Monday, November 24, 2008

Back On The First Amendment Soapbox

Every time I see a cop who thinks his badge gives him some sort of super powers, I get steam coming from my ears. The fact is that most cops don't like members of the media, presumably because they don't like being caught ignoring people's civil rights. I hate to sound like a law-enforcement hater, because I swear I'm not. But every time I see video (and I've seen plenty)of a police officer forcibly deciding what is and what is not appropriate for a photographer or cameraman to shoot, I think it gives police a bad name. This cameraman was detained in the back of a police car for more than an hour. If you or I did that, we'd be charged with kidnapping. The fact is, the cop had no right confiscating the guy's camera or detaining him to begin with! Watch and learn:

What cops need to realize and remember is simple. Members of the media and members of the public are one and the same. If you want to keep the media from shooting video of something and you have a legitimate reason, then shut down the street to everyone. I can't tell you how many times as a reporter I was blocked from being at a crime scene, even when members of the public were allowed to roam freely on the other side of the yellow police tape. That's not only unfair, it's also illegal. I was also thrown off the grounds of Dulles airport one time for asking members of the public questions. The officer decided I was harassing people. I most certainly was not - certainly not as much as the hare krishnas who used to walk up to complete strangers at the airport and solicit them for money. No one ever stopped them.

Again - treat members of the media like you treat members of the public (because we ARE members of the public), and you'll get no beef from me.

But that cop in Newark should lose his badge.

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