No Shooting Shootings, Says Chicago Police

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.”

He continues:

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. 

37 Responses to “No Shooting Shootings, Says Chicago Police”

  1. 1 Oronare October 23, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    It IS illegal to delete memory cards. Period.

    It is the property of the Photographer and they can not be tampered with in any way unless they have a warrant to look at them.

    He should lodge a formal complaint and take them to court. More and more photographers and videographers are seeing themselves harassed by Police and “Security” and these people need to learn the laws they are trying to enforce.

  2. 2 Bretzelman October 23, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Did you tried recovering the pictures using a tool like RescuePro (it’s bunled with the sandisk extreme III and IV cards).

    I’ve had such a similar problem with the belgian police last summer (without the shooting scene, but they arrested my very brutally just ’cause I took pictures of them arresting people). They erased some pictures on the card but I recovered them easily with rescue pro.

    It seems that it works “not so bad” even if they format the card.

  3. 3 Hughes Léglise-Bataille October 23, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    I’m not familiar with US laws but here in France, such a police behavior would be totally unacceptable. If the photographer was in a public space, outside of the police lines, there’s absolutely no ground for preventing him to take pictures, even for a normal citizen (i.e. not a journalist). As for erasing a memory card or even seizing the camera, both would be completely unlawful. That’s really a shame. However, I did have the same issue while shooting arrests in France. Some police officers are either not properly trained, or they just like to abuse their authority (and esp. don’t like to be resisted !). It would be good if you could find back the people present at the scene as testimonies. Plus your own pictures if you can manage to restore them !

  4. 4 mr walker October 24, 2008 at 12:14 am

    google: file recovery software.

    the deleted photos probably contain evidence to contradict the charges against him.

  5. 5 i know what you are up against October 24, 2008 at 3:33 am

    This is the Chicago police we are talking about and the police lines are drawn where the old color lines used to fall. I’m afraid if the photographer would like to keep shooting police and crime scenes in Chicago he will absorb this hit and acknowledge that raising the issue too strongly could do more to block future access. Such is life when we have left the law to thugs.

  6. 6 James Madison October 24, 2008 at 5:17 am

    This isn’t legal advice, but . . . I smell a big, fat, righteous 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit. You should talk to an attorney. If no one else, the ACLU might be interested in this.

  7. 7 the malaga 1 October 24, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    im not surprised. the orwelian police state has already happened.. the trouble is that the people of the usa and uk etc havent woken up to the fact. when everyone opens their eyes you will realise that we have no real freedom of speach.. very sad but this isnt the first or last time this will happen

  8. 8 WTF October 24, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    sounds like some bitch had a power trip

  9. 9 WOW October 24, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    Can’t wait for Chicago politics to go national!

  10. 10 paperboy October 26, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Disgusting police thugs who shouldn’t even be allowed to fill their stomachs on the taxpayer’s dime. Anyone who deletes photos or audio recordings or confiscates reporter notebooks must be prosecuted.

    Everyone says only a small percentage of cops are bad, but where are the voices of the good cops now? Who is protecting the right of the people to know what is happening in their own cities?

    We have to rid ourselves of cops so full of themselves that they victimize the people the are sworn to serve. If they aren’t sophisticated enough to understand the oath, they should at least appreciate the pay check.

    We must have prosecutions, civil suits. We must protect the right of Americans to know and not have government officials cut off information they may need.

    This if not about reporters or newspapers or cops. This is about Americans and their right to know. What police do in one place, they can do elsewhere.

  11. 11 BayTaperDotCom November 7, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    What I find truely ironic is that it was actually THE COPS that have obstructed your justice. They in fact have destroyed evidence related to YOUR CHARGES. That alone should get your case dropped, and should also result in disciplinary action against the officer(s) who did the deleting. That’s IN ADDITION to the fact that they violated the law in arresting you and deleting the images in the first place. You see the difference? That’s evidence that’s relates to where you were standing and what you were doing, and that evidence must be preserved in and of itself.

  12. 12 November 24, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    The photographer needs to sue the city for a DMCA complaint as he is the rightful copyright owner of those images.

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