NY Times Photographer Arrested After Alleged Assault by NYPD Officers

It’s like “déjà vu all over again”: New York Times freelance photographer Robert Stolarik was arrested this past Saturday while on assignment in the Bronx. As he was taking photographs of a developing street fight, Stolarik was confronted by officers, ordered to stop, and then allegedly assaulted.

The New York Times writes,

Mr. Stolarik was taking photographs of the arrest of a teenage girl about 10:30 p.m., when a police officer instructed him to stop doing so. Mr. Stolarik said he identified himself as a journalist for The Times and continued taking pictures. A second officer appeared, grabbed his camera and “slammed” it into his face, he said.

Mr. Stolarik said he asked for the officers’ badge numbers, and the officers then took his cameras and dragged him to the ground; he said that he was kicked in the back and that he received scrapes and bruises to his arms, legs and face.

The police department has a different account of what happened (Rashoman, anyone?):

The Police Department said in a statement that officers had been trying to disperse the crowd and had given “numerous lawful orders” for both the crowd and Mr. Stolarik to move back, but that he tried to push forward, “inadvertently” striking an officer in the face with his camera.

The police said that Mr. Stolarik then “violently resisted being handcuffed” and that, in the process, a second officer was cut on the hand. A video of the episode taken by one of the reporters who was with Mr. Stolarik shows Mr. Stolarik face down on the sidewalk, beneath a huddle of about six officers.

During the encounter, Stolarik had his press credentials and camera equipment confiscated. Today the National Press Photographers Association sent this letter to the police department demanding an investigation and the immediate return of the credentials and gear:

Back to why it’s “déjà vu all over again”: it was just last year that Stolarik made headlines after getting into a confrontation with the NYPD during an assignment (photo at top of this post shows Stolarik in this incident). That time he was covering the Occupy Wall Street protests. The two stories are strikingly similar.

(via NYTimes via Pixiq)

  • Name

    and this is why you whoul take your photos and run because in ” democraty ” policemen make you feel like you are NOT in a democraty. We have the same story in Europe ( France / Germany and other ” democraty ” )

  • Mike Sivčević

    The way things are going, when knowingly going to places involving police it would be safest to have a second shooter. The second shooter would be equipped with a video camera, “keeping an eye” on you while you shoot the police action photo. If the cops misbehave again, you’ll have a nice little surprise for them in court.

  • JSDC

    I was thinking the same thing. I do alot of street photography and if I ever came upon a situation like this and saw the police approaching photgraphers with hostile intent, I’d stay at a distance and document the interaction. We can’t count on civic minded cops to protect us anymore, we have to lookout for our brothers and sisters.

  • derekdj

    This reminds me of my cop buddies who would recount how a perp’s hand “accidentally got caught in a door”. Police reports are as much “hearsay” as the average citizen’s word, a good excuse for more cameras not less.

  • Truthsayer

    Incidents like this are where freedom gets chipped away bit by bit. When the free press cannot do its work without fear of reprisal or prosecution, it strikes at the foundation of our free society. What’s next? Indefinite detention without charges? Oh, wait…

  • Dave Reynolds

    Hrrmmm. One photographer gets into two confrontations with police that have “strikingly similar” outcomes. I’m suspicious of police who don’t want their conduct videoed. I’m also suspicious of photographers who get into confrontations with police. Photographers have the right to shoot events as they occur. They also have a responsibility to behave lawfully.

  • Matt

    Ya, I agree it needs to be asked. But, maybe just maybe it is because of the subject he is covering. Not ready to make a judgement about him yet.

  • Al Borrelli

    I had the same thoughts exactly. I would need to see more evidence before I judge the police. We photographers have become might haughty when it comes to the police. Not saying beat downs are ok (IF that’s what happened), but I know we push our “rights” too far sometimes. Just saying

  • Wing Wong

    I would extend the idea further in that there should be “teams” of photographers. 2 on the ground and 1 up in an area with a higher vantage point and a longer lens. In this manner, the third person is not obviously part of the group. Given that situations escalate quickly, having yourself and your buddy on the ground floor could mean both would be arrested and illegally detained. A third recorder video taping the events unfolding would provide a more objective account of what happened.

    Each photographer having go-pro and other smaller/always-on recording devices on them(some audio-only) would be good backups as well.

  • Wing Wong

    The best way to counter and disperse collectively negative mindsets is to shine a bright light and expose to the public through transparency. To show that everyone is held accountable for their actions, both as individuals and as groups.

  • Mike

    Pigs will always be pigs. Everywhere.