I just read a really interesting court document about a photographer who sued over being arrested and had his property destroyed while photographing police in the public. Photojournalist Mannie Garcia filed a lawsuit against the Montgomery County police, claiming that he was photographing police responding to an incident involving two Hispanic men, and when the police saw him photographing they beat him up and booked him for Disorderly Conduct. He also claims that they then took his camera and removed his battery and memory card.
I don’t believe all cops disrespect and abuse photographers. And obviously, you nor I can know whether these things happened, especially since the evidence is missing. But due to his arrest, he did has his press credentials removed, which is probably a good part of why he was suing. I do have a link to a description of the original lawsuit against the police here.
Not only that, but this was such a big deal that the NPPA (National Press Photographer’s Association ~ a hugely important membership for journalistic press and documentary photographers) wrote up an article about it and why they thought it was so important:
NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher pointed out the importance of today’s Justice Department statement because it’s only the second time Justice has asked the courts to support the constitutional right to photograph and record police performing their official duties in public.
So what was the document that I read? It’s a statement by the Justice Department, upholding the rights of photographers, whether they are journalists or not. It goes into many details about what constitutes a public place, who has the right to photograph, how the police should respond to such photography, and goes into which specific amendments protect photography. It’s lengthy and a little dry, but I really think it’s worth reading. It lays things out and even refers to specific court cases in the past that show precedent upholding these rights. This is good for everyone to know. If I was inclined to photograph the police, I’d keep a copy of this in my photo bag; having a set of the photographers rights is great, but this is legal-ese, which can go a long way. Don’t know how long it will be up, but there’s even a link to download it as a pdf…Check out the statement here.