August 25th, 2011 by Mickey Osterreicher
NPPA has written strong letters of objection to both U.S. Rep. Steve ChabotÂ (R-Ohio)Â Â and the Cincinnati Police Chief after video cameras belonging to citizens were seized by a police officerÂ acting upon orders from the congressmanâ€™s aides.
The incident occurred on August 22, 2011 while Chabot was speaking to the public at a town hall meeting. According to pressÂ reports, Chabot spokesman Jamie Schwartz admitted that â€œhe had a Cincinnati police officerÂ confiscate the cameras â€˜to protect the privacy of constituents.â€™â€
Think Progress also reported that signs were posted on doors at the NorthAvondale Recreation Center that read: â€œFor Security Purposes, Cameras Are NOT Permitted.â€Â Video posted on Carlos Millerâ€™s website shows clips of the incident. At least two photographers recording with broadcast quality cameras can be seen in the video although they were not interefered with.
What is most disconcerting is that Congressman Chabot sits on the U.S. House of Representatives Commitee on the Judiciary which deals with these very issues and has supported legislation permitting â€œthe photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting, or televising to the public of [federal] court proceedings. In seeking â€œa complete and immediate apologyâ€ by the congressman for this Â â€œblatant constitutional transgressionâ€ the NPPA letter also wrote that â€œposting signs banning cameras â€˜for security purposesâ€™ does not supersede the constitutional rights of citizens.â€
Reaction to the incident has been extremely negative and widespread withÂ hundreds of comments posted on YouTube, Congressman Chabotâ€™s Facebook wallÂ and sent to his congresssional website page. This appears to beÂ exactly theÂ embarrassing outcome that aides had intented to avoid. Schwartz also is reported to have said thatÂ the cameras confiscatedÂ ”from David Little and Liz Ping, who were given the cameras back at the end of the meeting.â€
The NPPA letter to Cincinnati Police Chief James E. Craig stated that â€œwhether the officer acted at the request of the congressman or his staff or of his own volition exhibits a total lack of understanding and/or disregard for the constitutional protections afforded those he is sworn to serve and protect. Law enforcement agencies are established to uphold and enforce laws in a professional manner, part of which is to exercise good judgment. I believe that your officer abused that discretion by his actions.â€ The letter also went on to state that â€œif your departmentâ€™s vision is to be â€˜recognized as the standard of excellence in policingâ€™ by â€˜the delivery of fair and impartial police services while maintaining an atmosphere of respect for human dignity;â€™ then we would respectfully request that you maintain your â€˜integrity,â€™ â€˜professionalism,â€™ and â€˜accountabilityâ€™ by upholding your â€˜obligations to the department and communityâ€™ and reinstate â€˜public trustâ€™ by a full and impartial investigation of this incident.â€ The letter concluded by a â€œrequest that your department immediately issue orders directing officers to cease such activity and also that your department implement revised training for all officers regarding these matters.â€
Another town hall meeting is scheduled for August 29, 2011. Schwartz assured reporters that â€œno cameras would be seized atâ€ that meeting.
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