Three years ago, in late July of 2011, freelance news photographer Philip Datz was arrested by the Suffolk County Police Department in New York for “obstruction of governmental administration” because he was recording the conclusion of a police chase from a safe distance away.
Last we told you about the case, the police were dropping the charges and officers were going to have to go through “media relations training,” but the case has gone much further than that in the intervening three years. Read more…
There are two sides to every story, but in the case of Ohio copy machine repairman and aerial videography hobbyist Kele Stanley, his side is drastically different from that of the police who arrested him for flying his camera drone over the site of a car crash. Read more…
On your own mental list of “most perilous jobs,” chances are Google Street View driver doesn’t make it very close to the top. But one of Google’s own wound up in a strange situation recently when a group of villagers in Thailand put him under citizen’s arrest, believing him to be a spy for a government dam project they oppose. Read more…
Photographer/rights crusader Shawn Nee is back in the news, this time after he was detained and handcuffed by Los Angeles police for “interfering with an investigation” while taking photos in a public place. Read more…
Montreal resident Jennifer Pawluck was arrested earlier this week after she posted the above photo of anti-police graffiti to her Instagram account. The photo shows a caricature of Montreal police Commander Ian Lafrenière with a bullet hole in his forehead, leading police to accuse Pawluck of criminal harassment against a high-ranking police officer. Read more…
A 15-year-old boy in Colorado has been arrested for cyber-bulling using Instagram. He is being charged with five counts of third-degree harassment for allegedly downloading photographs of his classmates from Facebook and then uploading them to an anonymous Instagram account with hurtful captions attached. Read more…
The University of California has agreed to dish out a $162,500 settlement to David Morse, a 43-year-old photographer who was arrested back in 2009 while covering a student protest. The SF Chronicle writes,
[The suit] an officer told Morse, “We want your camera. We believe your camera contains evidence of a crime.”
The officers ignored his press pass and arrested him and seven others on suspicion of rioting, threatening an education official, attempted burglary, attempted arson of an occupied building, vandalism, and assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, the suit said.
Morse spent the night in jail. Prosecutors declined to file charges.
But police obtained a search warrant and used several of his photos in brochures and online in hopes that the public could identify individuals.
As part of the settlement, the police department has also agreed to modify its procedures regarding seeking materials from journalists and will be conducting training sessions teaching its officers about media rights.
After being arrested on October 1, 2007 for using his cell phone to film officers making an arrest, Boston lawyer Simon Glik sued the city for violating his civil rights. Late last year the court denied a motion to have the case dismissed, and just yesterday it was announced that the City of Boston had come to a settlement with Glik, agreeing to pay him $170,000 for damages and legal fees. The decision last year and the settlement yesterday both reaffirm that the First Amendment protects the right to photograph and film police officers carrying out their duties in a public place.
Update: Apparently this isn’t something ordinary photographers need to worry about. See below.
The Washington Post has published a list of 160 misdemeanor offenses that can land you in jail in Washington D.C. While most are quite reasonable (e.g. “Sale of Cigarettes to a Minor” or “Unlicensed Driving Instructor”), there is one that is troubling. Under the category “Photographer Violations” is the entry:
Photographer – More than 5 minutes at location
The entry is quite vague and, as Carlos Miller points out, leaves a lot of room for police officer interpretation.
Update: The Washington Post has written a followup article addressing this issue (thx Darrow). Apparently the law is directed at full-time photographers who photograph passersby on the streets:
”Our policy has been that the street photographer license would apply to persons who are stationed on public space to take photos of passersby,” said agency spokesman Helder Gil in an e-mail. Amateurs aren’t covered, he said, nor are “journalists, professional photographers who take pictures of buildings/scenery, or wedding photographers taking pics of happy couples on D.C. streets and sidewalks.”
So as long as you don’t make a living hustling tourists for snapshots, you can snap away without keeping an eye on your watch.
Freelance news photographer Phil Datz was recording the conclusion of a police chase from the opposite sidewalk last Friday when he was confronted by a police officer and commanded to “go away”. Though he politely obeyed and moved a block further from the scene, the officer decided to arrest him for “obstruction of governmental administration”. The latest news is that the department is planning to drop the charges and put its officers through “media relations training”.