December 2nd, 2015

Police Intimidation Watch: Chicago to Pay $100,000 to Photographer Beaten by Cops

A photographer who says he was beaten by Chicago police officers after photographing those same officers beating another man will receive a $100,000 settlement from the city, WBEZ has reported.

The Chicago-based public radio station says Chicago freelance photographer Joshua Lott was covering the May 2012 NATO summit meeting for Getty Images when he came across two police officers beating a young man with batons on a Chicago street. The man was identified in court papers as a protester.

“The officers that were beating him just weren’t happy that I was taking pictures and told me I needed to leave,” Lott told WBEZ.

Lott says he showed the officers his press credentials, and continued to take pictures as the officers kept beating the protester. The officers then approached Lott a second time, threw him to the ground, and began beating him with batons and stomping on him “the same way they were beating the kid I was photographing,” he told WBEZ.

According to court papers, police also destroyed Lott’s cameras by throwing them on the ground, and one officer took Lott’s prescription eyeglasses and stomped on them.

The police then charged Lott with reckless conduct–a misdemeanor charge that was dismissed six weeks later when the officers failed to appear in court, according to the WBEZ report.

In May 2013, Lott filed a lawsuit in federal court in Chicago against the city and several officers, including those who beat him and participated in his arrest. Lott claimed use of excessive force, unlawful detention, unreasonable search and seizure, and retaliation, in violation of his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He also claimed assault and battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, which are violations under Illinois state law.

He was seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the rights violations, as well as for bodily injury and medical expenses.

Lott reached a settlement agreement with the city in mid-November. The city and one of the defendants, Commander Glenn Evans, denied any wrongdoing or liability in the settlement agreement, according to WBEZ.

Evans has been the subject of several other excessive force claims, for which the city has so far paid a total of $324,999 to settle, WBEZ reports. The radio station also says Evans is scheduled for trial next week on criminal charged “for putting the barrel of his gun in a suspects mouth and a Taser in his groin while threading his life during a 2014 incident.”

The Chicago police have had a history of excessive force and police misconduct, and yesterday, the mayor of Chicago fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in the wake of public outrage over the death of a black teen who was shot 16 times by a white officer. The officer has been charged with first-degree murder.

Related:
Police Intimidation Watch: Photographer Wins $1.1 Million for Malicious Prosecution
Police Intimidation Watch: University of California to Pay $162,500 for Wrongful Arrest
Police Intimidation Watch: Boston to Pay $170K for Wrongful Arrest of Videographer
Baltimore to Pay $250K for Videos Deleted by Police
PDN Video: A Photographer’s Guide to the First Amendment

March 21st, 2012

Police Intimidation Watch: Journalists Detained for Being Present at a Chicago News Event

Chicago police detained two journalists outside a hospital as they waited on a public sidewalk to interview the family of a young shooting victim, according to the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP).

In this video of the incident, the arresting officer says, “Your First Amendment rights can be terminated if you create a scene. Your First Amendment rights have limitations.” The journalists asked how they were creating a scene, and the arresting officer responded, “Your presence is creating a scene.”


(Note: NBC, which owns this video, may run a short advertisement before it plays)

The journalists, a radio reporter and TV cameraman, were held in a police vehicle and released after ten minutes without charges, according to RCFP.

National Press Photographers Association attorney Mickey Osterreicher, who has been kept busy lately reading the US Constitution to police departments all over the country, sent a letter of protest to the Chicago Superintendent of Police. Osterreicher wrote that it isn’t the duty of police officers “to decide what is appropriate news coverage of any story.

“It is apparent that the two journalists were not charged because…there was no criminal trespass and your officers’ overreaction by detaining them in a catch-and-release manner only served to prevent them from carrying out their professional and lawful function,” Osterreicher wrote. “It was nothing less than a blatant disregard of the First and Fourth Amendment.” (The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure by police.)