Photographers sue LA County Sheriff’s Dept. for harassment

Los Angeles Times
Are news and other professional photographers in Los Angeles being singled out for harassment by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department? That’s the allegation of a lawsuit announced Thursday, Oct. 27 by the ACLU of Southern California. The LA Times reports:

The federal lawsuit alleges the Sheriff’s Department and deputies “have repeatedly” subjected photographers “to detention, search and interrogation simply because they took pictures” from public streets of places such as Metro turnstiles, oil refineries or near a Long Beach courthouse.

The suit was filed on behalf of three photographers, Shawn Nee, Greggory Moore and Shane Quentin, as well as the National Photographers’ Rights Organization. Nee is described in the filing as an “aspiring” photojournalist; Moore shoots for the Long Beach Post; and Quentin is a freelancer. Nee was detained in October 2009 and searched while shooting pictures of the subway; the deputy also “threatened to forward Nee’s name to counterterrorism so it could be added to an FBI ‘hit list’.” The incident was captured on video but the deputy was not disciplined for his rough handling of the photographer.

“Photographers in Los Angeles and nationwide are increasingly subject to harassment by police officers,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Assn. “Safety and security concerns should not be used as a pretext to chill free speech and expression.”

Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said that the sheriff’s actions toward photographers “violates the Constitution’s core protections” and that “to single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong.”

Related: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Commander: Officers trained that ‘potential terrorist’ activity such as photography merits pat-down searches (Long Beach Post) | LA sheriff threatens to submit photographer to FBI’s hit list (YouTube video) | Newspaper guild says police detained Oakland Tribune, SF Chronicle photojournalists (Guild)

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