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NPPA SEEKS DISMISSAL OF CHARGES AGAINST TEMPLE UNIVERSITY PJ STUDENT

March 22nd, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , ,

*******UPDATE – See reply from Philadelphia Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.

******* UPDATE – See attached Philadelphia Police Commissioner’s Memo dated 9-23-11 regarding Photography and Recording of Police Officers While Performing Official Functions in Public Places.  Clearly the officers involved in this incident violated that policy.

The NPPA sent a letter to Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Charles H. Ramsey seeking the dismissal of all charges against Temple University photojournalism student Ian Van Kuyk. Mr. Van Kuyk was arrested on the night of March 14, 2012 outside his residence while taking pictures of uniformed Philadelphia police performing a routine traffic stop.  In addition to the dismissal of all charges, the NPPA also requested that the incident “be fully investigated with commensurate disciplinary measures for the officers involved.”

Mr. Van Kuyk, who was with his girlfriend (also arrested) said he never came closer than ten feet (10’) to the scene when he was ordered back, voluntarily backed up and was at least thirty feet (30’) away when a uniformed police officer approached Mr. Van Kuyk in an aggressive manner demanding that he stop taking pictures. Mr. Van Kuyk politely told the officer that he was a Temple University photojournalism student and also that he was within his rights to be taking photos on a public street.

Without provocation the officer then began pushing and shoving Mr. Van Kuyk. In response to Mr. Van Kuyk’s statement that his rights were being violated in a public domain the officer is alleged to have responded “Public domain, yeah we’ve heard that before!” whereupon he threw Mr. Van Kuyk to the ground and began pushing his face into the sidewalk. In order to avoid having the camera (which he announced was school property) damaged during this assault by your officer Ms. Feighan attempted to retrieve it from Mr. Van Kuyk’s hand but was also taken to the ground by another officer. They were then both handcuffed and placed in patrol cars.

He is charged with five (5) offenses (four (4) misdemeanors and one (1) felony): Obstructing Justice, Resisting Arrest, Hindering Apprehension and two (2) counts of Disorderly Conduct. Ms. Feighan, who originally was at the same station was later taken to a different station where she was detained for more than eighteen (18) hours. Neither of them were told the names of the officers involved, nor did they receive a copy of an accusatory instrument. Ms. Feighan’s preliminary trial was held on March 20th (less than a week after the incident) and Mr. Van Kuyk’s is scheduled for April 16, 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

it is also alleged that at least two (2) officers came up to Mr. Van Kuyk’s window and made threatening comments to him. He was then taken to the 1st  District police station where he was held for nearly twenty-four (24) hours. He was not allowed to make a telephone call for nearly eight (8) hours at which time he was told (for the first time) that he was being charged with disorderly conduct.

 

Upon Mr. Van Kuyk’s ROR he came to learn that he was being charged with five (5) offenses (four (4) misdemeanors and one (1) felony): Obstructing Justice, Resisting Arrest, Hindering Apprehension, Disorderly Conduct and Disorderly Conduct – Fight II. Ms. Feighan, who originally was at the same station was later taken to a different station where she was detained for more than eighteen (18) hours. Neither of them were told the names of the officers involved, nor did they receive a copy of an accusatory instrument. Ms. Feighan’s preliminary trial was held on March 20th (less than a week after the incident) and Mr. Van Kuyk’s is scheduled for April 16, 2012.

 

Posted in Access, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Student, students | 3 Comments »

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 »

NPPA Attorney Obtains Another Dismissal in Cases Against Photojournalists Covering Occupy Protests

February 21st, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , ,

Charges were dismissed last week against a New York City photojournalist arrested while covering the Occupy Wall Street protests.

NPPA’s general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher, was successful in obtaining court dismissal of charges stemming from the arrest last November of NPPA member Douglas Higginbotham while he was covering the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Charges were dropped “in the interest of justice,” in response to Osterreicher’s motion to dismiss, made on his behalf. Higginbotham was arrested after he stood on top of a phone booth to get a better vantage point of the protest. As he was attempting to get down (after being ordered to do so by police) officers pulled him off his perch and arrested him for disorderly conduct.

NPPA president Sean Elliot said, “I am pleased to see the correct outcome in this case but unfortunately the fact that Mr. Higginbotham was arrested in the first place represents just another example of a disturbing trend in police-press relations.” “I would hope that the NPPA, SPJ and other organizations representing journalists can continue to make headway in educating police officials on how to better work with the media and avoid such incidents as this in the future,” he added.

Ironically, last year while covering a celebration of the death of Osama bin Laden, Higginbotham was helped up onto another nearby phone booth by police and firefighters. “Being a freelancer working in New York for a TV station in New Zealand, I was very concerned and upset after my arrest,” Higginbotham said in an interview. “Knowing that I had NPPA representing me was very reassuring. I am just glad that this episode is over and that the charges were dismissed,” he added.

The Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ) provided financial assistance for his defense. “I’m not surprised by the outcome,” said SPJ President John Ensslin. “I felt Doug had a strong case and I know he had a good lawyer.” “We at SPJ are relieved and happy that this case is over and that Doug can go back to doing what he does without the threat of prosecution hanging over his head.”

Watch video of TV New Zealand story and his arrest

Charges were also dropped in January, against Jennifer Weiss, a freelance video and print journalist who had been working for Agence France-Presse covering the clearing of Zuccotti Park on November 15 of last year. She was attempting to get to the scene, when a police officer singled her out for arrest. She identified herself as a journalist, but was not allowed to call her editor until after she was released and was one of several journalists arrested that day. She had been charged with blocking pedestrian traffic and disorderly conduct and was issued an appearance ticket, which Osterreicher succeeded in having dismissed.  Ms. Weiss said, “Mickey was extremely helpful, accessible and answered all my questions — and ultimately got my charges dismissed ahead of my court date. I’m very grateful to him for the time and effort he put in on my case.”

Also in January, Osterreicher represented Jonathan Foster, an NPPA student member who was charged with trespassing after being arrested covering Occupy Rochester. Prosecutors initially refused to drop the charges, but they were dismissed at a hearing on January 12.

NPPA’s attorney also provided support to counsel for Kristyna Wentz-Graff and the Milwaukee Sentinel, and he exchanged letters with the police department and prosecutors in that case. In the original police report, Wentz-Graff was charged with standing on a roadway and obstructing the issuance of a citation. The video of the incident shows that she was about to step onto the sidewalk from the street when the police yanked her back into the street and arrested her. Police claimed that they didn’t know she was a journalist but the video showed her credential hanging around her neck and clearly visible. Prosecutors decided not to issue a citation, which is the equivalent of dismissing the original charges in Wisconsin, on December 19.

Posted in Disorderly Conduct, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, Interest of Justice, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NYPD, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording Police, video cameras | No Comments »

NPPA FIles Comments in Support of H.B. 3944 Amending the Criminal Provisions of the Illinois Wiretap Law

February 6th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has submitted comments to the Illinois General Assembly in support of House Bill 3944. Spoinsored by Rep. Elaine Nekritz, the proposed legislation (among other things) “amends the Illinois Criminal Code and exempts from an eavesdropping violation the recording of a peace officer who is performing a public duty in a public place and speaking at a volume audible to the unassisted human ear.” 

The current Illinois Wiretap Law makes it a felony (with a penalty of up to 15 years in jail) to audio record a police officer in public without consent regardless of whether a reasonable expectation of privacy exisited.

The NPPA is extremely concerned that the criminal penalties under the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, 720 ILCS 5/14 (“the Act”), as applied to the audio recording of police officers, has created a chilling effect upon free speech and a free press, particularly for photojournalists, who by the very nature of their profession must operate on the front lines of news, in the middle of sometimes highly charged situations.

NPPA joined in the amicus curiae brief in ACLU v. Alvarez, submitted by news organizations in support of the ACLU position seeking a declaratory judgment and a preliminary injunction against the application of the Act because it violates the First Amendment. Regardless of the Seventh Circuit decision in that case, which in any event may likely be appealed, NPPA is deeply concerned that daily coverage of news events, Occupy Chicago protests and the upcoming G-8 Summit may put those seeking to record these important matters of public concern at risk because of the continued enforcement of the Act. It especially disconcerting for us to think that foreign journalists covering the Summit meeting may be subject to arrest and prosecution for doing something they understandably believe to be a Constitutionally protected right throughout the United States.

In a time of technology and terrorism, citizens and photojournalists throughout the world have risked, and in some cases given their lives, to provide visual proof of governmental activities. Sadly, what is viewed as heroic abroad is often considered as suspect or criminal at home. It is therefore incumbent upon the 97th General Assembly of the State of Illinois to immediately enact H.B. 3944.

Posted in Access, broadcasting, Cameras, cell phone cameras, Chicago, Chicago Police, confiscated, DOJ, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, G-8 Summit, H.B. 3944, Illinois, Illinois General Assemby, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Reasonable Expectation of Privacy, Recording Police, Regulations limiting photography, Search and Seizure, Suspicious Activity, Terrorism, video cameras, Wiretap Law | No Comments »

New Developments in the Ongoing Assault on the Right to Photograph/Record in Public

January 12th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher

January 10, 2012 might not be a day that any real headlines were made but in the ongoing assault on the right to photograph/record in public, events took place in two separate cases that may mark the start of a change in how this issue is viewed by the courts and police. First, in the United States District Court for The District Of Maryland, the Department of Justice filed an 18 page ““Statement of Interest of The United States” ” Sharp v. Baltimore City Police, et al.

According to the complaint, filed by the ACLU of Maryland in August 2011, “this is a civil rights action challenging as unconstitutional the Baltimore City Police Department’s warrantless arrest and detention of plaintiff Christopher Sharp, as well as the seizure and destruction of Mr. Sharp’s property, premised upon Mr. Sharp’s exercise of his rights under the federal and Maryland constitutions to document the conduct of City police officers performing their public duties in a public place.”

That complaint which was filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City Maryland and later removed to federal court stems from an incident in which Christopher Sharp videotaped police using excessive force to effectuate the arrest of a female friend while they were in the Pimlico Race Course Clubhouse at the 2010 Preakness Stakes. Video taken of the beating by another observer can be found on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWF3Ddr7vdc.

Sharp refused police requests to surrender his video as “evidence”, whereupon it is alleged that police “seized his cell phone, and detained him while one officer left the area with the phone. After the officers returned the phone, Mr. Sharp discovered that the officers had deleted video of the arrest and all other videos that had been stored on the device, including numerous videos of his young son and other personal events.”

“This litigation presents constitutional questions of great moment in this digital age: whether private citizens have a First Amendment right to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties, and whether officers violate citizens’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they seize and destroy such recordings without a warrant or due process. The United States urges this Court to answer both of those questions in the affirmative” the DOJ statement read in what is believed to be the first time it has weighed in on the issue of recording police. “The right to record police officers while performing duties in a public place, as well as the right to be protected from the warrantless seizure and destruction of those recordings, are not only required by the Constitution. They are consistent with our fundamental notions of liberty, promote the accountability of our governmental officers, and instill public confidence in the police officers who serve us daily.”

In the second case, Glik v Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78 (1st Cir. 2011) (denying qualified immunity to officer on arrestee’s First and Fourth Amendment claims), the Boston Police Department concluded an almost four (4) year internal investigation. In a letter to Mr. Glik, cell phone cinematographer Simon Glik, superintendent Kenneth Fong of the Boston Police Department’s Bureau of Professional Standards said that officers had shown “unreasonable judgment” by taking him into custody.

By way of background – while walking through Boston Commons in October 2007, Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, Simon Glik, observed three Boston police officers attempting to arrest a suspect. After hearing another bystander say “you are hurting him, stop” and being concerned that the police were using excessive force Glik began to record the incident on his cell phone camera from about ten feet away. Once the suspect was in handcuffs one of the officers told Glik “I think you have taken enough pictures.” When Glik continued to record another officer asked Glik if he was recording audio. When Glik said yes he was handcuffed and arrested by police. The charges were unlawful audio recording in violation of  Massachusetts’ wiretap law, disturbing the peace and aiding in the escape of a prisoner. After his arrest Glik filed a complaint with internal affairs regarding the incident. The Boston Police “did not investigate his complaint or initiate disciplinary action against the arresting officers.”

In February 2010, Glik, represented by the Massachusetts chapter of the ACLU, filed a civil right complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts against the three arresting officers as well as the City of Boston under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The complaint also alleges state-law claims under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 12, § 11I, as well as malicious prosecution.

The defendants moved to dismiss under FRCP 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted and because the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. At a motion hearing the district court denied the defendant’s motion, stating that “in the First Circuit . . . this First Amendment right to publicly record the activities of police officers on public business is established.”

In its decision the First Circuit reasoned that, given the facts in Glik, since “the qualified immunity doctrine ‘balances two important interests — the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably;’ ‘a reasonable defendant would have understood that his conduct violated the plaintiff[’s] constitutional rights.’”

The City of Boston appealed this ruling on behalf of its officers (See:  City’s Brief and  ACLU Brief; as well as two amicus briefs: Center for Constitutional Rights and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press).

Apparently following up on Glik’s initial 2007 complaint to police  “a department spokeswoman told the Boston Globe that the officers, John Cunniffee and Peter Savalis, now ‘face discipline ranging from an oral reprimand to suspension.’” Glik told the Globe, “As far as I knew, my complaint was summarily dismissed. . . . I was basically laughed out of the building,’’ Glik said. “From what I understand, it takes filing a federal lawsuit in order for internal affairs to review a complaint.’’

That lawsuit and the one in Sharp now move forward with new momentum. It will also be interesting to see what impact this has on the awaited decision in ACLU v Alvarez before the Seventh Circuit. Stay tuned!

Posted in Access, Baltimore Police, Boston Police, cell phone cameras, Christopher Sharp, confiscated, Department of Justice, DOJ, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, law, Legal, Maryland ACLU, Massachusetts ACLU, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, Police, Public Photography, Recording Police, Search and Seizure, Simon Glik | No Comments »

NPPA Commends CCR in Settlement of a Federal Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Arrested Journalists

October 4th, 2011 by Mickey Osterreicher

Given the rash of recent incidents involving the arrest of citizens and journalists around the country, NPPA commends the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) for the agreement they have obtained on behalf of journalists in Goodman, et al. v. St. Paul, et al. We agree with  CCR Legal Director Baher Azmy, who said the settlement “sends an important message to police departments all over the country . . . that failure to respect the constitutional rights of citizens and journalists may expose municipalities to serious liability.”

The terms of the settlement include compensation of $100,000 for the three named journalists as well as an “agreement by the St. Paul police department to implement a training program aimed at educating officers regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public with respect to police operations—including police handling of media coverage of mass demonstrations—and to pursue implementation of the training program in Minneapolis and statewide.” Written proposals for these programs, which must be approved by the Plaintiffs and their lawyers are expected to be submitted by the end of the year.

The lawsuit was filed on May 5, 2010 in the United States District Court in the District of Minnesota by the Center for Constitutional Rights and pro bono attorneys Steven Reiss from Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP in New York and Albert Goins of Minneapolis on behalf of three “Democracy Now!” journalists, Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, against federal and local law enforcement agencies. The defendants in the lawsuit were: the City of St. Paul, the City of Minneapolis, the County of Ramsey, St. Paul police chief John Harrington,  Minneapolis police chief, Timothy Dolan, Ramsey County Sheriff, Bob Fletcher, an unidentified U.S. Secret Service agent and multiple unidentified law enforcement officers. The matter arose  during the 2008 Republican National Convention, where it was alleged that law enforcement agencies targeted journalists in violation of their Constitutional rights and subjected the journalists to unlawful arrest, unlawful search and seizure and unreasonable use of excessive force. All charges were later dismissed.

The complaint also alleged that “by arresting, assaulting, and detaining Plaintiffs and other members of the press, law enforcement significantly hindered Plaintiffs’ ability to . . . report on vital matters of public concern     . . .  and the conduct of law enforcement personnel . . . .”  According to reports “scores of journalists and other members of the media were arrested, detained, assaulted and searched. Their belongings were also seized and searched, including their cameras, video and other media equipment. The journalists prominently displayed their press credentials throughout the incidents and repeatedly identified themselves as members of the media to the acting law enforcement.”

NPPA commends CCR for its strong stance in protecting the rights of journalists. We expect that the terms of the settlement in this case will send a strong message to law enforcement agencies around the country. The recent and continuing conduct by law enforcement agencies in harassing, detaining, interfering with and in some cases arresting citizens and journalists engaged in constitutionally protected  activities  under color of law must cease. In each of these cases NPPA has requested that the offending police agency implement proper policies, procedures and guidelines as well as training for officers regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public.

Posted in Access, broadcasting, Cameras, confiscated, Democarcy Now!, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, law, Legal, Minneapolis Police, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording Police, Search and Seizure, St. Paul Police, U.S. Secret Service, video cameras, violating | No Comments »

First Circuit Upholds Citizen’s Right to Record Police Officers in Public – Seventh Circuit Hears Arguments in Similar Case

September 14th, 2011 by Mickey Osterreicher

Writing for a unanimous three judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit,  Judge Kermit Lipez issued a well-reasoned 24 page opinion in Glik v Cunniffe regarding the right of citizens to record police officers in the discharge of their duties in a  public place.

Pertinent Facts

While walking through Boston Commons in October 2007, Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, Simon Glik, observed three Boston police officers attempting to arrest a suspect. After hearing another bystander say “you are hurting him, stop” and being concerned that the police were using excessive force Glik began to record the incident on his cell phone camera from about ten feet away. Once the suspect was in handcuffs one of the officers told Glik “I think you have taken enough pictures.” When Glik continued to record another officer asked Glik if he was recording audio. When Glik said yes he was handcuffed and arrested by police. The charges were unlawful audio recording in violation of  Massachusetts’ wiretap law, disturbing the peace and aiding in the escape of a prisoner. After his arrest Glik filed a complaint with internal affairs regarding the incident. The Boston Police “did not investigate his complaint or initiate disciplinary action against the arresting officers.”

Procedural Posture

In February 2010, Glik, represented by the Massachusetts chapter of the ACLU, filed a civil right complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts against the three arresting officers as well as the City of Boston under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The complaint also alleges state-law claims under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 12, § 11I, as well as malicious prosecution. The defendants moved to dismiss under FRCP 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted and because the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. At a motion hearing the district court denied the defendant’s motion, stating that “in the First Circuit . . . this First Amendment right to publicly record the activities of police officers on public business is established.” In its decision the First Circuit reasoned that, given the facts in Glik, since “the qualified immunity doctrine ‘balances two important interests — the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably;’ ‘a reasonable defendant would have understood that his conduct violated the plaintiff[’s] constitutional rights.’”

The City of Boston appealed this ruling on behalf of its officers (See:  City’s Brief and  ACLU Brief; as well as two amicus briefs: Center for Constitutional Rights and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press).

The Opinion

According to the Court of Appeals, this case centered upon a narrow First Amendment question: “is there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public?” The answer was an unambiguous and resounding: yes. In its analysis the Court noted that the First Amendment’s protection extends beyond the prohibition against governmental abridgment of freedom of speech, or of the press. Such protection “encompasses a range of conduct related to the gathering and dissemination of information.”

 The opinion cites cases where it was “well established that the Constitution protects the right to receive information and ideas” and that “there is an undoubted right to gather news ‘from any source by means within the law.’” Pointing to its previous recognition that “the videotaping of public officials is an exercise of First Amendment liberties” the Court observed that where the “state has a special incentive to repress opposition and often wields a more effective power of suppression;” the same can be said of police officers, “who are granted substantial discretion that may be misused to deprive individuals of their liberties” Because Glik’s activities were clearly protected by the First Amendment, the officers had no authority to stop them and therefore are not entitled to protection under qualified immunity.

 The three judge panel went further by finding that these First Amendment protections applied to both the press and the public in that “the public’s right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press.” Judicial notice was also taken of  “the proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.”

The Court also points out that the police “are expected to endure significant burdens caused by citizens’ exercise of their First Amendment rights” in the nature of “verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers.” And goes on to state “the same restraint demanded of law enforcement officers in the face of ‘provocative and challenging’ speech must be expected when they are merely the subject of videotaping that memorializes, without impairing, their work in public spaces.” Therefore, “such peaceful recording of an arrest in a public space that does not interfere with the police officers’ performance of their duties is not reasonably subject to limitation.”

In reviewing a long line of similar cases, the court also recognized “the fundamental and virtually self-evident nature of the First Amendment’s protections” of the “right to film government officials or matters of public interest in public space,” concluding that “the state of the law at the time of the alleged violation” provided a reasonable police officer in a similar situation with “fair warning” that their course of conduct in arresting and charging Glik was clearly unconstitutional. The officers, therefore, were not entitled to qualified immunity.

The Court also concluded that the police also infringed upon Glik’s constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure when they seized his cell phone camera and his body (arrest). “Glik’s recording was not ‘secret’ within the meaning of Massachusetts’s wiretap statute,” because his “plain sight” use of his cell phone to record the officers (who also  “made clear through their conduct that they knew Glik was recording them”) “constitutes adequate objective evidence of actual knowledge of the recording.” Once again the Court affirmed the district court’s order denying the officers’ claim of qualified immunity from Glik’s  Fourth Amendment  claim because in a similar situation a reasonable officer would have known that probable cause for  arrest under the wiretapping law was absent.

Next Case

On September 13, 2011 a three judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments  in  ACLU v Alvarez, during which the well-respected jurist, Richard A. Posner, pointedly and often antagonistically, questioned the right to privacy in public. This appeal of a lower court dismissal involves issues similar to Glik in that Massachusetts and Illinois both have wiretap statutes that make it a crime to record police. The difference between the two is that in Massachusetts – audio may not be secretly recorded; while in Illinois – audio may not be recorded without the consent of all parties (it makes no difference whether the recording is being done secretly or openly).

The other significant difference is that Glik is a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking compensatory and punitive damages against the officers for violating his constitutional rights and against the City of Boston for its failure properly train, supervise, investigate and discipline its officers. In the civil rights action in Alvarez the ACLU is “challenging the constitutionality of the Illinois Eavesdropping Act [ ], as applied to the audio recording of police officers, without the consent of the officers, when (a) the officers are performing their public duties, (b) the officers are in public places, (c) the officers are speaking at a volume audible to the unassisted human ear, and (d) the manner of recording is otherwise lawful.” They are seeking a declaratory judgment and a preliminary  injunction against the application of the eavesdropping law as it violates the First Amendment.

The National Press Photographers Association joined with the Illinois Press Association, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, the Citizens Media Law Project, the Radio-Television Digital News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists in an amicus curiae brief in favor of the ACLU’s position.

In a related case an Illinois woman charged under the same statute was acquitted on August 25, 2011 by a Chicago jury on charges that she secretly recorded her conversation with Chicago police officers without their permission. Tiawanda Moore was found not guilty by jurors who deliberated for less than an hour, thus avoiding a possible 15 year prison term. According to the Chicago Tribune, Ms. Moore had recorded her conversation with two internal affairs officers when she became concerned that they were trying to persuade her to drop a sexual harassment complaint against another officer. It is believed that a key element in Moore’s defense centered upon an exception in the law that permits citizens who have a “reasonable suspicion” that a crime is being committed to make such secret recordings. Jurors were able to listen to portions of the recording. After the  verdict one commented “the two cops came across as intimidating and insensitive.” “Everybody thought it was just a waste of time and that (Moore) never should have been charged.”

In comments made after the arguments in Alvarez, Harvey Grossman, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois said “there’s nothing private about a police officer doing his duties on the public way” “The way that they police and conduct themselves is a matter of public importance.”

One would only hope that the Seventh Circuit agrees with him and the First Circuit.

Posted in First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, law, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording Police, video cameras | No Comments »

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