Detroit Police launch investigations after arrest of Free Press photographer

Detroit police and the department’s internal affairs officers have launched investigations following the arrest of a Free Press photographer who was filming a police action on a public street last week.

Police said they are looking into the conduct of photographer Mandi Wright and the actions of an officer who ordered her to stop filming and wrestled her phone away from her. They also are looking into the disappearance of a memory card from her newspaper-issued iPhone and whether she was briefly left alone with the crime suspect whom she had been filming.

Wright, a Free Press journalist since 2000, was freed 6½ hours after her arrest with no charges filed. She said she was wearing media identification around her neck when she went out with reporter Kathleen Gray to shoot video as part of a training project.

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ACLU files two more lawsuits over observing police activity

THE AMERICAN Civil Liberties Union plans to file two federal lawsuits today against the Philadelphia Police Department for wrongfully arresting a journalism student for photographing a cop and a West Philly woman who was observing police action in 2011.

The latest filings will be the ACLU’s third this year in which citizens have been arrested for videotaping, photographing or observing police activity. Another was filed in January. These suits also come a week after a Philadelphia woman sued the city after a cop allegedly beat and arrested her and a friend for videotaping an arrest two years ago.

“Certainly the right to observe police officers and their interaction with the public is at the core of what the First Amendment is supposed to protect,” ACLU attorney Molly Tack-Hooper said, adding that the latest cases are not isolated. “The Philadelphia Police Department has arrested numerous people for filming. These are unconstitutional arrests.”

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Deputies’ video confiscations come under scrutiny in fatal Bakersfield beating case

The death of Bakersfield father of four David Sal Silva immediately following his apparent beating Wednesday by Kern County law enforcement officers raises questions that have been asked in Bakersfield many times before — questions about the use of deadly force by police.

But it’s the detention of two witnesses who shot cellphone video of officers’ actions, and the confiscation of their phones by sheriff’s deputies, that raises a whole new set of questions, say local defense lawyers and an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. Those questions — sometimes angry, other times probing — focus on the witnesses’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, and their First Amendment right to publish the video they collected.

John Tello, a criminal law attorney representing the two witnesses who shot video footage and other witnesses to the incident, said the witnesses were not allowed to leave with their phones.

Tello said it soon became clear the law enforcement officers were not welcome. But his clients were intimidated. The officers stayed.

“Officers have the right to freeze a scene, to not allow anybody to leave for a reasonable amount of time, until a search warrant arrives,” Tello said. They can do this when they feel there is a danger of destruction of evidence.

Securing a drug house is one example, he said.

“But this was different. This was not a crime scene. There was no sense that people were going to destroy evidence,” Tello said. “These officers literally held them in that house for close to 10 hours against their will.”

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Dad who died during arrest ‘begged for his life’; witness videos seized

Blood stains are still visible on the sidewalk at the corner of Flower Street and Palm Drive, where a Bakersfield man struggled with as many as nine officers and later died this week.

Some witnesses apparently took cellphone video of the incident but deputies moved quickly to seize the phones. The Sheriff’s Office, after releasing a statement Wednesday and naming its officers Thursday, declined all further comment.

John Tello, a criminal law attorney, is representing two witnesses who took video footage and five other witnesses to the incident. He said his clients are still shaken by what they saw.

“When I arrived to the home of one of the witnesses that had video footage, she was with her family sitting down on the couch, surrounded by three deputies,” Tello said.

Tello said the witness was not allowed to go anywhere with her phone and was being quarantined inside her home.

Tello said the phone of the first witness was taken after the deputies told him he was either going to give up the phone the easy way or the hard way.

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Man arrested for filming police, phone said to be a weapon

A San Diego man was arrested for using his phone to take video of a citation being issued to him after a police officer said phones “can be converted to weapons,” and the man refused to surrender the device.

The incident has drawn national attention from the National Press Photographers Association, which has filed a protest with city officials, and the San Diego Police Department says it is now investigating the altercation.

Last Saturday, Adam Pringle and some friends were being cited for smoking cigarettes on a beach boardwalk (against the law in San Diego), and Pringle decided to record the officer’s actions using the camera on his phone. After about a minute of filming, the officer asked Pringle to put the phone away. When Pringle said it was his right to record the encounter, the officer said that phones could be converted to weapons, and insisted he put it away or hand it over. When Pringle refused, the officer then forcibly took it and arrested Pringle for obstruction of justice.

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To protect evidence of a crime, police can seize your cellphone

PORTLAND, Ore. – According to the Gresham Police Department, a police officer who snatched a cellphone from a woman recording officers making an arrest was acting quickly to keep potential video evidence of a crime from being erased.

Carrie Medina considers herself a police watchdog and has a history of recording police making arrests.

Minutes after she began recording, the Gresham transit officer can be seen in the video walking over and demanding to see her phone so he can check for evidence.

On the video, Medina questions the officer’s request, but he tells her he doesn’t need a subpoena to search her phone for evidence of a crime.

“Ma’am, do you want to hand me the phone or would you like to show it to me?” the officer asks.

“I don’t want to show you …,” Medina begins to respond. At that point the officer snatches the phone from her while it is still recording.

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ACLU: Philadelphia police routinely arrest those who legally record officers in public

PHILADELPHIA — Police in Philadelphia have recently shown a pattern of wrongfully arresting people who videotaped officers in public, according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union was drawn up on behalf of a college student who was charged with disorderly conduct for using his cellphone to record police during a large altercation. His cellphone was later confiscated and the video erased, the lawsuit said.

The complaint is the first of several that the Pennsylvania ACLU chapter plans to file alleging retaliatory behavior by officers, attorney Mary Catherine Roper said. It seeks monetary damages as well as confirmation of the public’s right to videotape police, she said.

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