On Wednesday, July 20, 2011 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported that the National Press Photographers Association concerned about NYPD restrictions involving their members.
Please see here the copy of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press story, including a letter from the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association.
The National Press Photographers Association on Tuesday sent a letter complaint to the New York City Police Department expressing concern about the department’s handling of two newsgathering incidents involving the association’s members.
The two incidents, one involving the handcuffing and detention of a press photographer recording a police encounter in Manhattan and the other concerning apparent press restrictions on access to a public street near a Brooklyn crime scene, are in “total contravention” of the NYPD’s policies, the letter says. In addition, the restriction on press access in the second incident is also unconstitutional, the NPPA argues.
Mickey Osterreicher, NPPA’s General Counsel, wrote the letter. He said in an interview these types of incidents are particularly concerning to him because of their frequency. “More and more people continue to be stopped by the police on a daily basis throughout the country” for documenting public events, Osterreicher said. Such confrontations with the NYPD are all the more concerning because they run counter to NYPD policy. “They are simply disregarding their own department’s policies,” Osterreicher said.
The NPPA’s letter describes the first incident as involving an NPPA member being handcuffed and detained after videotaping police activity on 42nd Street. A police officer demanded identification from the photographer while the photographer was recording the separate police incident, the letter says. After the photographer had finished taping, he was handcuffed and detained for approximately 10 minutes, without explanation as to any charges.
The letter contains a link to video footage of the incident.
“What is most disturbing is that the officer in question repeatedly requested to see [the photographer's] identification even though he was wearing an NPPA Member ID on a lanyard around his neck. That ID displays his name and photograph as well as the expiration date of the ID,” the NPPA’s letter says.
The second incident involves press access to a public street near a crime scene in Brooklyn. Osterreicher’s letter says the police had blocked media access to the street, while at the same time allowing public access. The press continues to receive conflicting information from the NYPD as to their access rights, with some officers stating that the street was open while other officers prohibit the press from accessing the street, according to the letter.
This access issue is especially disturbing, in Osterreicher’s view. “While the press may not have any more rights than the public in terms of access, they certainly don’t have any less rights, either,” he said.
The NPPA’s letter requests that the NYPD establish a “formal and consistent chain of command to avoid the ‘he-said/she said’ that is apparently ongoing in Brooklyn.” The NPPA filed the letter as a formal complaint and requested that the NYPD commence formal investigations into the incidents and refresh its officers on its press policies.
The NYPD’s Public Information office did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.
FROM: The National Press Photographers Association:
July 19, 2011
S. Andrew Schaffer, Esq.
Office of the Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters
New York Police Department
1 Police Plaza
New York, NY 10007
Re: Photography Incidents
Dear Deputy Commissioner Schaffer,
As the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) I am concerned about recent incidents involving our members. The first occurred on July 16, 2011 on 42nd Street. Mr. Felix Maurent, was detained and handcuffed by one of your officers (see video at: http://www.pixiq.com/article/nypd-handcuff-videographer-in-times-square-for-recording-arrest) while he was videotaping an incident involving other police officers. What is most disturbing is that the officer in question repeatedly requested to see Mr. Maurent’s identification even though he was wearing an NPPA Member ID on a lanyard around his neck. That ID displays his name and photograph as well as the expiration date of the ID.
It is apparent from the video that Mr. Maurent was not obstructing the sidewalk or the flow of pedestrian traffic and that he was reasonable and complied with the officer’s requests. According to Mr. Maurent, once he stopped taping he was approached again by this officer, forcible thrown against a trash
can, handcuffed and detained. He was never told what he was being charged with and after approximately ten (10) minutes he was released. As a law-abiding citizen this caused him much embarrassment in the middle of a tourist mecca, not to mention the fact that the officer interfered with his lawful right to photograph in public.
The second is an ongoing matter related to the tragic death of Leiby Kletzky. NPPA members report that five days after the murder, officers continues to keep East 2nd Street between Avenue C and Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn closed to the media but open to the public. It it my understanding that NYPD has set up a “press pen” 300 feet northeast of the home of the accused murderer, Aron Levi. The street remains sealed-off to the press while the public is allowed to passby unfettered. Only Mr. Levi’s home has crime scene tape and police barricades in front of it. It is my further understanding that calls to DCPI have been unsuccesful with a Det. Ceruti claiming that “she knew nothing about it.” When NY Daily News desk editor, Reggie Lewis, called DCPI he was told that “ the street was open.
As of a few moments ago the ongoing farce continues. DCPI Det. Debonis told the media that the street was open and a Sgt. Stringer from the 66th Pct then told officers to open the street to media. Subsequently an unidentified detective from Crime Scene told the media that Chief Polaski of Major Case ordered press off the block and said no photographs could be taken. Media representatives again spoke to Det. Debonis and Sgt. Cavatollo who both insisted that they were unaware that the street was closed.
Both of these incidents are in total contravention of NYPD General Order 14 issued on April 3, 2009, which states in pertinent part that “members of the service are reminded that photography and the videotaping of public places, buildings and structures are common activities within New York City.
Given the City’s prominence as a tourist destination, practically all such photography will have no connection to terrorism or unlawful conduct. Since photography and/or videotaping is rarely unlawful, absent any other indicators of criminality (e.g., trespass, etc.) . . . . Forcible detention of an individual engaged in such activity may occur if the member of service can articulate reasonable suspicion that the suspect is engaged in photography or videotaping for some terrorism-related purpose.”
Additionally NYPD Patrol Guide Section 212-49 reads in pertinent part “members of the service will not interfere with the video taping or the photographing of incidents in public places. Intentional interference such as blocking or obstructing cameras or harassing the photographer constitutes censorship.” The second incident also violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as Section 8, Article I of the NYS Constitution.
It is my understanding that Mr. Maurent has filed a formal complaint with the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board. On behalf of one of our members please accept this letter as a formal complaint regarding both incidents. I also request that NYPD commence an immediate investigation of these incidents.
NPPA stands ready to work with your department to help develop reasonable and workable policies and practices in order to avoid similar situations. In the meantime we would respectfully request your department establish a formal and consistent chain of command to avoid the “he-said/she said” that is apparently ongoing in Brooklyn. I would also request that all officers receive a refresher copy of GO-14 and Patrol Guide Section 212-49 and that you implement additional training for all officers regarding photography/videography whether by the press or the public.
Thank you for your attention in this matter. I look forward to your response.
Very truly yours,
Mickey H. Osterreicher
cc: Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly (via email)
DCPI Paul J. Browne (via email)
Sean Elliot, NPPA President (via email
Mr. Felix Maurent (via email)
Source: The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Photo credit to: The National Press Photographers Association Facebook
Videos courtesy of Carlos Miller from Pixiq