After years of New York City police officers attacking, arresting and intimidating photographers, the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board decided to launch “a study” to determine whether or not the NYPD is properly trained to deal with citizens who video record them in the line of duty.
Apparently, the board empowered to make disciplinary recommendations after reviewing cases of police abuse just got wind of the fact that NYPD cops have a problem with cameras, something we’ve seen with viral regularity since “9/11 changed everything.”
According to the Wall Street Journal:
The board will examine if officers are appropriately trained on how to handle people who are recording. It was unclear how many of the board’s 2,545 open cases involve the issue.
It is legal for bystanders to record officers as they make arrests. But in the heat of the moment, the rule is sometimes ignored, said board member Tosano Simonetti, a retired deputy police commissioner. “From my practical experience, most cops would react by saying, ‘Get the hell out of here, you can’t be doing that,’ ” he said. “You get hot on the street, and it happens.”
The board may issue recommendations to the NYPD, depending on its conclusions.
An NYPD spokesman said bystanders are allowed to film officers making arrests, but it doesn’t give them the right to block traffic or try to interfere.
“It becomes a safety issue. Our concern is people aren’t interfering in any way,” said Detective James Duffy. “Police are allowed to tell bystanders to back up or give them space while the officer is performing a lawful action.”
Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union said his office fields many complaints on the issue. The NYCLU is currently pursuing a case where a woman was arrested in Bedford-Stuyvesant after filming an officer who stopped, questioned and frisked a person, he said.
“No one likes having a camera in their face,” Mr. Dunn said, adding, “In today’s world, [smartphones] are everywhere.”
My experience with the citizen review boards in Miami is that they are a joke and are usually just getting paid to do nothing. And even if they do make disciplinary recommendations, the police chief will usually ignore them.
This one doesn’t appear to have much more clout, according Shawn Randall Thomas, who has been arrested numerous times over the years for recording cops, the latest arrest where charges are still pending, which you can see in the above video.
This is what he had to say about the study.
I don’t believe that the C.C.R.B. is the most appropriate agency to do the study. I believe this will detract from their primary responsibilities, which they are already struggling with; I would guess that just handling the logistics to undertake such a study would further diminish the capacity of the Board to do its work. Additionally, they have little power to make any effective changes even if they wanted to do so. If one really did not want this issue with the NYPD to be effectively address, the C.C.R.B. would be the right agency to hand this responsibility to.
The NYCLU on the other hand could more effectively undertake such a study, and likely already has under its control, the requisite data to do such a study. They also would be more competent in making recommendations. They have been at this type of work, and dealing with this issue and similar issues, longer than the C.C.R.B., and have the legal background and aptitude to more effectively examine this issue.
That being said, I believe that new legislation is required to really deal with abusive police officers. Just as legislation was written to protect Civil Service workers from assaults from members of the public, there should be legislation to protect members of the public from corrupt and abusive Civil Service workers.
Although we have seen countless incidents of NYPD cops arresting photographers, I can only think of one who was disciplined, an NYPD cop named Michael Ackermann who was indicted last year after he arrested a New York Times photographer, claiming he had blinded him with a flash at close ranger when the photographer didn’t even have a flash on his camera.
Just over two weeks ago, NYPD arrested a man for video recording them, claiming the phone could have been a gun.
The Wall Street Journal article linked above may be blocked by a paywall. If so, Google the words,”New York City Officer Reactions to Being Recorded Will Be Studied.”