A student journalist showed nerves of steel as he defiantly continued to videotape a police officer, even as the officer was in his face threatening him with arrest if he continued videotaping.
Michael Carney, multimedia editor of The Exponent, the student newspaper at Purdue University in Indiana, was on assignment covering an election at the university when a woman collapsed back in October.
Carney continued videotaping at emergency medical technicians arrived at the scene, accompanied by Purdue police officer Jeff Hegg.
One of the medical technicians ordered him to stop videotaping, even though Carney had every right to continue videotaping.
Then Hegg walked up to Carney and blocked the camera with his body while ordering him to turn it off.
Carney got nervous, which is natural in these incidents, and began shaking, prompting Hegg to question why was he shaking.
But Carney held his ground and refused to succumb to the officer’s demands.
The officer kept telling him that he could arrest him for refusing his demands, but the officer is wrong because his demands were unlawful orders.
The incident took place on October 20 and the Exponent filed a complaint with the department two days later.
The Exponent did not publicize the incident until Tuesday along with a quote from the Purdue police chief that appears to admit wrongdoing on behalf of the officer.
The Exponent filed a complaint with the police on Oct. 22. Monday, Purdue police chief John Cox said that their internal investigation of the incident, which the police consider a personnel matter, had been completed and turned over to an attorney for review.
“Our job out there is to serve and protect. A lot of the time the younger officers don’t really know what to say to the media,” Cox said. “There’s certain rules we have to follow. There’s certain kinds of information we have to provide … Typically we have a pretty good relationship with the media.”
Meanwhile, the attorney for the Hoosier State Press Association, Steve Key, commended the cop for not bashing Carney’s head in.
“I think that the reporter did a good job of keeping calm throughout the incident,” Key said. “The officer, while maybe in the wrong in ordering the camera to be shut off, did show restraint in that there wasn’t any physical abuse, there wasn’t any grabbing or taking the camera away from the individual.
“So in that case I think that while it was a tense situation, I thought both sides showed constraint in either side where that’s not occurred in other places.”
Then a clueless, spineless guy named Mike Hiestand of the Student Press Law Center condemned Carney for taking a stand.
“(After the officer’s order to turn off the camera) I think he probably should have left and protested the officer’s reactions later,” said Hiestand, who also viewed the video. “There are going to be some stories where the situation is just so hot or so important that you know that if you leave now you’re going to miss a very important story. I don’t know if this is that story.
“I saw two folks at loggerheads; neither was willing to back down. Certainly the police officer was wrong. It was a public place, (The Exponent’s) reporter, photographer, was not interfering with the emergency response crew, and he as a police officer should have known better.
“The risk that you have in a situation like this is First Amendment rights don’t outweigh the law. At some point when a police officer gives you a direct order you just don’t have the right, the option, to say ‘I’m just going to refuse that,’ and if you do, there are consequences.”
Hiestand is an idiot because First Amendment rights are protected by the law. Supposedly.
Furthermore, a direct order does not necessarily equate a lawful order.
Fortunately, the publisher and general manager of The Exponent, Pat Kuhnle, has more common sense than those two legal losers.
In an e-mail, Kuhnle wrote, “It’s disturbing to watch the police action in the video. However well intentioned, the officer’s actions are not justifiable. There is no expectation of privacy in a public location. There is no justification for the officer to taking control of the photographer’s tripod, nor issuing an order to stop videotaping.
“The police action is equivalent to bullying and it should not be tolerated in a society that is governed by laws rather than heavy-handedness. The standard of appropriate behavior by police is applicable to all members of society, not just members of the media.
“The Exponent news staff has shown great restraint in waiting a full month for the police to investigate this matter before reporting this. It is my hope that those who are in a position to do such denounce the officer’s actions publicly and revisit how the department interacts with students, the public and the media.”