Suffolk County Pays $200K to Settle News Photographer’s Unlawful Arrest Claim

Posted by on Wednesday June 18, 2014 | Photojournalism

Frame grab from Philip Datz's recording of an enoucnter with a police officer that led to his arrest. The officer shown here repeatedly ordered Datz to "go away." When Datz questioned the order, the officer said, "There's nothing you can hold over my head."

Frame grab from Philip Datz’s recording of an encounter with a police officer that led to his arrest. The officer shown here repeatedly ordered Datz to “go away.” When Datz questioned the order, the officer said, “There’s nothing you can hold over my head.”

Suffolk County, New York  has agreed to pay freelance news videographer Philip Datz $200,000 to settle civil rights claims stemming from Datz’s unlawful arrest for recoding county police activity on a public street in 2011. In addition, the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD) will institute an ongoing training program for its officers to safeguard “the constitutional right of the public and press to observe, photograph and record police activity in locations open to the public,” according to the settlement terms.

The settlement agreement was approved by the Suffolk Count legislature yesterday.

“This settlement is a victory for the First Amendment and for the public good,” Datz said in a prepared statement posted by NPPA, which helped Datz make his Civil Rights claim. “When police arrest journalists just for doing their job, it creates a chilling effect that jeopardizes everyone’s ability to stay informed about important news in their community.”

Datz, a freelancer, provides footage for local TV news broadcasts. He was shooting the scene of an arrest of a criminal suspect in Bohemia, New York on July 29, 2011 when a county police sergeant approached him and repeatedly ordered him to “go away.” Datz asked where he should stand to continue taping, but the police sergeant said “no place” and threatened to jail Datz if he didn’t leave the scene.

Datz moved down the street and continued recording, and was promptly arrested. Police confiscated his camera and videotape. According to his lawsuit, Datz suffered a shoulder injury during his arrest, and was handcuffed to a police station desk for two hours before police charged him with “obstructing governmental administration.”

Datz recorded the moments leading up to his arrest, during which a police officer confronted him and told him he was prohibited from filming the scene, even from a distance. The officer repeatedly told Datz to “go away” repeatedly. Datz moved a block away, and when he resumed recording, the officer sped up to him in a patrol car and placed him under arrest.

Datz posted the video on YouTube afterwards, and prosecutors ended up dismissing the charges against him in August, 2011. Datz then sued, claiming his arrest was unlawful and that police had violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights.

Under the terms of the settlement, Suffolk County and the SCPD admitted no wrongdoing.

Related:
Police Intimidation Watch: Photog Sues a Long Island Police Department

NH Town to Pay $57K to Settle First Amendment Claim in Traffic Stop Video Case

PDN Video: A Photographer’s Guide to the First Amendment and Dealing with Police Intimidation


COMMENTS

MORE POSTS

What We’re Liking: Women Photograph’s “Week in Pictures Gender Breakdown”

Posted by on Thursday October 19, 2017 | Business, Photojournalism

Women Photograph, the online database of women photographers around the world created by photographer Daniella Zalcman, is posting weekly Twitter threads to keep the gender disparity in photojournalism top of mind. The “Week in Pictures Gender Breakdown,” as the threads are titled, tally how many of the images used in the “week in pictures” features... More

Workshop Preview: Photographing Cars and Car Culture

Posted by on Monday October 2, 2017 | Photojournalism

Photographer Don Usner photographs lowriders, among other subjects related to his lifelong love for Northern New Mexico’s natural and cultural history. The cars, he says, “are incredible creations, beautiful art pieces.” But he adds that his work is “more about the people and seeing the cars as an expression of their cultural ethos. What’s exciting... More

Pakistan’s UN Envoy Criticizes India, but Uses Gaza News Photo to Do It

Posted by on Wednesday September 27, 2017 | Photojournalism

Pakistan's Maleeha Lodhi holds Heidi Levine's photo.

When Pakistan’s envoy to the UN accused India of attacking civilians in the disputed region of Kashmir, she waved a photo she claimed showed the bruised face of Kashmiri girl who had been struck by fire from a pellet gun used by the Indian army. There was one problem: The photo was taken in Gaza,... More