NYPD Cop Handcuffs Photojournalist and Deletes Video Footage of Stop-and-Frisk Detainment

A New York City police officer handcuffed a photojournalist before deleting his footage Wednesday, forcing the photographer to view the NYPD in a new light.

“I’ve always been very pro-cop, never been anti-cop,” Shimon Gifter said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime Thursday night.

“But if they can do this to a guy who is known to the community and to the cops as being very pro-cop, I would love to see what they would do a guy who is anti-NYPD.”

Gifter, who is based in Brooklyn and shoots for Jewish websites, said he was going about his day when he heard officers calling for back up to an area not far from him.

He quickly arrived on the scene expecting to find chaos, but everything was under control with several cops standing on the corner conversing and one suspect handcuffed in a police van.

So he started talking to people in the neighborhood, trying to figure out what had happened, discovering there was some type of altercation but several suspects had run off.

Meanwhile, four young men came upon the scene and were detained by police, although he didn’t believe they were involved in what had taken place.

But he started shooting video of police talking to them just in case. He was standing about 100 feet away.

“A cop walked up to me and told me not to film them because they are juveniles and I said OK,” he said.

“I usually don’t put stuff out there of juveniles unless they shot or stabbed somebody.”

So Gifter continued recording other parts of the scene, including the man in the police van as well as a police car driving the wrong way down the street.

Then out of nowhere, a sergeant from the 70th Precinct grabbed him from behind, snatched his camera and handcuffed him, forcing him to face a wall while he began scrolling through the camera, deleting all the clips he had recorded.

“He said, ‘you’re under arrest, didn’t the officers tell you to stop filming?’

“I said, yeah, but so what, it’s not illegal and I wasn’t filming the juveniles anyway.'”

Gifter kept trying to look back at what they were doing but the cop kept ordering him to turn away.

However, several witnesses were observing the situation, including when the cop dropped the camera, appearing to have done it on purpose.

After about ten minutes, they removed the handcuffs, returned him camera and sent him on his way.

It wasn’t until later that he realized they probably didn’t want him video recording them making a stop-and-frisk stop, a controversial policy in which a New York judge recently ruled a portion of it unconstitutional.

“I didn’t even know about the ruling, I knew there was some debate.”

He said the stop didn’t appear to be very interesting at the time. It was just some cops jotting down information from the youths.

Gifter, 38, has contacted the precinct’s internal affairs division and was assured the incident would be investigated, but he is not buying it.

“I think they’re lying. I don’t think they’re investigating at all,” he said.

“They didn’t ask for any of the names of the witnesses or anything.”

He said he has at least four witnesses but there were at least 75 people in the area when it took place.

He has somebody who is trying to recover the video. I hope they’re using PhotoRec.

NYPD Deputy Inspector Eric Rodriguez of the 70th Precinct

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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  • Phred

    “Gifter, 38, has contacted the precinct’s internal affairs division and
    was assured the incident would be investigated, but he is not buying it.”

    I wouldn’t buy it, either. Cops lie. It’s part of their DNA.

  • Joel Turner

    You’ve given me an idea.

    • Gordon Freeman

      That, that looks like an evil gleam in your eye. Should I call the lawyers now, or can you run fast?

  • Tom Jankowski

    Maybe the ACLU should go after the NYPD next!

  • Cops lie

    Coward cop illegally detains man and deletes his video footage of NYPD’s abusive stop and frisk policy in action. These are the same people who you should trust to take your guns away from you to protect you …

    • steveo

      Not only that, it was a Sgt. who was probably supervising the scene, so you know this policy of detaining photojournalists goes further up the food chain.

  • Ralph

    Make a formal IAB complaint. Follow up with the investigating officer. Believe me, the IAB cops are hated by the rank and file because they don’t pull any punches and cover stuff up. It’s sort of like a police force within a police force.

    • Rob

      Internal Affairs won’t do squat. They never do. This being a color of law incident, it needs to be reported to the FBI.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tim.smith.106902 Tim Smith

    Police officers generally have broad powers to carry out their duties. The Constitution and other laws, however, place limits on how far police can go in trying to enforce the law. As the videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King, in Los Angeles and several recent cases in New York have illustrated, police officers sometimes go too far, violating the rights of citizens. When this happens, the victim of the misconduct may have recourse through federal and state laws. A primary purpose of the nation’s civil rights laws is to protect citizens from abuses by government, including police misconduct. Civil rights laws allow attorney fees and compensatory and punitive damages as incentives for injured parties to enforce their rights.

    Overcoming Immunity

    Being stopped and questioned by police in connection with a crime is an unsettling experience for most anyone. As long as the officer is performing his job properly, however, there is no violation of a suspect’s rights. In fact, police are immune from suit for the performance of their jobs unless willful, unreasonable conduct is demonstrated. Mere negligence, the failure to exercise due care, is not enough to create liability. Immunity therefore means that in the typical police-suspect interaction, the suspect cannot sue the police. Civil rights remedies come into play for willful police conduct that violates an individual’s constitutional rights.

    Civil Rights Laws and Police Misconduct

    A statute known as Section 1983 is the primary civil rights law victims of police misconduct rely upon. This law was originally passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which was intended to curb oppressive conduct by government and private individuals participating in vigilante groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan. It is now called Section 1983 because that is where the law has been published, within Title 42, of the United States Code. Section 1983 makes it unlawful for anyone acting under the authority of state law to deprive another person of his or her rights under the Constitution or federal law. The most common claims brought against police officers are false arrest (or false imprisonment), malicious prosecution, and use of excessive or unreasonable force.

    False Arrest
    The claim that is most often asserted against police is false arrest. Persons bringing this claim assert that police violated their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure. If the officer had probable causeto believe the individual had committed a crime, the arrest is reasonable and the Fourth Amendment has not been violated. Police can arrest without a warrant for a felony or misdemeanor committed in their presence. (Some states also allow warrantless arrests for misdemeanor domestic assaults not committed in the officer’s presence.) Even if the information the officer relied upon later turns out to be false, the officer is not liable if he believed it was accurate at the time of the arrest. To prevail on a false arrest claim, the victim must show that the arresting officer lacked probable cause, that is, facts sufficient to cause a reasonable person to believe that a crime had been committed.

    Malicious Prosecution
    A malicious prosecution claim asserts that the officer wrongly deprived the victim of the Fourteenth Amendment right to liberty. To win this type of claim, the victim must show four things: 1) the defendant police officer commenced a criminal proceeding; 2) the proceeding ended in the victim’s favor (that is, no conviction); 3) there was no probable cause; and 4) the proceeding was brought with malice toward the victim. As with false arrest, this claim will fail if the officer had probable cause to initiate criminal proceedings.

    Excessive Force
    Excessive force claims receive the most publicity, perhaps because the results of excessive force seem the most outrageous, involving serious physical injury or death. Whether the officer’s use of force was reasonable depends on the surrounding facts and circumstances. The officer’s intentions or motivations are not controlling. If the amount of force was reasonable, it doesn’t matter that the officer’s intentions were bad. But the reverse is also true: if the officer had good intentions, but used unreasonable force, the excessive force claim will not be dismissed.

    Failure to Intervene
    Officers have a duty to protect individuals from constitutional violations by fellow officers. Therefore, an officer who witnesses a fellow officer violating an individual’s constitutional rights may be liable to the victim for failing to intervene.

    The Qualified Immunity Defense

    Defense attorneys representing a police officer for any of these claims will raise a defense of qualified immunity. This defense exists to prevent the fear of legal prosecution from inhibiting a police officer from enforcing the law. The defense will defeat a claim against the officer if the officer’s conduct did not violate a clearly established constitutional or statutory right. In other words, the specific acts the officer prevented the individual from engaging in must be legally protected, otherwise there is no civil rights violation. In order to win a civil rights claim, an individual bringing a police misconduct claim must prove that the actions of the police exceeded reasonable bounds, infringed the victim’s constitutional rights, and produced some injury or damages to the victim.

    Police Misconduct: If You’ve Been Affected

    Civil rights claims are an important part of our legal system, providing a balance between the duty of law enforcement to uphold the laws, and the rights of individuals to be free from police misconduct. Yet cases against police officers can be difficult. Officers may be immune from suit, even though an individual feels he or she was mistreated. Claims against police departments can also be expensive to bring because a lot of evidence must be secured, including records, statements of police, statements of witnesses, and various other documentation, to prove the misconduct.

    The evidence supporting your claim is the most important element in a police misconduct suit. If you feel you’ve been the victim of police misconduct, contact a Civil Rights Attorney promptly so that valuable evidence does not disappear. Take photographs of any injuries or damage caused by the police, and set aside clothing or other objects that was torn or stained with blood from the incident. Try to get the names and addresses or telephone numbers of anyone who may have witnessed the incident. Also, write down exactly what happened as soon as you can, so that you don’t forget important details.

  • Go Pro Guy

    Once again it is okay for a bad cop to turn his back on the Constitution and the landmark decisions on audio/video recording. “We are above the law! How many times do I have to beat that into you?”

  • Gordon Freeman

    I’m shocked, SHOCKED I tell you and dismayed, DISMAYED, that a single encounter with the NYPD could change a groupie into a cynic. I mean he didn’t even get a cavity search out of the deal. He should have held out for a good cavity search at least.

  • Dan Seidel

    Photog has a pay day coming!!!!! MAY I HAVE THE CASE PLEASE?!!!!!!!!!!! OH this is an easy one!!!!! Damn!! AND in light of GLIK v. CUNNIFFE (USCA, 1ST CIR; 8/26/11) !!!! MANY MANY COURT CASES!!!! I have been teaching these cases last year and this – cutting edge stuff – COPS MAY NOT ARREST YOU FOR TAKING PIX!!!!!!

    90 day Notice of Claims filing date: GenMunLaw Sct 50(e) – also 42 USC 1983, possibly even the 1981 – conspiracy to violate rights – supervisory liability…….. damn beauty of a case!


    Dan Seidel
    White Plains, NY

  • CelticWhisper

    Not only PhotoRec, they should be using something like TapIn to make sure the video gets safely away from the cop and in front of the eyes of the public before the cop can do anything about it.

    • steveo

      Also, if he is able to recover the incident, don’t let anyone know (except for the FBI) that you have the copy because if the leos go into coverup mode and start doing the lying (here’s our story for the investigators)and it’s totally contrary to the video/audio, they could be going to federal prison.

  • Ron SPCBuffalo

    How was NYPD Deputy Inspector Eric Rodriguez involved ? The article states a Sergeant did this ?

    • steveo

      Forget about the NYPD, don’t complain to them, even the Mayor is supporting this activity. You have to complain to the Office of Civil Rights through the FBI. They won’t do anything without a complaint. And don’t expect Deptuy Inspector whoever to say to the Feds that he thinks his foot soldiers are in the wrong. They want to protect the Stop and Frisk program at all costs including huge civil settlements. Copwatchers need to get to these areas and make sure you have back up.

    • Carlos_Miller

      He is the head of the 70th Precinct where the sergeant works out of.

  • Tijuana Joe

    Under Giuliani, it was just cops investigating cops. Rudy fought like crazy for that.
    I don’t think Bloomberg reversed that.

    My hunch is the deleted video, if recovered, will help more than this facade of impartial oversight.

  • steveo

    The photojournalist should go back to the scene and see if he can discover any surveillance cameras that were pointed in his direction. In NY, Bloomberg wants to put one on every street corner and many, many private businesses have outdoor cameras now. I would be great to get a video view of the arrest of the photojournalist, yes, it was a false arrest, even though the Leos say you are not under arrest, you are. Try resisting and see what they do.
    He may have to act quickly because video is sometimes deleted within 30 days, if irrelevant. NYPD would make sure that that encounter would be irrelevant.

    Several constitutional violations here. (2) 1st Amendment, (3) 4th Amendment, probably a Monell claim because this was a supervisor and he wasn’t arrested for disorderly conduct or obstruction, he was arrested for filming which falls under protected speech. Also a federal claim under 42 USC 2000a. The 2000a claim should be a slam-dunk because he really is a photojournalist.

    Also, alerting the higher command of this incident was probably not a good idea initially, because they can move to delete whatever surveillance video is available, circle the wagons and work on the cover up strategy.

  • steveo

    Here we go again, make a formal complaint to the local FBI office “color of law” division. Copy the complaint to the US Attorney’s in charge of the Sharp v. Baltimore case.

    Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division JONATHAN M. SMITH ;Chief Special Litigation Section TIMOTHY D. MYGATT Special Counsel Special Litigation Section THOMAS E. PEREZ Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division : Address: U.S. Department of Justice
    Civil Rights Division
    950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20530
    Telephone: (202) 616-2446
    Facsimile: (202) 514-0212
    Also, copy the complaint to Bloomberg and Kelly after sending the complaint to the FBI for investigation. Also, after making the complaint try to get main stream media involved.

    After these bozo local cops go through a few of these FBI investigations, the word will be out not to (F) with street journalists anymore. Lying to a federal agent will get you federal prison time.
    Most important, if not already, join the NPPA.

    • Common Sense

      Steveo, I must say I like your steps and information! I sure wish it would work that way. However, as someone who has worked often with the “Bureau” I hold almost no faith in them. It seems their only focus now days is terrorism. Mind you this is “terrorism,” but they sure wont see it that way.

      Not trying to deter anyone from going to them, just pointing out from my experience.

      I do think the information you provided here are great steps. Remember in government the “squeaky wheel gets the grease.” In other words gotta make some noise! Maybe even schedule a march/protest as to all the illegal actions of the NYPD, there have been a lot, and having some main stream media coverage of that. Public pressure may cause some things to take place!

  • Jimmy

    They always drop the camera, don’t they.

    • Jerith

      I wonder if you can disable or lock the delete button/function. Or disable the view screen so they can’t see what you’ve taken. And duct tape the camera to your hand!

  • http://freedomsphoenix.com FascistNation

    Welcome to the party, pal.

  • http://www.dregstudios.com Brandt Hardin

    “Stop and Frisk” is racial profiling plain and simple. This is illegal behavior on the part of law enforcement and is a breach of civil rights for anyone stopped, regardless of race. The actions and abuse by the NYPD are filling the definition of a “Police State.” You can read much more about cops running amuck and how they’ve violated civil liberties across the country at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-privatized-police-state.html

  • joyce

    Bloomberg and Kelly are responsible for this. Hey NY Media and News corporations get with it and stop pussyfooting around with these oppresive politicians and NYPD rogues.

  • NHumphreys

    Isn’t deleting the footage destroying evidence? A felony?

  • Barking Dog

    Precinct doesn’t have an Internal Affairs Division. It’s Internal Affairs Bureau and it’s citywide out of NYPD HQ.

    The precinct has an integrity officer but for all practical purposes they don’t exist. there is no discipline as evidenced by what a young cop told me today.

    I was parking the car and taking pics of graffiti along the way out when another car parking stopped to tell us of his encounter with the graffiti guys and the cops.

    Said he took the marker and wrote all over the kids face. Said “when the cops come, I show them by badge and tell them what ya gonna do?”

    So I ask if he’s MOS (member of the service, NYPD lingo for being a cop.). “Uhh who are you?” And he wouldn’t say after just telling me he ‘s got a “badge” (NYPD lingo is to call it a “shield”)

    I just looked at my buddy who looks like a retired cop and actually was, (in the Marines in Vietnam) and we just left the guy there. Hope he saw the antenna in my pocket on my radio and told a few cautionary tales at roll call about just who is out there……..

  • Barking Dog

    Dan Seidel, you taking NYC cases? I’m headed into federal court to ask a judge to ORDER the FBI to take a complaint about all involved including the DA and the judge, as well as oversee the criminal case against me.

    To me, my arrest was a kidnapping and a robbery along with a criminal conspiracy. As I have been doing this more than 30 years, I was able to tell who all the players were while I was locked in the cell, including the police union “fixer” guy.

    My camera seems to have a disease that has made it untouchable for the last 2 years. It has a movie of what really happened. They won’t copy it as per state law.

    And there’s a warrant for my arrest.

    After 2 years and 17 court appearances, they threw me out of the court for asking loudly where my cam was while my free lawyer tries to shush me with “Be quiet, they have all the power”

    Then I was thrown out and a new date was set with me not there and no one telling me about it.

    There are too many details to go into here but the Fed court clerk, hearing some of the details, said “That doesn’t go on here.” Didn’t mention the fight at the jailhouse the cops had trying to get EMS intake to sign a paper saying I was beat up when I wasn’t.

    That was to let the corrupt IAB get into the camera as they wanted to see what was on it before making up some charges. Not to be trusted and along with the CCRB. Caught them big time protecting the cops they are supposed to be independent of. A doozy of a charade they made

    Too bad for them I taped all the calls. They dismissed my complaint that the original complaint was a fake and I never made one. Since I didn’t cooperate on the original complaint that wasn’t mine, they added my new complaint to the one I didn’t make and dismissed them both. I’ve been waiting years for such evidence against them, it’s as good as it gets as evidence to dissolve them and get a real board in

    This is a one time opportunity for you. A slam dunk case but not an easy one. Hopefully, I’ll be joining up with Frank Serpico of Knapp Commision fame who is back in the States to help on the Schoolcraft case. Both are hiding out upstate.

    It won’t be easy but it will be famous. Looking to send a message to all involved that criminal time for NYPD in NYC is OVER! I’ll be my own lawyer but will accept counsel.

    Contact me thru Carlos.

  • Anton Nym

    Unfortunate that it has come to this, but everyone should know by now that if you’re recording the cops, have someone recording you do it. Also, secure your phone so if a cop approaches, you can lock it down. There are aps that let you record from a locked phone.