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Canadian cops clamping down on photographers' rights

The cop who confiscated Jason Payne’s camera. Photo by Les Bazco/The Province

Twice in the last three weeks, Vancouver police shot a suspect down, then went after the photographer who captured the scene.

The latest incident occurred Sunday after police shot a suspected car thi

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The cop who confiscated Jason Payne’s camera. Photo by Les Bazco/The Province


Twice in the last three weeks, Vancouver police shot a suspect down, then went after the photographer who captured the scene.

The latest incident occurred Sunday after police shot a suspected car thief, then confiscated the camera of Province newspaper photojournalist Jason Payne, who had photographed the bleeding suspect in the street.

Payne said he identified himself as a news photographer, but the police demanded his camera.

“They said I was obstructing justice and they were going to confiscate my camera as evidence. They ended up taking my camera from me. It was either that or be arrested,” he said.

“They were manhandling me.”

The previous incident occurred March 20 after police shot another suspected car thief , then deleted the cell phone video of Adam Smolcic, who said he caught the shooting on video.

“He saw me filming and he came up to me and he asked to see my cellphone. He had my cellphone for a few minutes, and it appeared as though he was previewing the film. He gave me back my cellphone, probably about four or five minutes after he took it, told me to get lost, and of course, I did.”

Both incidents are reminiscent of the 2007 incident in which Canadian police seized Paul Pritchard’s video camera after he filmed them tasing Polish national Robert Dziekanski to death at Vancouver International Airport.

The officers’ recollections conflict with what appears on video shot by eyewitness Paul Pritchard.

The first three Mounties have said that, after a brief interaction, Dziekanski became difficult when he tossed his hands in the air and took a few steps away. When he turned back toward the officers, Dziekanski was holding a stapler, which the officers have said made them feel threatened. That’s when Const. Kwesi Millington delivered the first Taser shock.

The weapon was used five times in all, although it’s not clear how many of those connected with the man.

Kosteckyj said the video clearly shows Robinson telling Dziekanski not to reach for his luggage and directing him to a nearby counter.

“In fact, he is obeying instructions and none of these police officers, up until now, can point to a single command that he did not obey,” he said.

Payne received his camera back an hour after it was confiscated, but the Province article makes no mention whether or not police deleted his pictures.

Smolcic said he is trying to recover the video through a data recovery specialist but no word if he has succeeded.

Smolcic’s encounter has also evolved into an investigation into whether police tampered with evidence, especially because Smolcic’s account of the shooting differs from police accounts.

But Smolcic, who began recording with his LG cellphone when the man brought out the knife, said the victim seemed ill, his hands shaking like he had Parkinson’s, and did not seem like a threat.

“He didn’t advance on them. Absolutely not.”

Smolcic said he only heard police give the man one warning before they shot him from about a 1.5-metre distance at least three times.

“They didn’t pepper-spray him. They didn’t Taser him. They just killed him,” he said. “There’s use for deadly force, for sure, but this was definitely not the case.”

And this has a Canadian columnist very skeptical because of what occurred in the Pritchard incident.

Sadly, it may be easier for the public to believe Smolcic than the police. That’s how badly the Dziekanski incident has shaken the public’s trust in the police.

So imagine how some of us in the United States feel where these types of incidents occur on a much more frequent basis.

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I am a multimedia journalist who has been fighting a lengthy legal battle after having photographed Miami police against their wishes in Feb. 2007. Please help the fight by donating to my Legal Defense Fund in the top left sidebar, which helps pay for the thousands of dollars I’ve acrued in debt since my arrest. To keep updated on the latest articles, join my networks at Facebook, Twitter and Friendfeed.

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