These days there’s always a camera near the spotlight

Nice snapshot by the First Amendment Center’s Ken Paulson on the latest conflict between law officers and a seemingly law abiding photographer.

Today video devices are ubiquitous. Flip video cameras and phones with built-in camcorders mean that almost any image can be captured at any time by anyone. Good taste is the least of law enforcement’s concerns.

Increasingly, tensions arise when the press or public try to document police activity on video. On July 29, Phil Datz , a freelance cameraman with news credentials, was arrested by police in Suffolk County, Long Island. The video Datz took of the arresting officer — already viewed by about 40,000 people on YouTube — shows a police sergeant ordering him to “go away” even though the journalist is well away from the crime scene. Neighbors stand nearby and watch the gathering of police and squad cars from a similar distance, but are not disturbed. Even when Datz asks for an explanation or suggests contacting the police department’s public information officer, he’s told to leave. In the end, a squad car pulls up and Datz is arrested.

The conflict between photographers and the authorities is heating up.

Just a couple of weeks ago, attorney Morgan Manning wrote a piece in the Knoxville News Sentinel Perspective section on ‘War on Photography’ tramples rights.

The Radio, Television, Digital news Association said Tuesday it is trying to open a dialogue with the Suffolk County police and other police departments to discuss First Amendment training issues.

“This arrest showed a gross misunderstanding of the media’s First Amendment right to inform the public. With that said, RTDNA is here to help,” RTDNA Chairman Mark Kraham said.

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