Sunday, April 5, 2009
Cops Hassling Photographers Topic On Paltalk
I remember when I was a young newspaper reporter in Jackson, Michigan riding one day with an undercover cop in a surveillance car.
We stopped to investigate suspicious activity near the Post Office and someone with a camera decided to snap photos. The officer, who was otherwise a really nice guy, didn't like the idea of some citizen taking his picture, especially since he was working in plain clothes. So he walked over to the photographer, took his camera, and pulled out and exposed the film.
He wasn't doing anything wrong when his photo was being taken. But he clearly acted inappropriately when he destroyed the photographer's film. It was my first, but certainly not my last experience with that kind of confrontation between police or videographers.
Some other examples:
I was stringing photos for the Associated Press in Detroit and an off duty cop got into a beef with a guy while working security outside a business on Woodward Avenue, the city's main artery. The guy stabbed the officer. I got there quickly and started snapping pictures of the injured officer and the arrested assailant. I was put in handcuffs and detained in the back seat of a police car until a supervisor came and ordered my release.
The captain of the Detroit Murray Wright High School football team was killed while trying to play peacemaker, breaking up a fight in a school hallway. Someone brought out a school yearbook so the TV videographers could shoot an image of the dead player. Police confiscated the book and told the videographers they faced arrest for taping "school property."
Police briefly stopped a Japanese TV network video crew from taping a fire in Detroit on Devil's Night, the night before Halloween where there is usually an influx of arson fires in the Motor City. They, too, were threatened with arrest for taping a news story damaging to the city's image.
In Miami, Elian Gonazalez, the Cuban boy who survived in the Atlantic Ocean by clinging to a floating tire after the raft he was escaping on sank killing, among others, his mother, had just been taken from a distant relative's home by federal agents to be reunited with his father in Cuba. Rioting broke out in Little Havana. Police started arresting and in some cases beating news photographers and videographers.
The list goes on and on. Including the arrest of our guest on Tuesday's News Talk Online on Paltalk.com, also by the Miami Police.
News photographer Carlos Miller was photographing police investigating something in a construction zone. The police arrested him and smashed an expensive camera lens. He was acquitted of most of the charges - except resisting arrest, which he is appealing.
Miller created a blog to talk about his legal fight. But soon after he launched Carlosmiller.com - which declares Photography Is Not A Crime, It's A First Amendment Right - a funny thing happened. He began getting reports from all across the nation of other photographers who were being harassed by the police. Including one in Arizona, stopped from taking pictures of skate boarders in front of a federal building without a permit (the cop thought it unlawful to be taking pictures of a federal building after the Oklahoma City bombing).
Then he learned and reported about a blogger, also in Phoenix, who is suing the police department there after officers raided his house, detained his room mate, and confiscated the computer he was using to write about allegedpolice misconduct. The blogger believes it to be a witch hunt designed to find out which officers are leaking him information.
More and more examples began pouring in. Like the man in Massachusetts who was detained by police after taking photos of a bridge and some boats from a public park.
Miller's blog has now become a central clearing spot for information on many such examples of harassment of citizens exercising their constitutional rights. And the readership has grown so large that sometimes there are hundreds of comments to a posting.
How is it possible that in 2009 police officers think that they have the right to detain citizens who are making photos or videotapes? It seems impossible, but the stories that Miller has been chronicling suggest a disturbing pattern. Where people who we've hired and have sworn to uphold the law are breaking it by violating the basic constitutional rights of the citizens they are supposed to be protecting.
To talk to Miller about this disturbing trend at 5 PM New York time Tuesday April 7 on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com CLICK HERE.
Paltalk is the largest multimedia interactive program on the Internet with more than 4 million unique users.
News Talk Online is also syndicated by CRN Digital Talk Radio to an additional 12 million households.
Photo credit: Danny Hammontree