Posts Tagged 'photographing crime scenes'

Met Police Force Photog to Delete Pics

Followers of the  issue know that police in the UK are pretty tone-deaf when it comes to photographers’ rights, no matter what “guidelines” they create.

This past Sunday, freelancer Carmen Valino was working for the Hackney Gazette covering a shooting in East London when she was approached by police, who told her “she was disrupting the investigation and had to hand over her camera.” This was after she had showed her credentials and was working outside the cordoned off area. She protested until the sergeant brought out handcuffs, and then she relented. He took her camera away for five minutes and when he returned it, he told her she had to delete the images.

You have to wonder about Valino here. Perhaps she’s a rookie and didn’t know how to hold her ground. Or maybe the Met Police are frightening thugs and there’s no gettin around them. But she should have never complied – it’s an outrageous request of anyone, much less the working media.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police called it “disappointing” when officers don’t follow the department guidelines and said they’re looking into it.

Article from the Press Gazette

NYPD Act Like Fools, Mess With Photographer

Photos from The Villager

Clayton Patterson is a  fixture on the Lower East Side of New York, having documented the neighborhood for 25 years. He’s an artist, activist, photographer for The Villager newspaper, has published books, had a documentary made about him, and been featured in the New York Times.

But being the true iconoclast that he is, his relations with the Seventh Precinct haven’t always been rosy.

On March 13 he was trying to photograph a stabbing victim on Orchard Street when police bizarrely and belligerently harassed and tried to intimidate him. In their effort to block Patterson from shooting the scene, at various points: an officer smashed into him and accused him of starting it; the sergeant screamed at him — “I’m f—ing tired of you!”; two other officers jumped around wildly in front of his camera yelling “I’m a monkey”; and then an officer positioned his squad car on the sidewalk, directly in front of Patterson, to block him.

Now, there is a history here. Patterson has been arrested 14 times over the years, all when he was shooting photos. He is currently suing the NYPD over a 2008 incident where he was arrested for photographing a fire and not stopping when he was told to. So, the precinct officers know who he is (check out his photo — he’s hard to miss), and they want payback. I get it.

But it doesn’t make it right.

For officers to behave like this — in a ridiculously immature manner to impede a photographer who has every legal right to be there? I don’t care whether you like him or not; he could be the biggest thorn in your side, but that’s called life. As long as he’s following the rules, deal with it.

Show your support for photographers’ rights by calling the NYPD’s Seventh Precinct Captain Nancy Barry at (212) 477-7731.

Article from The Villager

First Amendment Showdown

Photo by discarted

The Christian Science Monitor turns its focus on photographers rights this week, reporting on the ongoing clash between police and the photographers who shoot them.

CSM says that the increase in amount of camera seizures and photo deletion is testing First Amendment protections and names a few well-known incidents, including the recent trial in New Orleans where two photographers accused police of wrongful arrest and lost, Carlos Miller‘s trial for refusal to stop taking photos of police in Miami, and the Oakland cop who shot and killed an unarmed man in a BART station.

It’s disappointing that the article says police “often have the upper hand in court.” But it also doesn’t come as a surprise — we’ve seen it a lot here in the blogosphere with reaction to photographer vs. law enforcement incidents as an indication that many people seem to slavishly support police actions despite evidence that shows a clear overstep of legal boundaries.

Nevertheless, the article quotes attorney Bert Krages who says photos (and video) are the best defense when accused photographers are (falsely) accused of obstruction, which is a common charge in these scenarios. He also recommends that photographers who find themselves in these situations file a report with internal affairs and contact local media as they should have a vested interest in photography in public places.

And, finally, from Marjorie Esman of the Louisiana ACLU:

We have this thing called the Constitution, and the idea that you can’t film something that you can see is ludicrous. The sad thing about these cases is it suggests that police don’t want people to know what they’re doing, which then implies that they’re doing something that they don’t want people to know that they’re doing.

Article from Christian Science Monitor

Shield Law Photographer Outs Himself

Hunters Point, San Francisco 2008 Photo by Alex Welsh

A former San Francisco State student whose photo of a dead man thrust him into the middle of a shield law controversy has outed himself – by winning a national photojournalism contest.

SF Weekly reports that Alex Welsh, 23, won first place in the 2009 College Photographer of the Year awards in the documentary category. In 2008 Welsh was photographing Hunters Point, the last predominantly black neighborhood in San Francisco, when a dice game turned deadly for one of his subjects, Norris Bennett. That photo, of Bennett’s bloodied body being attended to by a police officer, is included in the series, along with every major theme of poverty-stricken neighborhoods: a funeral, fire, tattoos, dog fighting. But they’re gritty and real and deserving of the award nonetheless.

The police tried to get a search warrant for the photos, which Welsh successfully fought using the shield law. Shield laws protect journalists from having to testify or disclose sensitive information to law enforcement. Welsh’s name was redacted from all court documents and not released by police or journalists during the controversy so he was able to remain anonymous. Welsh was apparently worried for his safety, but no longer. I guess it helps that he lives in Brooklyn now.   

Interestingly, seeing the photos in the contest, the San Francisco police detectives have renewed their interest in pursuing Welsh to get him to cooperate. He probably doesn’t have much to worry about though.

See Welsh’s winning photos series, Hunters Point – “We Out Here,” here.

Article via SF Weekly

Guam Confused on Free Speech

The government of Guam doesn’t believe in photographers’ rights or free speech apparently. Maybe they don’t even know what they are.

Local businessman James Adkins took photos of a traffic accident in October and was arrested when he wouldn’t hand his cell phone over to police. He was charged with “obstruction of governmental operations” and “failure to comply.” 

Adkins filed a $3 million dollar lawsuit against the Guam Police Department for violating his rights and The Pacific Daily News reports that the government has just filed to dismiss the suit. The attorney general’s rationale? That  it was “not at all obvious that the ‘taking of photograph’s in one’s car on a public road’ has ever been deemed free speech.” OK, so  in Guam photography in public is a gray area.  

From Adkins’ statement:

“I was arrested because I took pictures of a car accident near my house. I committed no crime and I did nothing wrong. I filed this lawsuit because I believe that these police officers think they are above the law, they can arrest and incarcerate people without cause, and they can get away with it. I also believe that the Guam Police Department condones this type of behavior by its police officers. This is wrong and it has to stop.”

Customs Officer Threatens Photographer

Do the usual laws not apply to Customs and Border Protection officers? There’s one in Tampa who thinks so. When Jay Nolan, a Tampa Tribune photojournalist, arrived at the scene of a three-car crash today and took photos, he was detained for 15 minutes and his phone was confiscated. David Tipton, the Customs and Border officer involved in the crash, wanted Nolan to assure him the photos wouldn’t appear in the newspaper. When Nolan was unable to do that, he wasn’t pleased. As Nolan explains in the Tampa Tribune:

“He told me, ‘You don’t understand. We’re not local law enforcement here. We’re the federal government. We’ll take your gear right now,'” Nolan said. “He gave me two choices: either give my assurance or be placed under arrest.”

Nolan was detained for 15 minutes, and he smartly replaced his flash drive with a blank one and retained his photos. According to the article, Gary McClelland, the agency’s port director, later apologized to Nolan and explained the situation away by saying customs and border patrol “don’t permit photographs because of the nature of their jobs, but the agency doesn’t want to hinder the media.”

OK, I get there is a security issue with these agents working the border. But couldn’t you say the same thing then applies to all people who work with gangs and violent offenders (police officers, prison guards, judges, social workers…)? It seems like a very strange policy to “not permit” someone to take photos of you (when you’re in an accident in public, no less), because really, how do you enforce something like that without illegally throwing your weight around? Oh yeah, like Tipton did.

Article from the Tampa Tribune

First Amendment Travesty: Michigan Reporter Sentenced

Photo from the Michigan Citizen

It was Michigan Citizen reporter Diane Bukowski’s rotten luck that her sentencing came on the day that GM announced it was filing for bankruptcy. Already this story wouldn’t have gotten much play in Detroit, but now it’s as good as done.

Bukowski was sentenced to 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $4,000 fine today for two counts of resisting and obstructing an officer at a crime scene in November. Of course the story is as shady as a big oak tree. It was a police car chase that ended in the death of two men. Bukowski is well known for reporting on police corruption. The officer in question manhandled Bukowski, deleting all of her photos – and the jurors saw the raw Fox 2 news footage that substantiates that she never crossed the police tape. Nevertheless, the cops have friends in high places and now Bukowski will pay.

She is appealing the ruling.

Watch the original Fox 2 news report here.

Article from the Detroit Free Press

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