March 19th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher
The NPPA sent a letter to Chicago Superintendent of Police, Garry F. McCarthy, objecting to the interference with and detention of two (2) Chicago journalists and requested that the incident be fully investigated. WGN reporter Dan Ponce and WMAQ photographer Donte Williams, were standing on a public sidewalk outside a hospital while covering the fatal shooting of a six-year-old girl.
According to reports and video recorded at the scene a Chicago police officer (identified by nametag as Ward, 010 District, Ogden) is heard using profanity as he orders journalists who were standing on a public sidewalk to move across the street. He is also heard to say “your first amendment rights can be terminated if you create a scene.” When asked how they were creating a scene he responded, “your presence is creating a scene,” when in fact there was no “scene” until this officer created one by issuing an unlawful order.
In a statement released yesterday, the Chicago Police Department said that “members were attempting to protect and respect both the grieving family members of the child, and the memory of the child herself during a very stressful time for all parties involved.” The Mission Statement and Core Values of the Chicago Police Department states (among other things) that it “is committed to protect the lives, property, and rights of all people, to maintain order, and to enforce the law impartially.”
In its letter “NPPA asserts that your officers failed to uphold any of those values. Furthermore, it is neither a police officer’s duty or right to decide what is appropriate news coverage of any story. So long as news personnel are in a public forum and not violating any ordinances they have a right to gather news unfettered by the personal feelings or opinions of law enforcement. Anything less may be considered a form of prior restraint or censorship.”
NPPA also expressed its concern that the apparent lack of discipline and training of CPD officers will result in further incidents during the upcoming NATO Summit meeting in May.
A copy of the letter was also sent to the Hon. Rahm Emmanuel, Mayor, City of Chicago, Frank Whittaker, General Manager, WMAQ-TV and Greg Caputo, News Director, WGN-TV
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