November 4th, 2012

San Diego Sheriff's Sergeant Attempts to Intimidate News Videographer 4

By Carlos Miller

Another cop tried to play news editor with a photojournalist by standing in front of his camera and informing him it was in “bad taste” to video record the investigation of a traffic fatality.

The San Diego Sheriff’s Sergeant, who sounds like she said her name is “Guerra,” but correct me if I’m wrong, then proclaimed it was her First Amendment right to block his camera.

But photojournalist JC Playford said she didn’t have the right to interfere with his work.

She ended up walking away and he ended up getting his footage, which shows the tragic aftermath of a motorcyclist’s body under a tarp being lifted into the back of the coroner’s van.

While the sergeant believes it was disrespectful to the man’s family, it is, in fact, educational for anybody driving the streets that life can be very fleeting.

Playford, who has been arrested four times while recording authorities, is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the San Diego Sheriff’s Department and the San Diego Police Department over press credentials.

According to the North County Times:

San Diego police issued freelance journalist James Charles Playford a press credential but later took it away after someone filed a restraining order against him, a police spokesman said earlier this year.

After that, American News and Information Services issued Playford one of its own press credentials. But San Diego County law enforcement officials have not routinely honored the privately issued credentials, the lawsuit says.

San Diego County sheriff’s deputies have arrested Playford four times since 2010 on suspicion of obstructing them in the performance of their duties. Playford, who has a reputation among police agencies for being loud and aggressive in his coverage, was filming police activity and did not comply with sheriff’s deputies’ orders to identify himself, move or leave.


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  • Boomer

    I want to thank Sgt. Guerra for clearing up something I’ve been wondering about for years. In every video footage I’ve ever viewed of police activity at a traffic accident, burglary, shooting, murder or other such mayhem there seems to be a huge number of law enforcement types engaged in nothing more complicated than standing still and talking to each other. I’ve always wondered why that is.

    Oh sure, there are officers actively involved in the investigation, or traffic and crowd control, but there seem to be a great many whose presence at the scene is merely a way to pad the time log of activities. Guerra has just proven my point. Her supervisory skills were sufficiently irrelevant to the accident investigation that no one missed her participation for an instant when she decided to go over and annoy Playford. Of course it’s astounding that someone with enough clairvoyant power to instantly determine that Playford wasn’t with the news media couldn’t instantly channel the ESP necessary to write the report on the accident and save the taxpayers a hell of a lot of time and money wasted on the rest of the officers at the scene. Perhaps she’s been ordered not to indulge in clairvoyance again, because she gets it wrong so often. No matter.

    I’m grateful to Sgt. Guerra. She gave me the clarity I’ve been seeking for many years. Perhaps this video should be used the next time her bosses start yammering about needing more money for their activities.

  • JohnLloydScharf

    I suggest not being killed in a public place. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place. It is up to the reporter to decide when and how it will be appropriate to publish, but you have to get the information/picture first. The government has no right to decide who is or is not a news gatherer. They also do not have a right to decide what is “appropriate.”

  • JohnLloydScharf

    You should not have to be “recognized” by an officer to collect news and information.

  • JohnLloydScharf

    Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.
    Letter to Dr. James Currie (28 January 1786) from Thomas Jefferson

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