Detroit Newspaper Photographer Arrested While Covering Police Action


Detroit police are investigating an incident last week in which a photographer for the Detroit Free Press was arrested and had her camera seized while covering a police action.

Photographer Mandi Wright and a DFP reporter were traveling to an assignment Thursday when they came upon an arrest scene and started covering it, with Wright capturing video on her newspaper-issued iPhone. Video of the event shows Wright filming the pat-down of the suspect when a man, wearing no uniform or identification, approaches her without identifying himself and orders her to “back up.” He then obstructs the iPhone lens and orders “Turn it off.”

Wright identifies herself a newspaper photographer (she was also wearing a press badge), to which the man replies “I don’t care who you are.” The still-unidentified officer then apparently grabs for the phone while Wright asks “Are you touching me?” before the video cuts out.

Wright says that the man, who she thought was an angry bystander, then wrenched the phone out of her hands, after which she tussled with him to get it back. At that point, uniformed officers jumped in, told her she was interfering with an arrest and handcuffed her.

DFP has a daily circulation of over 200,000

The DFP has a daily circulation of over 200,000

“I was just surprised at how quickly it escalated,” reporter Kathleen Gray told the Free Press. “There was no effort to try to figure out who we were or what we were doing. It was just immediately going for the phone.”

Wright was in custody for more than six hours, part of which she spent in an interrogation room with the suspect, before she was released without charges. Police also returned her phone, but with the SIM card missing. The video she shot was still on the camera’s internal memory.

No charges had been filed against Wright as of Monday. Detroit Police Chief James Craig confirmed Monday that an internal affairs investigation of the incident is ongoing.  Deputy Chief James Tolbert said separately that the department would issue a directive reminding officers that they cannot prevent anyone from recording them in public.

Free Press Editor Paul Anger told the newspaper that the incident was troubling in several regards. “First, our photographer was doing what any journalist — or any citizen — has a right to do in a public place…All she knew was that someone had grabbed her and her phone. We understand the difficult job that police officers do, and we understand how tensions can rise. Yet some of the police actions all through this incident need scrutiny — not the actions of our photographer.”

(via Detroit Free Press)


  • Banan Tarr

    Obviously a violation of rights, but at the same time I wonder how close she had to be in order to use that iPhone as a reasonably good camera for the scene. Imagine if she walked right up to the officers and put the iPhone basically in their faces? At some point the officers should have some leeway in backing people off of the scene. So them telling her to back up is at least reasonable. Taking her phone obviously isn’t…

  • Brett

    What’s left of the DFP should sue what’s left of the DPD for whatever money is left in Detroit.

  • bgrady413

    About two dollars I believe.

  • Gman

    I need a dollar dollar, dollar is all I need

  • MS

    I’ve shot several arrest scenes without any problems, but I have some respect for the officers. I do not get anywhere near what this journalist attempted. It almost seemed (to me) like she was asking for it.

  • gochugogi

    She needs to invest in a real camera with a zoom lens…

  • Burnin Biomass

    Please tell me her next words were “I’m sorry, I thought this was America!”.

    I can see asking her to back up, but taking her phone and arresting her is obviously too far.

  • Burnin Biomass

    I’ll buy that for a dollar.

  • ramanauskas

    Only bad cops don’t want their actions filmed. It is not just a citizen’s right to film the police, it is a duty. The worst crime is thuggery under color of law.

  • Ygor Oliveira

    SIM Syndrome

  • Mantis

    And good cops SHOULD want their actions filmed because it works both ways. It can protect the cop when some crazy idiot calls in and makes up a story about the policemans actions.

  • M

    In Detroit you can’t tell the cops from the thugs,

  • Rabi Abonour

    They obviously won’t do that, because they have to maintain a working relationship with the department. It’s in the paper’s best interest to ensure that officers respect first amendment rights while simultaneously doing as little as possible to antagonize the department.

  • Terry

    This article seems a little fishey since an iPhone doesn’t have a sim card slot for storing pictures on anyway. How could the sim card be taken. If the story is true then the cops were wrong or she was way to close to the scene.

  • Zack

    iPhones do have SIM cards.

  • gochugogi

    My iPhone 4S has a wee tray on the side with a SIM card.

  • chubbs

    The SIM card stores the phone carrier data, not the photographs. Your confusing it for an SD card.

    Apparently the police also made the same mistake and thought they could take the photos by removing the SIM card.

  • Jim

    Aww come on!! We all know that the real story is that guy in handcuffs…He was arrested simply because he was BLACK!! Must have been profiling the poor guy!

  • Mark Houston

    Every been to Detroit? know any Detroit cops?

  • Guest

    It’s why they call the pigs.

  • tyrohne


  • Jean-christophe Dick

    I was in Detroit last week and saw an amazing abandoned building. I pulled over, there was nobody around and just shot the building from the outside, a good 100 feet away, there were no signs that said no parking or restricted area. After a minute a police cruiser stopped and the officer stepped out and asked what I was doing here. He was polite enough, I said I was a photographer visiting from Los Angeles, he responded that I was in a restricted area (the building was the old train station) I did not cross any fences I was on the public sidewalk next to my rental car. He asked to see ID I gave him my Cali drivers license. He copied all my info and said that since I was a “visitor” he would let me photograph, they were afraid of terrorism is why he asked what I was doing there according to him.

  • SiriusPhotog

    I see what you did there …

  • MS

    Yes old abandoned train stations are hot targets for terror destruction mayhem!

  • bob cooley

    The Detroit PD and Justin Beiber…

  • Chris W.

    The the plain clothes cop is lucky he was not shot, many folks are now carrying arms for self defense I do and would not have hesitated to shoot an assaulter.

  • Randell

    That’s what you get when you use an iPhone to photograph for a newspaper – No one takes you seriously, not even the Fed’s.

  • Lizette

    When they took her SIM card, that seems way out of line.. if she was a hindrance to their police work yes, they could say please move… this sounds like NOT good at all so, we are not in a hostile system… we DO realize Gov’t already goes into out fons natiomwide
    Rights maybe we have lost the right to hearing pr see live reports.. soind like another country NOT too far away!???

  • Lizette

    Please Lord don’t let this turn into like what happen to the lady who dipped on frmr.Prrsident Clinton ( altho’) we know it was Not a police matter… she got 5 yrs. In the slammer.
    Great Big Bummer again! Slap in the face for our city! Detroit..

  • Lizette

    You are so right! Sorry but it is true…many xxx

  • Lizette

    Last Question Is the paper going to back her up??

  • Guest

    ““I was just surprised at how quickly it escalated,” reporter Kathleen Gray told the Free Press. “There was no effort to try to figure out who we were or what we were doing. It was just immediately going for the phone.””

    Noone should be surprised anymore. They are traitors. Traitors to their oaths. Traitors to their duty. Traitors to their country.