The Boston Globe is reporting that the City of Boston has paid $170,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed against them after they arrested a man for photographing police activity on the Boston Commons.
The underlying case was the subject of an earlier appellate ruling which held that “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.” Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78, 84 (1st Cir. 2011).
The case began over four years ago, when Simon Glik was walking past the Boston Commons and noticed three police officers arresting a man. An attorney who believed that the officers might be using excessive force, Glik began recording with his cell phone. Police arrested Glik and charged him with, among other things, violations of the wiretap statute. All charges against him were either dropped or dismissed and Glik filed a federal suit alleging that officers violated his civil rights. The officers argued official qualified immunity but the court denied it, and an appellate court upheld the ruling, holding that “a citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.” Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78, 85 (1st Cir. 2011).
The Boston Police Department initially defended the officers and in 2008 issued a memo stating that the two officers involved did nothing wrong, but back in January the department stated that the two officers would face discipline and used “ureasonable judgment,” according to the Globe.
Earlier this week NPPA member and San Diego freelance photojournalists Edward R. Baier was arrested while covering an incident near the San Diego River.
Reports state that Baier was on public property and complied with officers in respecting a perimeter they set up. Yet he was arrested and his camera gear was seized.
The department responded to NPPA almost immediately, with Assistant Chief Boyd Long telling Osterreicher that the equipment would be returned and that an internal investigation had been initiated. Baierâ€™s camera, tapes and other seized equipment were returned to him the next day.
After the incident Baier said, â€œif it wasnâ€™t for Mickey Osterreicherâ€™s letterÂ from theÂ NPPA I would not have had my equipment returned to me.â€ â€œI am very proud to be a member of an organization the has the legal resources available to its membership at anytime,â€ he added.
After meeting on Wednesday with several media attorneys, including NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly ordered that a “Finest” message be disseminated reminding officers of their obligations to cooperate with the media. The message will be read at 10 consecutive roll calls citywide.
“I’m pleased to see such a swift response from the Commissioner, of course this is just the first step in ensuring that this doesn’t happen again,” said Osterreicher. “We expect more to be done in the near future to help improve police-press relations which have devolved so significantly.”
The Finest message highlights various guidelines that instruct police on how to deal with the media, including that “Members of the service will not interfere with the videotaping or the photographing of incidents in public places. Intentional interference such as blocking or obstructing cameras or harassing the photographer constitutes censorship. Working Press Cards clearly state the bearer ‘is entitled to cross police and fire lines.’ This right will be honored and access will not be denied.”
The message also states: that “Members of the service who unreasonably interfere with media access to incidents or who intentionally prevent or obstruct the photographing or videotaping of news in public places will be subject to disciplinary action.”
The meeting on Wednesday came after a letter was sent by media organizations on Monday complaining about the way police mishandled the media during last week’s “eviction” of Zuccotti Park, the home of months of Occupy Wall Street protests. Police officers arrested several journalists and also used force against several journalists during the raid.
New York – The National Press Photographers Association was joined by several media organizations and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the PressÂ in a letter to the NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, Paul J. Browne, to protest police mistreatment of the the media during the Occupy Wall Street protests last week. The strongly worded letter drafted by NPPA general Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher along with New York Times vice president and assistant generalÂ counsel, George Freeman, pointed out that “credentialed media were identified, segregated and kept away from viewing, reporting on and photographing vital matters of public concern. A press pen was set up blocks away and those kept there were further prevented from seeing what was occurring by the strategic placement of police buses around the perimeter. Moreover, there have been numerous instances where police officers struck or otherwise intentionally impeded photographers as they were taking photos, keeping them from doing their job and from documenting instances of seeming police aggression.”
The letter outlines several specific incidents in which members of the media were physically assaulted by police. It also describes how members of the media were ordered to leave public areas, stripped of their credentials, threatened with arrest, detained and arrested.
During an August 2011Â meeting Browne hadÂ promised to review previous media complaints regardingÂ other incidents involving police interference with the media and his agreement to considerÂ additional training to reinforce media guidelines, for newer officers on the force.Â Browne had agreed at the time that additional training for officers would be beneficial. The media representatives who authored the letter expressed their beliefÂ “that had such agreed upon training occurred, it may have helped avoid the numerous inappropriate, if not unconstitutional, actions and abuses the police heaped upon both credentialed and non-credentialed journalists in the last few days.”
A companion letterÂ was sent by the New York Civil Liberties Union to New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg making similar complaints. Both groups have asked for a meeting withÂ the police in order to address these issues.
The City of Ft. Lauderdale agreed on Monday not to interfere with photographers taking pictures near the set of the film “Rock of Ages.” At an emergency hearing in state court, the NPPA joined the South Florida Gay News and the Society of Professional Journalists as plaintiffs against the City, which had erected signs banning photography in public areas near a movie set. According to area photographer and activist Carlos Miller, at least one photographer was issued a citation for taking pictures from a public garage.
The Agreed Court Order states that the city:
“shall not prohibit or inhibit the taking of photographs at or from any public area surrounding, near or adjacent to the film set of the production of the film, “Rock of Ages. For the purposes of this order, the term “public area” shall includ any area where members of the public have a right to be, but shall not include areas that have been lawfully closed to access by members of the public.”
The movie, starring Tom Cruise and Catherine Zeta-Jones is being filmed in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, and the city had posted several signs in public areas stating that photography was strictly prohibited, even though those same areas were open to the public.
Some area photographers staged a protest on Friday drawing publicity to the illegal ban, and news organizations reported that the signs were removed, but police were still enforcing the ban.
According to the Gay South Florida News, one of the other plaintiffs in the suit, the city denied that it was interfering with the right to take pictures. However, the plaintiffs offered to provide witnesses to the contrary.
There was a victory for photographers rights this week when a Maryland judge dismissed several charges against a man who shot video of a police stop and posted the footage on YouTube. After discovering the video online, police arrested the man and charged him with violating wiretapping laws as well as a law that prohibited videotaping of traffic violations.
In his ruling, Judge Emory Plitt, Jr. dismissed four counts against citizen photographer Anthony Graber III, stating, “Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation.” (State v. Graber, No. 12-K-10-647 at 18-19 (Cir. Ct. Harford County Sept. 27, 2010).
First, Judge Plitt ruled that the wiretapping statute only prohibits the recording of a private conversation. Then he concluded that the conversation between the trooper and Graber was not private. “[T]he recorded audio exchange between the Defendant and the Troopers was not a private conversation as intended by the statute.” Maryland wiretapping statute requires consent of both parties to record a private conversation. However, it “specifically restricts the interception of an oral communications to words spoke in a private conversation.” (Id. at 5-6)
The court then went on to elaborate on prior cases from over a dozen other jurisdictions which have concluded that a police officer performing his official duties does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
In total, the court dismissed three counts on statutory grounds and went on to address a fourth count, which required a person to get permission from the government before filming certain traffic violations such as reckless driving. Judge Plitt found it unconstitutional under both the Maryland and U.S. constitutions for the state to require a photographer to seek permission before videotaping a traffic violation in a public forum.