October 24th, 2008

Chicago police arrest photog, delete images and refuse to return camera 0

By Carlos Miller

anzaldiphoto

One of more than 500 images police deleted from Mike Anzaldi’s cameras, which he later recovered


First Chicago police arrested Mike Anzaldi for videotaping a crime scene while standing on private property with the owner’s permission.

Then they deleted more than 500 images from his still cameras before releasing him from jail nine hours later.

And now they are refusing to return his video camera along with the tape inside, claiming they need it as “evidence” to justify the arrest against him.

But Anzaldi says the confiscated video tape will only prove his innocence. And he fears police will erase the contents of the videotape just as they deleted more than 500 images from his two Canon EOS-IDs.

“That video camera is my livelihood, it’s how I make a living,” Anzaldi said in a telephone interview Thursday night.

Anzaldi was charged with obstruction against a peace officer after he refused to stop filming an investigation of an incident involving an off-duty police officer who shot and killed a man trying to rob him Tuesday night.

But the initial order for him to stop filming came from a civilian, a police spokesperson named Monique Bond who is not even a police officer. A flack without a badge.

Anzaldi, who has been covering breaking news in Chicago for 12 years, was able to retrieve the deleted images, one which is posted above this article and shows the body of the man police killed. I wonder when cops are going to learn we have recovery software that retrieves deleted images?

Anzaldi’s photos also show that he was clearly across the street, close enough to photograph the investigation but far enough not to interfere with it.

“I pulled up to the scene 20 minutes after the shooting because I heard it over the scanner,” he said.

As is customary during police investigations, they started expanding the crime scene with yellow ribbon.

“I started roaming around to find a legal place to shoot,” he said. “I was invited on somebody’s private property by the owner. There was about 20 other people there watching.”

Anzaldi started filming with his Canon XH A1. By that time, Bond had arrived on the scene to disseminate the news to the media. Instead, she did her best to censor the news.

“She told me to stop shooting, that you can’t shoot a crime scene that is under investigation.”

At first, he complied with her request, just to keep the peace.

“Then a family member of the victim arrived and she was very upset and distraught, so I picked the video camera back up and started filming.”

And that was when Bond made a beeline towards him, ordering him to stop filming. She was flanked by two cops, a sergeant and a detective.

“She said, ‘you can be there, you just can’t shoot’,” Anzaldi said.

Then she asked for his police-issued press credentials, which he had left in his car in his haste to get to the scene.

“She acted as if she didn’t know who I was, but she knew exactly who I was,” he said. “I’ve had run-ins with her before.”

Bond has been a public information officer with the Chicago Police Department for about a year-and-half, he said. But he’s known her from when she was a Chicago Department of Aviation media spokesperson.

“She insisted that you need to have credentials to shoot any news in Chicago, which is bullshit,” he said.

Anzaldi told her he had the right to continue filming and did just that. And that was when the police sergeant ordered his arrest.

Nine hours later, he was released from jail. When police returned his two still cameras, he discovered they had deleted his images. When he asked for his video camera, they told him it was being held as evidence.

Now he has hired an attorney to get his camera back. And the Society of Professional Journalists, who is protesting his arrest, will assist him in paying for his legal bills.

Police are claiming he crossed police lines, which is why they arrested him. But Anzaldi denies that, and it is hard to believe someone who has covered breaking news for 12 years would do such a thing.

Nevertheless, as SPJ’s David Cullier points out, Chicago has an ordinance that allows journalists with press credentials to cross police lines.

But regardless of who did what, the fact police would go to the trouble to arrest a photographer and confiscate his equipment is going too far. Even worse – deleting the photo images. What did they want to hide from the public? That, to me, is a form of flat out prior restraint. If a mayor walked into a newsroom and deleted photos he or she didn’t like, preventing their publication, then we would be grabbing for torches and pitchforks. Chicago police should drop any charges against Anzaldi immediately, and apologize profusely for deleting his photos.

Anyone who has followed my case knows SPJ has helped me tremendously in my legal battle.

For some reason, Anzaldi’s case hasn’t been picked up by the mainstream, other than a short story on Chicago’s CBS station. But it is beginning to get picked up by various independent websites and blogs, such as Discarted, which also dedicates itself to photographers’ rights.

“By taking my camera, they are preventing me from doing my job,” Anzaldi said.


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