February 14th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher
The NPPA sent a letter to Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, citing an incident where a citizen recording actions by police officers on a city street was threatened with arrest if he did not leave the area. This occurred less than 24 hours after BPD releasedÂ Baltimore Police Guidelines 02-13-12 (dated Nov. 8, 2011), ensuring â€œthe protection and preservation of every personâ€™s Constitutional rights.â€ The letter also requests that “this incident be fully investigated and disciplinary action taken against the officers involved should that be indicated.”
According to press reports Mr. Cover was told by officers that â€œhe was loitering, and that he had to move along or risk arrest.â€ This action appears to be in direct contravention of both the letter and spirit of a policy that was just implemented in order to preempt a lawsuit against the Baltimore Police for flagrant violations of citizensâ€™ constitutional rights to observe and record police activity in public. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi is reported to have said, â€œThe department waited until the process of informing and training officers was complete before releasing the November order,â€ but according to some it seems that time may have been spent training officers how to circumvent the policy rather than follow it.
That General Order â€œrequiringâ€ certain â€œactionâ€ during â€œroutine encounters with the general publicâ€ states that â€œupon discovery that a bystander is observing, photographing, or video recording the conduct of police activity: DO NOT impede or prevent the bystanderâ€™s ability to continue doing so based solely on your discovery of his/her presence.â€ â€œBEFORE taking any police action which would stop a bystander from observing, photographing, or video recording the conduct of police activity, Officer(s) must have observed the bystander committing some act that falls within one of the six numbered conditions listed in . . . this Order . . . â€ (emphasis in the originals). And despite the fact that Mr. Cover did nothing more than record on a city street your supervisory officer orders him to move under threat of arrest.
The letter once again pointed out that photography by itself is not a suspicious activity and “contrary to the training that was ostensibly provided over the three (3) months since the Order was implemented, it appears that the message is not being received or followed.”
Posted in Access, Baltimore Police, Cameras, cell phone cameras, Christopher Sharp, Department of Justice, DOJ, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Maryland ACLU, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording Police, Scott Cover | 14 Comments »