NPPA Objects to Interference With & Detention of Journalists by Chicago PD

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

Posted in Access, Chicago, Chicago Police, detained, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, Illinois, law, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording, Recording Police, Search and Seizure, video cameras, WGN, WMAQ | 4 Comments »

4 Responses to “NPPA Objects to Interference With & Detention of Journalists by Chicago PD”

  1.   Bob Soltys Says:

    Thank you counselor for your continued leadership.

  2.   James Hoehne Says:

    Congress shall make ***no law*** respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, ***or of the press***; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  3.   Don Bierman Says:

    Seems like the Chicago Police Dept. is reverting back to its 1968 Democratic Convention form, we’ll know the metamorphose is complete as soon as they start clubbing the press with their nightsticks before arresting them.

  4.   Edward V. Byrne Says:

    I’m glad someone is standing up for the reporters. This was high-handed police interference, and the scary part of it is that such things happen dozens of times a day all over the country. Of course, a reporter’s ethical duty is to avoid hurting people (emotionally) who are going through momentary crisis or trauma. I’m confident that most reporters will refrain from conduct which might inflict further suffering on someone. With cameras that can record a fly on a horse’s butt at 100 feet, it’s usually easy to do.

Leave a Reply