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Current Events

Police Officer Physically Threatens News Photographer

By Jules Ebe on September 8th 2013

Officer Gretchen Allen © Robert Bastille

Officer Gretchen Allen © Robert Bastille

That tenuous line of love and hate between photographer and law enforcement has surfaced again. Recently we have discussed several situations in which conflict between police and photographers have made headlines. It would appear that some mixed feelings still remain on both sides of the line.

In an unfortunate encounter in Massachusetts, former cop and news photographer Robert Bastille was physically threatened by a police officer. It appears the officer chose to ignore the law in which she had taken an oath to uphold. Over the course of events, according to Bastille, the officer threatened, verbally assaulted, abused, publicly humiliated, and unlawfully detained the photographer. Bastille was only released after a Lieutenant intervened.

If this “officer” was capable of making criminal violent threats, she was capable of anything. At this point I no longer looked on her as an “officer of the law” in the true sense of the term, but rather as a belligerent thug with way too much power.

As a photographer and reporter that served as a cop in the very same city, Bastille has a reputation of reporting on events in which law enforcement is involved with the highest respect. He states “having personal experience working as a Barnstable Cop … it is [difficult] for officers in the field. Police work is often a thankless job, where the reputations of good officers often suffer because of the corrupt and criminal actions of a very small minority of bad apples.

Hopefully bringing such behavior to light will result in a better understanding on both sides of this relationship. Photographers, especially those covering current events, should be aware of their rights and responsibilities, as well as the officers that are bound by law to protect them.

[rewind: Photographer’s vs. Police: Tale of Two Cities]

Officer Confronted After Threatening to Strike Photographer

“EDITOR’S NOTE…This video occurs right after the officer threatened to bash my camera into my face. I was frightened, upset, and extremely nervous after just having been attacked… the officer saw I was not going to tolerate her bullying me by saying that she was going to take my camera and smash it in my face… I was in shock and my speech is jittery and unprepared… it is what it is…raw video and emotion after just having been assaulted.”

For the full account of the events, see the original report here.



is a Southern California based Conceptual Artist and Photographer. Her work has been featured in several print publications and selections can be seen in local gallery exhibitions. Connect with her on Facebook and Google+.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Wayne

    I’m a cop and a photographer. I tried to see both sides of this. Bastille got just what he wanted, an irritated response, by relentlessly provoking the officer. His next masterpiece will be a close-up of a snarling dog, which he’ll get by poking it with a sharp stick for 20 minutes. Then blame the dog.

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    • C Smith

      The police are aware of this guy. He is mentally unstable and most likely armed. Be very careful  when confronting him as he enjoys confrontations and has been violent in the past.

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  2. Travis

    If you had just been threatened by a person WITH A GUN that they are going to smash your head in for no good reason (the officer just didn’t want her photo taken or shared in the news – even though he was in good legal standing and she never claimed he was doing anything illegal).

    Wouldn’t you be pissed and scared?
    Wouldn’t you want something to happen more than just some paperwork and a casual written warning?
    Who do people more trust: a police officer’s story of what happened or a media photographer? (Would this video have evidence to prove your side?)

    Granted this doesn’t show the main incidence it does show that the officer has anger issues and doesn’t understand the law regarding media and her right to threaten a civilian.

    Was the dude a bit of a jerk? Was he provoking the officer? Perhaps – but perhaps he was just trying to get that temper that he had just experienced – brought out again so he could actually get some action from the police department recognizing that she indeed has issues (rather than sugar coating over or even denying it all together).

    Lastly – it is a little shocking that the police haven’t issued a response yet to the issue. Perhaps it just needs more youtube views and to go viral before they’ll acknowledge the issue.

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  3. Troy

    I hope he was arrested.

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  4. Stacy

    I usually don’t participate in SLR Lounge. Yet after reading the article and comments, I feel inspired to comment. I don’t have all the facts on the incident, but I’ll try my best to comment. It is interesting reading everyone’s comments and understanding the thoughts of the community. I love this article and find it refreshing to read something new. I get the extreme responses and the well-thought out responses. But don’t really get why there are so many haters? Anyways… Now about the article, police are called upon to resolve our society’s shortcomings by arresting and or cite those who commit crimes, manage those with mental disorders and resolve violent and dangerous situations. Situations where police officers respond with force to extricate themselves from a “dangerous position” that they created are particularly troubling. The lack of experience, culture, incompetence, laziness, expediency or being annoyed are not excuses to make poor tactical decisions by police officers. Now, is this situation dangerous? No. Was this tactical decision by the police officer sound? No. It is not the officer’s fault that she is not trained, but it is her and the City’s problem. She, the officer, is not properly trained to handle a former police officer with a camera. Law enforcement is required to be “trained” to intervene quickly and make critical decisions. When police officers in a non-dangerous situation not created by the suspect, but by the officer respond with tyranny, the City and Police Department needs to review and consider a new training program.

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    • Thomas

      This is not about hate and training is a moot point until such a time as the actual trainers are certified as being “sane”. Einstein said it best when he said you can either control your mind or it will control you. In this instance both parties involved are being controlled by their minds.

      I’ve studied human behavior for over 35 years now and I can assure you beyond the shadow of a doubt that this is at the root of every conflict we have in today’s culture. It’s why in many ways the solutions this society uses are actually problems in disguise.

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  5. Rob

    If this photographer had been involved in an incident with a police officer, the appropriate course of action would have to been to put his camera away walk away and deal with this separately. If a police officer asks you to stop filming her, you should stop – not spout on about ‘being able to do what you want because you’re on Public property’…this idiotic behaviour is exactly what gives photographers bad name.

    If this article was posted to generate support and sympathy from the photographic community, then from reading the above comments I don’t think it’s achieved it’s aim. I’m disappointed with SLR Lounge posting this article with such a sensationalist title.

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  6. Antonio

    That “photographer” cry like little girl..
    If you like to try to do the same in Croatia and I know you would not have gone well .. In this case, “photographer” is a bully and deserve to be arrested.. If someone behaves towards me and shooting me without permission would not have gone well, more of these “photographers” who create a problem out of nothing .. these “photographers” should lose their licenses. Respect the police and they will respect you too .. What if you get a recording to you or your family without permission, how would you react?!?!

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  7. Ralph

    As a photographer I would never point my camera to anyone who doesn’t want to be photographed.
    If I were the officer I think that I wouldn’t be so patiente… This guy is f… stupid!

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    • Darrell

      Part of photographing current events is pointing your camera at people who might not want to be photographed…

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  8. Black Z Eddie

    What a whiny-wanna-be photographer/journalist. He claims to be afraid after being threatened yet, the dummy follows the good officer around in an obvious and blatant attempt to incite an altercation.

    Can this guy (though, he doesn’t act like one), be anymore melodramatic. “I was threatened…I was assaulted (though officer never touched him). I miss my mommy’s boobie. Blah blah blah.” Dude, grow some balls.

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  9. Wayne

    Dude should have gotten a beatdown for interfering with a police officer like that. While he is acting childish she could have been protecting and serving…

    This is the reason so many officers finally snap and make mistakes. These are human beings exposed to nothing but the worst we have to offer day after day.. Constant danger, and harassment from the very people who would scream bloody murder should they ever need the police, and one was unavailable.

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  10. Shane

    Well sometimes we as photographers need to chill the fuck out and give everyone their space. When someone tells you to stop taking photos or videos of them, just put your camera down, shut the fuck up and walk away. It’s so irritating that these “photographers” use our form of art as a tool to harass others.

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  11. Sawang

    I think the photographers just very annoying. He respect to people and I think his mother either. Learn how to respect police officer when they are doing their job. This is such a waste of time. Just go take photo some where else dumm ass!!!! SORRY I DONT THINK HE’S A PHOTOGRAPHER AT ALL.

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  12. jason

    We should have as many photographers as possible follow that officer around

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  13. Meh

    Should have cuffed him for being a public nuisance.

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  14. So, you want to call yourself a photographer?..

    Police officer: I’m just trying to do the best job I can under very trying circumstances.

    Try-hard photographer: I’m just a pain-in-the-arse trying to annoy as many people as I can.

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  15. Are you serious?!

    Does this guy have a real job? What a waste of human energy!

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  16. Bogan Brouhaha

    The moron holding a camera doesn’t make him a photographer, just a moron with a camera.

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  17. William

    I was nearly on her side watching the video at first as the main event only happened off camera.
    But if you pay attention you’ll notice she never denies anything he says she said, the only thing she denies is that he has the right to film in public. Then she stands there arms crossed acting like a spoilt child.

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  18. William

    She is meant to be a Policewoman, not a madonna celebrity.

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  19. Thomas

    Good for you, a little late in record mode but fully under your rights. Since I’ve had experience with situations like this, the one thing I can say is this officer lacks inner discipline which in and of itself creates a liability. Not only for her but for those who mistakenly hired her.

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  20. Joey

    The officer is acting like an overzealous rookie and the photographer I am sure is instigating the officer. Both are wrong.

    She has no right to tell the citizen to shut the camera off and stop recording her. The photographer has no right to pursue the situation. If she had a leg to stand on she would have arrested him.

    I would have ended the video and filed a complaint against the officer.

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  21. Gabriel Mora

    I’m not siding with the officer nor the photographer, I’m just trying to cite the same law + constitution he is trying to apply here. (at least up to my vague understanding) … Neither I am versed on the law + constitution… However…, following the same law this gentleman with the camera (aka Photographer) is trying to apply: “A person is innocent unless proven beyond reasonable doubt” … Perhaps it’s true the officer behaved authoritarian, abusive, threatening, etc (wouldn’t be the first time !) … but, if this goes to court and the video is admissible during the trial, he will be the one accused of harassing. The video doesn’t help his cause.

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  22. Jackie

    This is ridiculous. This photographer is chasing and hounding the officer. Guy should be ashamed of himself.

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  23. Chris

    First off you have no proof she threatened him. Second I would say she has the right to confiscate his camera as evidence if in fact he may have evidence of her saying she threatened him or not. In the end this guy ignored the police officers right to do her dang job. I don’t get why photographers want to photograph police officers in the first place besides to get yelled at, post the argument on the internet and troll. It’s obvious that the freedom to photograph and videotape police or anyone in public should be defined better and idiots with cameras should be arrested and have their photographers membership cards revoked. What a joke Robert Bastille… just a complete idiot making photographers look bad and making sure police officers hate us for no reason. Let them do typically thankless job regardless of your supposed rights as an american that you hang so highly in front of everyones face. Pathetic.

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  24. Eric

    New photographers run into this all the time. The thing to know is when it’s worth fighting and when to just let it go. The photographer should have let this one go, instead of trying to provoke a response from the officer. There was nothing to be gained from a news standpoint by provoking the officer.

    That said, the officer should know better than to threaten physical violence against someone in the media. That never ends well, especially when the photographer thinks he or she can take it to the next level.

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    • Eric

      *News photographers, not new photographers. Misspelled the first word lol

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  25. Peter

    Well, the photographer/videographer is trying to cause a problem too. The officer is trying to ignore the person but he’s just annoying her. There’s a difference if an officer’s just abusing their authority or don’t know the law, and if one is trying to pester them to try to instigate something.

    I wonder why exactly the “photographer”/ex-officer is not on the police force anymore–that would be interesting.

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  26. Aaron

    Clearly this is overrated. Poor girl, I’m so sorry for her. She has this hard job that comes with a lot of responsibility and tough work and than this guy is just provoking her to feed his own ego. Just be more loving people! Good laws that are worth to follow will follow. Just be more loving and keep taking photos :)

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  27. Javi

    Is this a joke? Talk to a professional photo-journalism and you’ll see how you have to manage with police in most of the countries…

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  28. Lavon

    This dude is fulll of crap!!!! she seems to be the one being harassed and followed.

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  29. Jessica

    I wonder if this photographer would have kept at the officer, had she been a man.

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  30. John

    The officer “allegedly” threatened this guy.. I see no threats.. I see him harassing a police officer that should have turned around and popped him. This person is not a real journalist and does nothing more than run around with a scanner and snap photos of police and ambulance activity in his town.. this person is a dark cloud on the profession of photo journalism. The title of this should be as follows “poor excuse for a photographer harasses police officer and get temporarily detained for it” not what you have.. sensationalism does not become you SLR Lounge

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    • Rob

      Did she deny what he said? No she didn’t. Police need to get a full understanding that in this day and age, and especially with their deteriorated attitudes many carry, that they WILL BE recorded and the facts are that unless the one doing it is actually interfering with something they are there to ensure that these cops do their jobs appropriately. I have much respect for law enforcement, I’m no youngster and I’m always respectful and honest when dealing with police but I’ve in the last 15 years had 2 encounters with law enforcement where I wish I’d had a recording device. When I was a kid to you man I highly respected cops, never had a bad encounter despite some instances where you’d think that maybe they’d be pretty short with me but now as a middle aged adult, respectful and law abiding, I’ve for no reason had encounters where I was treated like a criminal with a rap sheet as long as my arm span for no good reason? Sorry, I’ll be recording all future interactions.

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    • Jared

      Does it feel good being a slave, John? In a little world where it’s OK for someone to be arrested for doing nothing illegal just because some scum in a uniform gets pissy? I pity how sad your life must be.

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    • Adam

      Rob- Her saying what she did does not give him a license to follow her around the corner shouting (causing a disturbance). Whether he has a camera or not is irrelevant. She doesn’t at any point try to take his camera and he’s being “detained” because he was in fact causing a disturbance.

      There is no way of knowing what happened before the video, it’s purely his and her word. Regardless, he could have taken the high road and simply walked away, instead of shouting out constitutional amendments like he’s some kind of martyr to photo journalism.

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  31. Dave

    Odd I fail to see a threat by the officer. I do see the photography goading and harassing the officer. Why would you follow while filming and trying to provoke a response. Oh that’s right to get some youtube views and income. SLR you should be ashamed for falling into this trap.

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    • Rob

      You should try reading all the story. You should also have a very FULL understanding of how may officers behave because they have that badge. So to you, just because he didn’t happen to be rolling when she made her threat you side with her? Brilliant, I hope this happens to you at some point. I’ve watched far too many of these videos where an officer is out of line in their treatment of others, their demands that they can’t be photographed or video recorded, in just generally unacceptable behavior to the PEOPLE THEY WORK FOR.

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