The San Diego Police Department is in hot water with photographers and First Amendment rights advocates everywhere this week over the way two of their officers handled a situation this last Saturday.
The story and the video that goes with it — which went viral after being shared by the website Photography is Not a Crime — shows one of the officers violently arresting a man for exercising his right to record the officer during the course of his duties.
Adam Pringle and two of his friends were walking down a Mission Beach boardwalk when two bicycle officers stopped to write Pringle a citation for smoking. Everything was ok until Pringle got out his Samsung Galaxy and began recording the officer.
After telling Pringle to put away his phone several times, to which Pringle replied several times that he had a right to record, officer M. Reinhold slapped the phone out of Pringle’s hand, slammed him onto the ground, and proceeded to arrest him. Pringle was bleeding so badly afterwards that an ambulance had to be called.
The officer’s only justification for his actions was when he told Pringle that “Phones can be converted into weapons … look it up online.” Cell phone guns, which were originally the subject of an email/video that began circulating in the early 2000’s, are in fact real.
However, it has been almost a decade since the devices were in the public eye, and even then a customs spokesperson is quoted on Snopes as saying that “there’s no indication that these are being mass produced.” It’s fairly obvious the officer was using the infamous cell phone gun as an excuse to stop Pringle from recording him.
Pringle and Photography is Not a Crime have both reached out to the internet for support in this matter, sharing the story/video and asking people to send San Diego Mayor Bob Filner emails voicing their opinions. So far, at least one major organization has come to Pringle’s support.
Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), has sent the mayor the following e-mail:
As the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) I have been in contact with you police department in an ongoing attempt to help improve police relations and avoid the type of incident that occurred yesterday. See: http://www.photographyisnotacrime.com/2013/04/09/san-diego-police-attack-and-arrest-man-video-recording-them-claiming-phone-could-be-a-weapon/
I spoke at the annual meeting of the IACP held in your city last September regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public to photograph and record. Apparently more is needed. As I have done training with other police departments around the country I renew my offer to help yours.
Please feel free to contact me.
Thank you for your attention in this matter.
Very truly yours,
Mickey H. Osterreicher
National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)
Pringle wound up spending the night in jail and is set to appear in court on May 23rd to answer to charges of obstruction. For more details or to send your own e-mail to Mayor Filner, head over to Photography is Not a Crime by clicking here.