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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Another case of heavy-handed law enforcement of media
Joe Gosen, Photographer
Ventura | CA | USA | Posted: 9:59 AM on 06.20.12
->> "A 60-year-old Reno Gazette-Journal photojournalist was pushed to the ground, handcuffed and suffered minor injuries Monday after sheriff’s deputies alleged he obstructed and resisted them while trying to take photographs of a destructive fire in Sun Valley."

http://www.rgj.com/article/20120619/NEWS/306190039/RGJ-photo-chief-covering...|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 10:15 AM on 06.20.12
->> The above link goes to the comments section of the story. Here's the story link:
http://www.rgj.com/article/20120619/NEWS/306190039/RGJ-photo-chief-covering...
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Willis Glassgow, Photo Editor, Photographer
Florence | SC | USA | Posted: 10:43 AM on 06.20.12
->> I'm not sure how many times I have to state this, because I have stated this in this forum at least a dozen times, but this kind of police brutality towards journalists has been happening all over the country in recent years. The problem is the culture of law enforcement. It is a SYSTEMIC issue. In their minds it is an "us against them" attitude, with us being the general public. Many of them are former military and often bring the military culture attitude of we can and will do anything we need to do to get the job done. In their minds, the ends justify the means.

Now....does this mean that ALL law enforcement are like this. Of course not. I wouldn't even dream of trying to give an exact percentage, but in my opinion, it is widespread. I know many police officers in several departments in my area. We disagree on how to fix the problem and even if there is a problem. So this is NOT an easy issue to solve.
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Marvin Gentry, Photographer
Birmingham | AL | USA | Posted: 10:44 AM on 06.20.12
->> Maybe I am wrong here, tell me if I am: But Reno,NV is 6.5 miles from Sun Valley, NV. You would think that a Captain of a sheriffs department would know a Photojournalist by at least face if he had worked in the area for 20 years. Its bad but I have seen alot of police officers act like a horses arse, here recently. They are the one that need to take a chill pill and be mentally evaluated!
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Sean Work, Photographer, Assistant
Saint Clair Shores | MI | USA | Posted: 11:12 AM on 06.20.12
->> The problem with police is most of them don't mind the idea of a police state.
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 2:08 PM on 06.20.12
->> The only way that this kind of behavior changes is for legal action in the courts to punish the offenders. Even SLOW learners, if impacted enough times, will eventually get the message.

A civil action that results in the department paying thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars will convince those in position of responsibilities that it's a lot less expensive to do it the right way as opposed to the cowboy way.
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Mike Brice, Photographer
Pittsburgh | PA | USA | Posted: 4:53 PM on 06.20.12
->> I agree with Michael, there never seems to be any real consequence for the police in situations like this.

Until the newspaper takes legal action, these type of situations will continue.

When is the last time a newspaper sued over something like this?

I have read a lot about apologies and promises to do more training, but never any real consequences for the officer or the department.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 8:09 PM on 06.20.12
->> Michael I agree with you to the point of the monies coming out of the departments. There is little or no pain at that level. Seriously, if you take $x out of the budget to cover a ruling or settlement the rank and file feels NOTHING. There is no cut in pay, no cut in benefits, nothing that really effects the rank and file members of the department. THE CBA will spell out a minimalist (suspension WITH pay) punishment that management can impose until the 20 offense. NOW if you go after the individual cops involved and get judgements against the INDIVIDUALS to the point that they have to eat into college funds, retirement funds, lose a house, boat, etc to cover legal fees and pay settlements THAT WILL carry over. That WILL remind the cop with 5 years left to retirement that a civil rights case could have him working as a WalMart greeter into his 90's.

The problem is that THOSE rulings and settlements won't be for the BIG money that the lawyers want. Bottom line is that the papers, NPPA, etc have to leave the departments alone and go after the INDIVIDUALS who are attacking INDIVIDUALS. Cities have deep pockets and insurance, individual cops MAY have coverage under the union but one or two cases will send a wake up call when the union's insurance rates take the hit or the unions have to fund the defenses.

Honestly there needs to be a TRAINING session and a written POLICY to not shove a working member of the press face first into the gravel? Anyone who needs THAT in a written policy probably needs written instructions on how to use the toilet too.

E
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Brian Blanco, Photographer
Tampa / Sarasota | FL | USA | Posted: 9:31 PM on 06.20.12
->> Eric is 100% correct on all points.

I'll only add that lawsuits aren't enough.

If I tackle a 60yo man to the ground, stand on his back, scrape up his face and hold him against his will then I, very understandably, get arrested, charged with felony battery & false imprisonment and ultimately go to jail.

Having a badge while doing all of those things should not make one immune from arrests for their unlawful actions.

Start filing criminal charges of battery and false imprisonment against these badge-heavy hot heads and the problem will go away overnight. The problem, as Eric and others have mentioned, is that to certain cops it's a big joke. They think it's cute and they know they'll never have to suffer any of the consequences of their actions.

If something like this happens to you then DO NOT simply accept their apology and promises of "training" for those involved.

The fact that we, as an industry, ALWAY settle for these nonsense apologies and promises by police chiefs and sheriffs to "be better next time" is EXACTLY why this continues.

If this happens to you then contact every agency with parallel jurisdiction to the offending agency (county sheriff's office, state police, US Justice Dept., etc...) and DEMAND that they take a battery/false imprisonment report with the individual officer(s) specifically named as "suspect" in their police reports. Here in FL they cannot refuse to take a police report (with some exceptions).

Then set up meetings with the district attorney (prosecutor) and HAND DELIVER those police reports to them and stand there while they read them so you can answer any questions they might have. When they blow you off then speak to their superior on up the chain until you're speaking to the actual elected official. Most people do not realize that you can go directly to your local prosecutor's office and file charges and start investigations without having to go through the police.

When they ultimately fail to file charges (which they likely will), keep moving up the food chain by contacting the state attorney general's office in your state and then the US Attorney General's office until you're the biggest squeaky wheel they've ever known.

As far as civil lawsuits, and THIS IS IMPORTANT, you as an individual can often file a Section 1983 Claim against the INDIVIDUAL officer(s) who have violated your civil rights. You can actually name them as individuals and sue them in their personal capacities and it BAFFLES my mind why we don't do this more often.

Here's the best part:
"A section 1983 plaintiff is also required to prove that a federal right was violated and, similar to tort law, that the alleged violation was a proximate or legal cause of the damages that the plaintiff suffered (Arnold v. IBM Corp., 637 F.2d 1350 [9th Cir. 1981]).

The Supreme Court has also held that, similar to tort law, Punitive Damages are available under section 1983 (Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 103 S. Ct. 1625, 75 L. Ed. 2d 632 [1983]). A plaintiff is entitled to punitive damages if the jury finds that the defendant's conduct was reckless or callously indifferent to the federally protected rights of others or if the defendant was motivated by an evil intent. The jury has the duty to assess the amount of punitive damages. Because the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer, such damages may be awarded even if the plaintiff cannot show actual damages (Basista v. Weir, 340 F.2d 74 [3d Cir. 1965])"

We REALLY need to stop allowing this to continue. Every time I hear of some managing editor somewhere accepting the police chief's apology and invitation to a training session after an incident like this I just want to scream, "THAT"S WHY THEY KEEP DOING IT!"
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Victor Biro, Photographer
Toronto | ON | Canada | Posted: 10:09 PM on 06.20.12
->> As somone that covrs spot news on a daily basis I can't say that I disagree with anything that has been said so far. These situations are emotionally charged, but police are supposed to be trained to remain cool under such circumstances.

There is a question that I have about the story that was related in the link above: in these two paragraphs it sounds like the fire Captain John Spencer and he had words, and this was the catalyst for the police involvement:

" Dunn said that after he complained the area was too far away for him to take photos, Spencer escorted him down the hill and said Dunn did not have any identification.

After Dunn said he told Spencer he wasn’t asked to show identification, their conversation became heated. Soon, Dunn said, the two deputies arrived and handcuffed him after taking him to the ground."

Is this a fair intrepretation?
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Randy Sartin, Photographer, Assistant
Knoxville | TN | USA | Posted: 10:51 PM on 06.20.12
->> I'm glad Victor asked the question he did, because it does all sound a bit strange to me.
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Dirk Dewachter, Photographer
Playa Del Rey | CA | USA | Posted: 12:13 PM on 06.21.12
->> Victor's assessment that something is missing from this story from one perspective indicates that there is more to the story, and we can all sit here on our high horse without knowing all the facts drawing conclusions about anybody's involvement.

Having worked some of these things from the other side in the Los Angeles area, I can with certainty say that many men and women with cameras have pretended to be "press," in one such incident they pretended to be staff photographers of the Daily Breeze, what that person did not know is that I know all of their staff photographers and that was not the first time it happened.

I know media people are just trying to do their job but like anything in business it is about relationships and civility. Assumptions can be dangerous ground for either side and drawing conclusions based on a single point of view shows one's lack of objectivity.
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Willis Glassgow, Photo Editor, Photographer
Florence | SC | USA | Posted: 2:20 PM on 06.21.12
->> Dirk....I think what most of us are stating is the level of brutality and reaction of local law enforcement in general. Now with that being said, I don't know EXACTLY what happened at that scene, BUT I do think that many times law enforcement steps over the line, because they believe that they are entitled to do that. I've been handcuffed before while at the scene. The officer later apologized for over reacting and is now a good friend. But even as his friend, I believe he is overzealous in his approach towards the common person on the street. We still talk about it to this day.
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Chuck Steenburgh, Photographer
Lexington | VA | USA | Posted: 9:55 PM on 06.24.12
->> Willis - Be careful of the assumptions you make about the attitudes of former military guys. Or I may just have to take you out.

But seriously...that's an unfair generalization, I think. Especially in this day and age. Combat veterans, I have found, are not especially quick to resort to violence.
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Willis Glassgow, Photo Editor, Photographer
Florence | SC | USA | Posted: 7:07 AM on 06.25.12
->> Chuck.....true and good point. I am also former military. So I should know that.
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Ric Tapia, Photographer, Photo Editor
Los Angeles | CA | USA | Posted: 1:30 AM on 06.12.13
->> Great News everyone! The charges have been dropped!
http://www.rgj.com/article/20130611/NEWS/306110049/Charges-dropped-against-...
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Angel Valentin, Photographer
Miami/San Juan | PR | | Posted: 8:55 AM on 06.12.13
->> I wasn't there so I don't know what went down but I'll say this; when you run into an a-hole cop, which is about 50% of the time, you need to work around them. If you can't because they're intent on not letting you or you can't figure a way around them you're gonna lose, even if you have the bogus or earned charges dropped in the end. I avoid cops and arguments w/them like the plague.
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Thread Title: Another case of heavy-handed law enforcement of media
Thread Started By: Joe Gosen
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