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News & Insight

When Cops & Cameras Clash: 1st amendment issue

By fotosiamo on June 1st 2012

“The sign on my desk that reads, ‘Bang head here,’ is getting worn out,” said Mickey Osterreicher, a lawyer for the press photographers association, who has been dealing with more and more photographers wrongly arrested for photographing in public spaces during tense police scenes.

As mentioned in MSNBC’s article on “‘First Amendment rights can be terminated’: When cops, cameras don’t mix” by Bob Sullivan, the National Press Photographers Association claims it there has been 70 photographer arrests since September 2011.


NBC Photographer arrested

In this video, Red Tape MSNBC video, an NBC news photographer was arrested outside a Chicago hospital. What was alarming, as you can see in the video, is the police officer yelling to the photographer that his “First Amendment rights can be terminated.”

It seems like the amount of cameras and videos available to the general public from cameras to smartphones, plus the popularity of social media and Youtube, it’s easy to see why Police have been more tense and watchful of what goes on. And yet, the First Amendment is still the First Amendment, right? Have you seen or experience this problem? What are your opinions of this?

About

Joe is a fashion and commercial photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. He blends creativity and edge with a strong style of lighting and emotion in his photographs.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ed Rhodes

    this seems even more relevant today than it did when posted

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  2. Matthew Vanecek

    There are no circumstances under which police can ethically abrogate our 1st Amendment rights. The existence of laws contravening the 1st Amendment should be challenged and such laws struck down.

    There are circumstances under which an intelligent journalist community would/should limit itself. E.g., the movements of a SWAT during a hostage crisis should really not be broadcast on live TV such that the perpetrators would see the movements occurring.

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  3. Jeff Willey

    I think the biggest problem here is that everyone has a fundamental misunderstanding of the law.  

    On the one hand, there are a number of police officers that genuinely seem to believe that you cannot photograph them or that they have been granted some kind of right to suspend the 1st Amendment as they see fit because it is a public security issue.On the other hand, you have folks that believe their 1st Amendment rights are all encompassing and protect them under all conditions.As enforcers of the law, the police should have a more thorough understanding of the laws they are charged to enforce.  New anti-terror laws and a general willingness to exchange rights for the impression of security recently do not help this situation. Short of a rash of firings and incarcerations for illegal arrests, though, I think we will continue to see these problems until there is more widepsread media coverage.

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  4. Giantleap

    I would think that being a journalist, you would want to know the whole story…or at least report it.  I happen to know that cops don’t arbitrarily walk up to cameramen, yell phrases like that, then arrest them.  Got any more info? 

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  5. Craig Hartel

    Police live under major scrutiny every single day – and that’s how it should be. They are some of our most trusted citizens, and they are supposed to serve the public. They don’t serve the government or corporations. They are human beings and not perfect, but they wield all of the power in a situation with a regular citizen. They should be protecting us against abuses of basic rights which are entrenched in the constitutions of many countries.

    I believe we must stand up to this no matter what. If we don’t, we’ll soon find that we have fewer and fewer rights all the time.

    Also, it wouldn’t hurt to catch some video of the police doing something right, would it? Most police are good people; they are also our friends and neighbours, so I think that it’s only right that while we hold them to account, we also give at least equal time to showing the great work that they do.

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  6. Roman

    In Miami Beach I framed with wide angle lens three police officers on bicycles chatting. One jumped on me but other stopped him right away, explained him something in Spanish and they all left.
    I think there is a problem with police recruitment and unstable people with anger management problem are not sorted out.
    They have low self-esteem and need to proof their value to the world.

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  7. Roman

    In Miami Beach I framed with wide angle lens three police officers on bicycles chatting. One jumped on me but other stopped him right away, explained him something in Spanish and they all left.
    I think there is a problem with police recruitment and unstable people with anger management problem are not sorted out.
    They have low self-esteem and need to proof their value to the world.

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  8. Lowell

    First amendment rights are pure rights

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  9. Mark Kauzlarich

    No… no they can’t.

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