Detroit Police Arrest Newspaper Photographer for Video Recording from Public Sidewalk

Detroit police arrested a newspaper photojournalist as she was video recording them making an arrest last week.

Mandi Wright of the Detroit Free Press had crossed the street and was standing on a public sidewalk in an area that was not closed off by police when a cop walked up to her and ordered her to back up, which she did.

He then ordered her to turn off the iPhone she was using to record, which she didn’t do, identifying herself as a journalist for the Detroit Free Press.

“I don’t care who you are,” the cop said, snatching the phone, which is when the video cuts out.

Naturally, that is where the story changes to indicate that Wright was the aggressor.

According to the Detroit Free Press:

Police said they are looking into the conduct of photographer Mandi Wright and the actions of an officer who ordered her to stop filming and wrestled her phone away from her. They also are looking into the disappearance of a memory card from her newspaper-issued iPhone and whether she was briefly left alone with the crime suspect whom she had been filming.

Wright, 47, was arrested Thursday after she and a reporter came upon an arrest scene near Woodbridge and Riopelle, east of downtown. Police at the scene said Wright tussled with an officer after he had confiscated her iPhone; Wright said that she was concentrating on taking her video and did not realize the man who grabbed her phone was a police officer. Wright was handcuffed and later, she said, put in an interrogation room with the suspect

Wright later said she didn’t know the man approaching her was a police officer and thought he was an angry civilian. He didn’t identify himself on the tape, and his clothes carried no police insignia.

The man grabbed her arm and reached for her phone. Gray, standing nearby, said Wright pulled her arm to her chest to protect the phone, but the man pulled it from her grip and turned to walk away.

“I was just surprised at how quickly it escalated,” Gray said. “There was no effort to try to figure out who we were or what we were doing. It was just immediately going for the phone.”

Wright said she tried to get her phone back. Gray said there was a brief struggle, with Wright reaching from behind the man and pulling on the tail of his shirt. Officers at the scene told Wright that she was interfering with police. Later, police alleged she had jumped on his back.

Story continues below... really.

Wright, who had been wearing press credentials (not that they give her any more legal right to record  in public), was transported to a police station and held for more than six hours before she was released with no charges.

Although police returned her iPhone and the video remains intact, the Detroit Free Press claims they removed a memory card, which is not the easiest thing to do on an iPhone.

Now police are ensuring an internal affairs investigation, which means we should not inquire about the matter until we forget about it.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, sent a letter protesting the arrest to Detroit Police Chief James E. Craig.


About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

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  • jim

    so she was doing nothing wrong and when the cop asked her to back-up she did
    now why did he put hands on her and take her phone anything after that is from his illegal actions

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