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Judge Orders Sanctions Against Atlanta Police Department for Obstructing Filming Police Conduct

May 14th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , ,

ATLANTA– On May 13, 2015, United States District Judge Steve C. Jones found the City of Atlanta in contempt of court and imposed sanctions for the city’s failure to comply with obligations set forward in a prior Court Order on behalf of a woman whose constitutional rights were violated when she was arrested as she peaceably photographed police activity in 2009.

The Southern Center for Human Rights, along with Atlanta based attorneys Daniel J. Grossman and Albert Wan, presented arguments on April 28, 2015, for civil contempt sanctions against the City of Atlanta in Anderson v. City of Atlanta, et al. The plaintiff, Felicia Anderson, brought this case against the City of Atlanta and one of its police officers for falsely arresting her as she photographed police arresting her neighbor. The parties ultimately reached a settlement on Ms. Anderson’s claims in 2012. In addition to damages, the parties agreed to a Consent Order requiring the City of Atlanta to permanently revise and implement a number of APD policies and trainings that would set strict limits on officer’s interference with citizens documenting police activity.

In November 2014, several reporters covering the Ferguson demonstrations in downtown Atlanta had their cameras taken away from them by APD officers as these individuals attempted to film police activity. One of them was a photojournalist for 11Alive News, whose arrest by police officers during his coverage of the protests has been the subject of numerous news stories. Another was a reporter for Creative Loafing; Atlanta police officers intentionally stopped him from taking photos during the protest, grabbed his camera, and then arrested him, even as he and his editor repeatedly told the officers that he was a reporter. These are but a few examples of the actual damage that came to light as a result of the City’s failure to abide by this Court’s order, including interference with citizens and reporters filming police.

Judge Jones stated, “The Court finds Defendant in contempt for violating the March 2012 Order… and it now imposes sanctions to bring Defendant into full compliance and to address future monitoring of Defendant’s compliance with the Order.”

“The Court has now found the City in contempt based, in part, on the City’s own admissions that it failed to comply with the Court’s Order,” said attorney Albert Wan. “ The next few weeks and months will be telling. Will the City treat the Court’s order with the seriousness it deserves, or will it revert back to its old ways? All eyes are on the City to see what it will do, and they should be. As recent events have shown, the public’s right to document police conduct is an important one, and the City needs to recognize that. It can start by fully complying with the Court’s Order.”

Judge Jones ordered the following:
• Permanently implement the revisions to the Atlanta Police Department Standard Operating Procedures set forth in the Court’s March 2012 Order
• Conduct mandatory, in-person training of all Atlanta police officers every two years regarding the Standard Operating Procedure revisions set forth the Court’s March 2012 Order
• Within forty-five days, the Chief of the Atlanta Police Department shall issue a Command Memorandum to each APD officer attaching a copy of the 2012 Consent Order, requiring that it be read and signed. The City of Atlanta shall provide the Court and the Plaintiff with a sworn statement attesting that this has been accomplished within ten days after the 45-day period of compliance has expired. The City of Atlanta shall be fined $10,000 per day after the 45-day period of compliance has expired if the City of Atlanta fails to comply.
• Within forty-five days, the City of Atlanta shall provide in-person, roll call training consistent with the industry standard to every police officer of the Atlanta Police Department on every revision to the Atlanta Police Department Standard Operating Procedures required under the March 2012 Order. The Atlanta Police Department is required to video solely this portion of the Atlanta Police Department’s in-person, roll call training. The City of Atlanta must provide Plaintiff’s counsel with a copy of each video within ten days of the in-person, roll call training. The City of Atlanta shall be fined $10,000 per day after the period of compliance has expired if the City of Atlanta fails to comply.
• The City of Atlanta, within five days, must report to the Court and Plaintiff any revisions made to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) at issue in the 2012 Consent Order.
• The City of Atlanta will reimburse Plaintiff’s counsel for a portion of fees and costs associated with ensuring compliance with the Court’s Order.

“Almost every week we see the crucial importance of citizen video as a tool for police accountability. It is a shame that City Hall fought against this for almost six months, and that it took a federal judge to hold the city in contempt and order it to provide the training that even Atlanta’s police officers themselves were asking for,” said attorney Daniel J. Grossman.

“It should not have taken over three years for the Atlanta Police Department to respect citizens’ rights to video police conduct as required by Judge Jones order. The Court has shown, and the national conscience has shown, that cameras are an important tool in ensuring police are held accountable,” said Southern Center for Human Rights attorney, Gerald Weber.

To read the Contempt Order go to: Atlanta Contempt Order – Anderson 05-13-15

Posted in Access, Atlanta Police Department, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording Police | No Comments »

Some Practical Advice about Covering High Conflict News Stories

April 28th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

See the attached document containing some practical advice about covering high conflict news stories.

Issues covered:

  • Legal
  • Local Ordinances
  • Federal Trespass
  • Resources
  • Important items to have with you
  • Potential for arrest
  • Complying with police orders
  • Being questioned and detained
  • Protecting your files
  • Arrest & release
  • Practical advice
  • Preparation
  • Your equipment

These have been put together as a result of covering the NATO Summit in Chicago in 2012 the political conventions in Tampa and Charlotte later that year and the demonstrations in Ferguson in 2014.

For more information please contact:

Mickey H. Osterreicher

Cell 716.983.7800

Email lawyer@nppa.org

Twitter @nppalawyer

 

 

Posted in Access, Baltimore Police, Baltimore Riots, cell phone cameras, Ferguson, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, Legal, Maryland ACLU, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording Police, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment rights | No Comments »

NPPA, Joined by Other Media Groups Files Comments Objecting to Fairfax County, VA Photo Permit Fees

February 5th, 2015 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Yesterday, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), joined by twelve other news and photographers’ organizations and First Amendment advocacy groups, filed comments with the Fairfax County Park Authority strongly objecting to their proposed permit and fee structure.

The proposed scheme would require all professional photographers to obtain a “professional photography permit”. Further, the permit would take 5 days to process, making it nearly impossible for news photographers to obtain one in time for most news situations, for which there is little to no warning.

The comments, authored by NPPA general counsel, Mickey Osterreicher, explains that “the proposed rules, create an unnecessary and burdensome distinction between amateur and professional photographers. Whether the images being made and recorded are for journalism, weddings or any other type of photography/filming (hereinafter “photography”), distinguishing between professional photographers and amateurs who are doing precisely the same things, at the same times, and in the same places, is arbitrary, capricious and unconstitutional.”

NPPA has always argued that permits in parks should only be required if the photographer’s presence would create a disruption. As the comments explained, “We believe that the proper question to ask is whether the photography creates any unusual impact on the land. If the activity presents no more impact on the land than that of the general public, then it should be exempt from permit and fee requirements.”

In the submitted comments Osterreicher went on to explain that, “unfettered access is necessary in coverage of the important public policy issues that arise in the conservation and use of public park resources. Journalists should be free to report to the public on public issues from public lands at any time. That protection should extend not only to individuals traditionally identified as newsgatherers, but also for freelance visual journalists and members of the public who may use cameras on a speculative basis to photograph or film activities on public lands without having an assured media outlet for their work.”

The other groups joining in the letter were: the American Photographic Artists, the American Society of Media Photographers, the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, the Graphic Artists Guild, the North American Nature Photography Association, PACA Digital Media Licensing Association, the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists and the White House News Photographers Association.

 

Posted in Access, American Society of News Editors, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, Newsgathering, NPPA, Permits, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Public Photography, Regulations limiting photography, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, White House News Photographers Association, WHNPA | No Comments »

Important Info for Those Covering Ferguson

November 23rd, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

For all NPPA members and visual journalists in Ferguson, Missouri – Please print out the federal court orders below and keep them with you at all times.

Also please contact NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher if you are interfered with or arrested. You may call or text his cell: 716.983.7800 or email lawyer@nppa.org.

You may also call 800.336.4243, which is the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Legal Defense Hotline.

County Order

Highway Patrol Order

Ferguson Order

Posted in Access, Ferguson, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Recording Police, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

Court Orders Police in Ferguson Not to Interfere with Individuals Who are Photographing or Recording in Public

November 21st, 2014 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today a federal judge for the Eastern District of Missouri granting three orders agreed and consented to by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the County of St. Louis Missouri and the City of Ferguson. The orders signed by Judge John A Ross for the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the County of St. Louis enjoins those entities from  “interfering with individuals who are photographing or recording at public places but who are not threatening the safety of others or physically interfering with the ability of law enforcement to perform their duties.”

The order directed at the City of Ferguson more specifically prohibits the city from enforcing or threatening to enforce “any rule, policy or practice that grants law enforcement officers the authority or discretion to arrest, threaten to arrest, or interfere with any individual, including any member of the media or member of the public photographing or recording in public places unless that person is threatening the safety of others or physically interfering with the ability of law enforcement to perform their duties.”

The fact that the orders protect photographers who are not “physically” interfering with law enforcement prevents agencies from claiming that the act of reporting is in itself threatening or otherwise an interference. “Journalists and law enforcement officials share a common responsibility – we all serve the public – raising the awareness of law enforcement personnel about these matters after the fact only means that journalists were prevented from doing their jobs, and because of that, the public was not properly served,” said NPPA president Mark J. Dolan.

In August the ACLU file a lawsuit in federal court against police agencies in Ferguson on behalf of photographer Mustafa Hussein. The complaint sought a preliminary injunction against police policies of demanding and ordering members of the media and public to stop recording the police acting in their official duty on public streets and sidewalks. It also sought to have the court declare that the police policy on its face and as-applied violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments by chilling free speech without due process.

In support of that lawsuit, the NPPA filed a Declaration outlining some of the issues faced by visual journalists as well as how NPPA’s general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher, tried to deal with those situations while he was in Ferguson this summer. The bigger issues were the fact that police tried to keep the media in areas they had established rather than allow  access to traditionally open public forums such as sidewalks. Osterreicher suggests that journalists print out and carry the orders to show police who may be in contempt. “While it is gratifying that the police agencies agreed to these self-evident liberties it is still troublesome that they have apparently failed to provide any substantive training regarding constitutional rights. As we have seen time and time again without proper training  p0lice frequently disregard the Bill of Rights and any enforcement orders as just another piece of paper,” Osterreicher said.

NPPA Executive Director Charles W. L. (“Chip”) Deale added, “We are pleased that the court again has recognized and emphasized the important and Constitutionally-protected right of visual journalists to perform their critical news-gathering function free of harassment and undue restrictions. The NPPA hopes and trusts that law enforcement agencies in and around Ferguson will unerringly abide by these court orders.”

The orders resolves the case, but the federal court specifically retains jurisdiction to enforce the injunctions.

Posted in Access, ACLU, Assault on Photographers, Ferguson, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

NPPA, Other Media Groups Submit Comments to FAA in Support of Exemptions for Use of sUAS

July 16th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today the NPPA filed comments with the FAA in support of petitions from a number of aerial photo and video production companies seeking exemptions to commercially operate small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS – 55lbs or less) for motion picture and television industry use. The NPPA also joined in the analysis submitted as part of the News Media Coalition’s Comments in Support of Video-Production Companies’ Petitions to the FAA for Section 333 Exemption. That Media Coalition includes: Advance Publications, Inc.; A.H. Belo Corp.; The Associated Press; Gannett Co., Inc.; Getty Images (US), Inc.; Gray Television, Inc.; NBCUniversal, Inc.; The New York Times Company; Scripps Media, Inc.; Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.; and WP Company LLC (d/b/a The Washington Post), represented by Charles D. Tobin and Christie N. Waltz of the Washington, DC law firm Holland & Knight, LLP. The additional comments by NPPA were submitted to reflect the specific concerns of our members and were drafted by NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher and Advocacy Chair Alicia Wagner Calzada, who is also an  attorney with Haynes and Boone, LLP.

As noted, the NPPA has an acute interest in helping the FAA properly expedite the integration of sUAS into the National Airspace System (“NAS”).  We also support exemptions by the FAA that would permit journalists, and in particular visual journalists, to use sUAS for newsgathering purposes. The NPPA reviewed the voluntary and self-imposed “limitations and conditions” proposed in the production companies’ petitions. And while they may be acceptable to those groups, we urged the FAA to decline to adopt or extend them as prerequisites for future exemptions or as future standards in its rulemaking. The NPPA acknowledged that some of those limitations and conditions might be acceptable, but expressed our concerns about others that we deemed to be impractical and which would impose an undue burden on sUAS use for newsgathering.

The NPPA continues to assert that sUAS use for newsgathering is not a “commercial use” and we expect to see tangible benefits if the current exemption requests are granted. Specifically, we would hope that NPPA will also be allowed to “facilitate” exemption petitions on behalf our membership in a similar manner to what has been achieved by the Motion Picture Association of America.

The NPPA also referenced in its comments and filed a copy of our paper written in support of sUAS for use in newsgathering, which also included results from a study we conducted on that subject.

 

Posted in drone, Drones, FAA, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, rulemaking, small unmanned aerial systems, sUAS | No Comments »

NPPA Member Wins Major Victory Against Suffolk County Police Department

June 17th, 2014 by Wills Citty and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NPPA member Philip Datz today won a major settlement from the Suffolk County Police Department in a civil rights suit stemming from Datz’s arrest while filming law enforcement activity on a public street.   Under the terms of the settlement, Suffolk County agreed to pay Datz $200,000, implement a new training program (including a training video), and create a Police-Media Relations Committee.

The NPPA, attorneys from the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine (DWT) and the NYCLU worked with Datz, a freelance videographer, to file a federal lawsuit after Suffolk County prosecutors dropped charges resulting from his 2011 arrest.  In July of 2011 Datz was filming police activity from a public sidewalk when Suffolk County Police Sergeant Michael Milton confronted him (VIDEO), demanding he leave the area immediately.  Datz was wearing his press credentials at the time and was standing near several other onlookers, who were not asked to leave.  Although no police lines had been established, Datz complied and then drove a block away. He was filming from there when Sergeant Milton came speeding up in his police cruiser, placed Datz under arrest for obstruction of governmental administration, and seized his camera and videotape.

Led by attorney Robert Balin, DWT filed suit on Datz’s behalf in 2012, claiming the unlawful arrest violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights as well as the Privacy Protection Act of 1980.  Rather than take the case to trial, SCPD agreed to the settlement payment, and a series of relief measures aimed at educating its officers on the rights of the public and press to observe and record police activity.  As part of these measures,  SCPD officers will now be annually required to watch a training video explaining these rights.  In addition, a newly created Police-Media Relations Committee consisting of representatives of SCPD and local media will be charged with promoting better relations between press and the police and will address complaints regarding police-media relations. Its membership will include a commanding officer in the SCPD, the executive officer of the SCPD’s Public Information Bureau, and members of local print and broadcast media outlets, as well as a freelance videographer or photographer. The SCPD also revised its rules to instruct officers that “members of the media cannot be restricted from entering and/or producing recorded media from areas that are open to the public, regardless of subject matter.”

“This settlement is a victory for the First Amendment and for the public good,” Datz said. “When police arrest journalists just for doing their job, it creates a chilling effect that jeopardizes everyone’s ability to stay informed about important news in their community. Journalists have a duty to cover what the police are doing, and the police should follow the law and respect the First Amendment to ensure they can do that.” Datz has also made a generous donation to the NPPA defense fund.

“We are delighted that Suffolk County has now joined other police departments, the U.S. Department of Justice and numerous courts across the country in recognizing that the public and press have a First Amendment right to photograph and record police officers performing their duties in a public place – a right that is essential to newsgathering and the free discussion of government affairs,” said Robert Balin. “This settlement is a huge victory not just for Phil Datz, but for all journalists and Suffolk County residents. The changes in policy and training agreed to by the County are major steps toward transforming the SCPD culture that led to this unfortunate incident. “The settlement is an encouraging sign in a climate where interference with and unlawful arrest of photographers has become commonplace.

“The National Press Photographers Association commends Suffolk County for working with Phil Datz and his counsel in order to turn a far too commonplace First Amendment violation into a constructive resolution of the case,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the NPPA. “The real challenge now will be to ensure the ongoing training of SCPD officers in order for Suffolk County to be a positive role model for other law enforcement agencies. The NPPA is also extremely appreciative of the tenacious advocacy by Rob Balin, Alison Schary and Sam Bayard of the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine who worked tirelessly on Phil’s behalf. And finally our thanks go to Phil Datz for not only having to endure the abridgment of his civil rights but for his willingness to stand up for his rights and the rights of others.”

The Suffolk County case is just the latest example of a lawsuit forcing local law enforcement to protect, rather than violate, the First Amendment. In March the Baltimore Police Department settled a case brought by the ACLU for a similar amount and also announced a new policy that prohibits officers from stopping people from taping or photographing police actions after officers destroyed a man’s personal, family videos because he taped a police incident, a case in which the U.S. Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest affirming the right of both the public and the press to record police activities in public.

Also see: http://www.freedomtofilm.com/settlement.html  for additional info and links to documents including letter of discipline and Internal Affairs report.

 

Posted in Access, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | 1 Comment »

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