often very willing to either sell that video to the highest bidder and/or modify it.  It isn't hard today to change a digital record whether video or still.

          1. AMFredenburg profile image74
            AMFredenburgposted 10 years agoin reply to this


          2. JamesBenjaminJrMD profile image70
            JamesBenjaminJrMDposted 10 years agoin reply to this

            We have a First Amendment Right to Free Speech.  It is powerful.  Once an officer arrests you and deprives you of your property without due process you are are duty bound to sue in federal court for violation of your constitutional rights.  When the free press can be arrested and their property destroyed and/or stolen with out redress we are in serious trouble.  Where are those Civil Rights Lawyers when you need them?  Ralph?  Ralph Deeds?

            1. wilderness profile image93
              wildernessposted 10 years agoin reply to this

              *sigh*  It's never black and white.  Presume you are referencing the OP - what should the reporter sue for?  What charges would you suggest be filed?  Theft of the Sim that was never in the phone?

            2. Ralph Deeds profile image63
              Ralph Deedsposted 10 years agoin reply to this

              Don't look at me. I'm a propagandist, not a lawyer.

      3. profile image51
        TheWizardofWhimsyposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Yes that quote is in Latin because it comes from centuries ago.

        However, I'm reminded of the joke: "Jesus is coming—look busy!"

        We all behave better when we now we are being watched and that goes for those goons who find their way into positions of authority.

        I'm all for security cameras and people carrying phones that can document bad behaviors and crimes against the vulnerable.

  4. Ralph Deeds profile image63
    Ralph Deedsposted 10 years ago

    NYPD Officer Charged With Lying About Photographer's Arrest

    A New York City police officer who had arrested a photographer working for The New York Times has been indicted on three felony counts and five misdemeanors accusing him of fabricating the reasons for the arrest, the Bronx district attorney announced on Monday.

        Times Photographer Is Arrested on Assignment (August 6, 2012)

    "The officer, Michael Ackermann, 30, claimed that the photographer interfered with an arrest last year of a teenage girl by repeatedly discharging his camera’s flash in Officer Ackermann’s face. But the officer’s account unraveled after the office of Robert T. Johnson, the Bronx district attorney, examined photographic evidence and determined that the photographer, Robert Stolarik, did not use a flash and did not have one on his camera at the time. Prosecutors added that no other police officers or civilian witnesses reported seeing a flash.

    "Officer Ackermann, 30, was arraigned at State Supreme Court in the Bronx. He was charged with several counts related to filing false records and official misconduct. If convicted on the top count, he faces up to seven years in prison and could lose his job. He was released without bail pending the outcome of the case.

    "Calls to the lawyer who represented Officer Ackermann in court were not returned, and the Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.

    "Mr. Stolarik, who has worked on assignments for The Times for more than a decade, was working with two Times reporters on the evening of Aug. 4, 2012, when he began taking pictures of a brewing street fight at McClellan Street and Sheridan Avenue in the Bronx.

    "When an officer told Mr. Stolarik to stop taking pictures of a girl being arrested, he identified himself as a Times journalist and continued taking pictures. Another officer grabbed his camera and slammed it into his face, Mr. Stolarik said at the time. As he asked for their badge numbers, the officers took his cameras and pulled him to the ground.

    'At the time, the Police Department said in a statement that officers had given “numerous lawful orders” for both the crowd and Mr. Stolarik to move back, but that he tried to push forward and “inadvertently” struck an officer in the face with his camera. The police said that Mr. Stolarik “violently resisted being handcuffed,” leading to a second officer being cut on the hand.

    "The charges against Mr. Stolarik, 44, were dismissed. He declined to comment on Monday.

    “We are pleased that officials in the Bronx took a serious look at this case and brought an indictment after finding police misconduct,” said Abbe Serphos, a Times spokeswoman.  “We remain troubled that the arrest of the photographer, Robert Stolarik, was made in the first place.”   

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/27/nyreg … n&_r=0

    The officer should be fired!

  5. SpanStar profile image61
    SpanStarposted 10 years ago

    We need to look real close at what America is becoming.


    police state

    a nation in which the police, especially a secret police, summarily suppresses any social, economic, or political act that conflicts with governmental policy.


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