August 27th, 2013

Police Intimidation Watch: Cop Charged with Lying About a Photographer’s Arrest

A New York City police officer has been charged with felonies and misdemeanors for lying about why he arrested a freelance news photographer, according to a report in The New York Times.

The officer, Michael Ackermann, claimed that he had arrested Robert Stolarik, a freelancer for The New York Times, because Stolarik had repeatedly flashed a camera strobe in Ackermann’s face, thereby interfering with another arrest Ackermann was making at the time. On the basis of photographic evidence and eyewitness accounts of the incident, the Bronx district attorney concluded that Ackermann was lying, according to the Times story.

Stolarik was arrested in August, 2012 when police got angry with him for allegedly refusing to stop taking pictures of an arrest, according to an earlier Times report.

At the time, Stolarik was accompanying two reporters who were conducting street interviews when they came upon a street altercation. When police at the scene ordered Stolarik to cease taking pictures, he identified himself as a journalist for the New York Times, and continued to shoot. A police officer then “slammed” Stolarik’s camera into his face. Stolarik asked for their badge numbers, at which point they took his cameras, dragged him to the ground, and arrested him.

According to a police report, police said they had ordered the crowd and Stolarik to move back “numerous times,” and that Stolarik had resisted arrest “violently.”

Stolarik received minor injuries during the arrest. Police returned his gear about a week after the arrest. The charges against him were eventually dropped.

The Bronx district attorney investigating the case concluded that Stolarik didn’t use a flash during the incident, and didn’t have one on his camera, despite Officer Ackermann’s claims.

Ackermann was charged with filing false records and official misconduct. If convicted of the most serious charges, he could be sentenced to prison and lose his job, according to the Times report.

Police Intimidation Watch: NYPD Arrests Times Freelancer
Police Intimidation Watch: NYPD Returns Cameras to Times Freelancer

August 14th, 2012

Police Intimidation Watch: NYPD Returns Cameras to Times Freelancer

The New York City police department has returned camera gear belonging to a freelance photographer who was arrested August 4 after refusing to stop photographing police activity on a public street.

Photographer Robert Stolarik got his camera equipment back on August 10, the National Press Photographers Association reported on its Web site. Stolarik told NPPA, “The next things for me will be getting the charges dropped and having my credentials returned to me.”

Stolarik was charged with obstruction and resisting arrest after police told him to stop taking pictures at the scene of a street altercation. Solarik was on assignment at time for The New York Times. He identified himself to police as a journalist, and continued taking pictures.

He was then arrested and held overnight. NPPA and The New York Times protested Stolarik’s arrest as an act of intimidation–and a violation of his civil rights.

According to NPPA, New York Times attorney George Freeman is calling on the NYPD to “objectively investigate” Stolarik’s arrest. “We are fully confident that if they look at the facts, they will find that the officers who blocked, intimidated and assaulted Mr. Stolarik acted inappropriately and violated NYPD guidelines,” Freeman told NPPA.

Related story:
Police Intimidation Watch: NYPD Arrests Times Freelancer

August 6th, 2012

Police Intimidation Watch: NYPD Arrests Times Freelancer (Update)

A freelance photographer on assignment for The New York Times was arrested in the Bronx on Saturday night, after police got angry at him for refusing to stop taking pictures of another arrest, the Times has reported.

Photographer Robert Stolarik was accompanying two reporters who were conducting street interviews when they came upon a street confrontation. A police officer at the scene reportedly told Stolarik to stop taking pictures. He identified himself as a journalist for The New York Times, and continued taking pictures. A second police officer came along and “slammed” Stolarik’s camera in to his face, according to the Times story.  When the photographer asked police for their badge numbers, they took his cameras, dragged him to the ground, and arrested him.

According to a police report cited by the Times, police said they had ordered the crowd and Stolarik to move back “numerous” times, and that Stolarik “violently resisted being handcuffed.”

Stolarik received scrapes and bruises during his arrest, but was otherwise uninjured, according to the Times. He was released after several hours. A court appearance is pending.

A lawyer for the Times said, “This is an incident where it seemed the photographer was doing his job taking photographs, and the police overacted and attempted to intimidate him and block him, leading to his arrest.”

Update: In an interview with New York Magazine, Stolarik says he’s out $20,000 in gear and materials, and that the NYPD’s claims that he hit a police officer with his camera is untrue. Trade associations and a journalism organization have taken up his cause. Read more here.

Related Stories:
Police Intimidation Watch: Deputies Rough Up Nevada News Photographer
Police Intimidation Watch: Mannie Garcia Files $500K Lawsuit for Unlawful Arrest