WNYW / Newsday
A freelance news photographer was arrested Friday and charged with obstruction after he was ordered to stop videotaping police. An officer told the photographer, Phil Datz, to “go away,” after which he moved down the street and resumed taping. Despite being a credentialed member of the press and standing in a public area around other people, he was arrested and charged with obstruction of governmental administration. [Update: Police now plan to drop the charge.] In May, a woman in Rochester, N.Y., was arrested on her lawn after videotaping police. Gizmodo reported last year that more people are being arrested for videotaping police, often under laws that prohibit eavesdropping without all parties’ consent. Recording the police in public is legal in New York.
Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, sent a letter to the Suffolk County Police Department protesting Datz’ arrest and asking them to drop the charge:
According to news reports Mr. Datz complied with your officer’s unreasonable request to move away from the scene while the general public was allowed access. In the video – uploaded to YouTube — your officer acts in an angry and unprofessional manner and appears to have no concept of the first amendment rights granted to the press under the United States and New York Constitutions. Although Mr. Datz contacted your PIO officer your department was unable to do anything to rectify the situation.
…While in some situations the press may have no greater rights than those of the general public, they certainly have no less right of access on a public street, especially where a crime scene perimeter has not been clearly established.
Related: What to do when police tell you to stop taking photos, video (Poynter.org); If you use your cell phone to record the police, is that considered “secret” recording? (Ars Technica)
Here’s footage of the Long Island incident: