Metropolitan police in Washington D.C. once again confiscated a man’s camera despite a general order forbidding them from doing do.
Even though two photos were published in the Washington City Paper, there is not much information on the incident.
The photos, in fact, were published without captions under the headline, “Photos: Camera Seizure.”
It wasn’t until readers began demanding more information in the comments section that photographer Matt Dunn posted more info in a response.
Someone complained to the MPD about an alleged threat made by one of the ISUPK speakers. The cop pictured said he was taking the video camera for evidence. See General Order by Chief Cathy Lanier, dated 7/23/2012. http://legaltimes.typepad.com/files/go_304_19.pdf
I don’t even know what ISUPK stands for and he doesn’t elaborate, but it really doesn’t matter.
What matters is this appears to be a direct violation of the general order unless they can prove they were acting under exigent circumstances.
Here is the section from the order detailing how they must obtain a camera for evidence:
If a member has probable cause to believe that a camera or other recording device contains images or sounds that are evidence of criminal acts, the member shall request that the person either:
a. Voluntarily provide the device or recording medium (e.g., the memory chip) to the member; or
b. Where possible and practicable, and in the presence of the member, voluntarily transmit the images or sound via text message or electronic mail to the member’s official government electronic mail account.
c. Consent to take possession of a recording device or medium must be given voluntarily. A member shall not, implicitly or explicitly, coerce consent to take possession of any recording device or any information thereon.
3. If the person provides the device or recording medium to the member, the member shall:
a. Exercise due care and caution with any of the individual’s property or electronic device(s);
b. Obtain CCN numbers for the evidence obtained, and provide the CCN numbers to the individual;
c. In the “Property listing/Evidence Recovered” section of any applicable field report(s), Document the item(s) surrendered by the individual in the PD-81 in accordance with MPD procedures;
d. Document the member’s request and the individual’s response in the narrative of applicable field reports and other documents; and
e. Submit the device(s) to the Electronic Surveillance Unit to access any relevant material as quickly as practicable. Members shall not attempt to view, download, or otherwise access any material contained on the device.
4. If the individual declines to voluntarily provide the device or recording medium, or to electronically transmit the sound and/or images where possible and practicable, and the member believes that exigent circumstances exist insofar as the evidence of criminal activity will be lost absent a seizure of the device, the member shall contact the Watch Commander, Criminal Investigations Division (CID).
a. The Watch Commander, CID, or other official with supervisory authority over the member, must be present at the scene before a member takes any significant action involving a person’s use of a recording device. This includes warrantless search or seizure of a camera or recording device, or an arrest.
b. The member shall inform the Watch Commander of the nature of the evidence of criminal acts believed to be contained on the device.
c. The Watch Commander, CID, shall, in consultation with the Commander, CID, determine whether exigent circumstances, including the seriousness of the possible crime at issue, permit the seizure of the device without a warrant. Warrantless seizure is permissible only when:
RECORDING OF MEMBERS BY THE PUBLIC (GO-OPS-304.19) 5 of 6
(1) There is probable cause to believe that the property holds contraband or evidence of a crime; and
(2) The exigencies of the circumstances demand it or some other recognized exception to the warrant requirement is present.
d. If the Watch Commander, CID, finds that exigent circumstances permit the seizure of the device without a warrant, approval shall be given to the member for the seizure.
e. The member shall obtain and provide CCN numbers to the individual possessing the device.
f. Any such seizure must be a temporary restraint intended only to preserve evidence until a warrant can be obtained. Illinois v. McArthur, 531 U.S. 326, 334 (2001).
Just last week, Metropolitan police officer Kristopher Baumann, who is a police union representative, joined Mickey Osterreicher from the National Press Photographers Association, along withan ACLU representative, on a Washington D.C. radio show to discuss the new guidelines, which you can listen to here.
Baumann was going on about how the guidelines were not necessary because officers already respect the rights of photographers, except, of course, when they need to disrespect their rights, which he said was made more difficult with the new guidelines.
But the new guidelines obviously don’t seem to make a difference, especially considering a man had his phone seized the day after it went into effect.
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