Photo by Mike Anzaldi
This kind of thing is expected in someplace like Nepal or China, but … Chicago?
Freelance photojournalist Mike Anzaldi was arrested on Tuesday by the Chicago Police Department while covering a shooting in the Englewood section of the city. He was charged with resisting and obstructing a peace officer, held for nine hours and had about 500 images deleted from his memory card.
No doubt tensions were high since an off-duty detective was involved in the shooting, but Freedom of the Press should apply at all news events, regardless. And as long as journalists abide by the law, law enforcement should too.
We asked Anzaldi for his side of the story. He frequently covers breaking news in Chicago, and when he heard about an officer-involved fatal shooting on the radio, he arrived at the scene and was shooting images and video on the property of a neighbor with about 20-25 other bystanders. The problem, he says, arrived in the form of Chicago Police Department spokeswoman Monique Bond.
As Anzaldi tells it:
She said I needed to stop shooting because this was a crime scene, and that there was an investigation going on. She went on to confirm that I was OK to remain in my location, but that recording was the issue. I complied. … A few minutes later, either a family member or friend of the victim arrived on scene. Obviously, this person was emotional. I turned the camera and chose to record that emotion. Bond wasted no time in rushing right back to confront me about recording. This time she demanded my CPD issued credentials. This day, I did not have my credential necklace around my neck, but rather sitting on the front seat of my car- along with my wallet and cell phone.
Anzaldi says that the CPD credential doesn’t actually grant journalists access to incident scenes but only serves as an ID. In fact, he says the Chicago Tribune doesn’t even apply for them, such is their value. He concedes that the City of Chicago Municipal Code requires this ID to “pass police and fire lines for the purpose of gathering and editing spot news or photographing news events.” But, he maintains that he has “never been allowed across police lines, nor seen it done by any photographer, ever.”
My position was outside of the police tape, period. When Bond demanded the credential, I again insisted that it wasn’t on me, and that I didn’t need it anyway. She argued and insisted that it was absolutely required to shoot news. It was ultimately this lack of credential that fueled her argument. She was flanked by uniformed cops and CPD Sergeant Keith Calloway who said, “I’ve seen enough, take him in.”
Spokeswoman Bond’s statement to the media was that Anzaldi had crossed police lines and refused to leave when told to, which resulted in his arrest.
It took 6 guys, 5 phone calls and nearly 3 hours to come up with a charge. They settled on obstruction. My video camera and tape were confiscated, and kept. My still cameras were held until my release, 9 hours later. They were returned to me with the memory cards deleted. As I signed myself out, I asked if we could make a report, or take note of the fact that the cards were deleted. The District 7 commander and desk sergeant both said they would not make that note, and that deleting camera cards was not a crime anyway. I was ordered to have a nice evening.
What really is hard to grasp here is how a person taking images and video – from across the street, not crossing police tape – is obstructing or compromising an investigation in any way. Let’s hope the CPD reviews this case, along with their policies.