Thursday, June 23, 2011
CMPD Independence Officer Goes Postal Over Blogger With A Camera
CMPD Officers arrest a suspect in Uptown Charlotte
Photo Credit: News Channel 14
Just after midnight Wednesday a couple of CMPD Independence Division Officers threw the US Constitution out the window and had a major "Nutty" when a well known and well respected blogger tried to take a photograph of an arrest in progress.
When one of the officers saw that a photo was about to be taken, he shouted that the blogger was not allowed to take a photo of the arrest, and then threatened jail by saying that if a photo was taken the blogger would be arrested for "interfering with an investigation."
The blogger these officers threatened with arrest was none other than the well known author of the Crime In Charlotte blog. It was the blogger's earlier call to 911, that helped the officers locate the convicted felon and make an arrest on an outstanding warrant.
CMPD has a lot of great officers, many are personal friends of Cedar Posts, but nothing gets my blood boiling faster than a jackass cop.
But wait there's more:
When Crime In Charlotte requested the officer's name he told her that his name was Williams. Turns out he forgot that his name was M. Thompson and that the other officer's name was Williams.
When Crime In Charlotte called CMPD's Public Information Officer Rosalyn Harrington to discuss what happened, Harrington was unapologetic saying that officers were within in their rights to arrest Crime In Charlotte. When Harrington was pressed on the validity of the law she stated that Charlotte had rules that are different from other cities like Baltimore, as she continued to explain away the officers actions as justifiable.
Cedar Posts contacted CMPD point man Rob Tufano seeking comment on Harrington's explanation that Charlotte has "different rules" and the actions of CMPD officers. 12 hours later still nothing but crickets. A CMPD Internal Affairs investigation is reportedly underway.
All of this ahead of next year's Democratic National Convention doesn't give Charlotte a very tolerant image, rather we are suddenly looking more like a 3rd world "Police State".
So here's a news flash for officer Thompson and Ms. Harrington, I'll try to make it simple for these two or any other CMPD officer who might be a little camera shy.
The First Amendment Reads:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
In other words it is not illegal to take a photo of police making an arrest or doing anything else on a public street or area.
But can't "local governments" make laws keeping people from photographing the police?
The answer in short is found with the decision in Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925), the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment applies to each state, including any local government.
But blogger's and the public aren't really the press, so the First Amendment doesn't afford any protection to bloggers.
In Lovell v. City of Griffin, 303 U.S. 444 (1938), Chief Justice Hughes defined the press as, "every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion." Pretty simple.
Need a little more convincing?
How about this from the Seattle Times: "An amateur photographer who was taken into custody last year after shooting pictures of two Seattle police officers while they were making an arrest on a public street received an $8,000 settlement this week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington said this morning." You can read the rest of the story here.
Cedar Posts is no fan of the ACLU, as a card carrying member of the NRA and the Republican Party nothing goes against the grain more than the ACLU, except when it comes to the right of free speech and the press.
So there you go, want to be a jackass? Fine go ahead, make my day. I need the money.
In fairness to the 99% of good officers out there they do have a right to ask that photographers stay out of the way, a good telephoto lens works well for this. If it is a crime scene, the police have a right and an obligation to tape off the area and insist that you stay out of that area.
Cedar Posts often takes photos of arrests, accidents and crime scenes, it is in my DNA. Frankly I don't have a problem with an officer requesting that his or her identity or face not be published and I normally honor that request.
At night I don't use a flash unless it is unavoidable.
Finally consider this, how many times has an amateur photo or video been the only evidence of a crime? People like Crime In Charlotte are the real first line in crime fighting so lighten up Independence guys.
Need more? Read Carlos Miller's story about his arrest by Miami Beach Police Officer David Socarrasand and Miller's subsequent acquittal on the same "interfering" charges here.
Want to go more in depth on this issue? Read War on Cameras here.