News photographer arrested on Long Island for videotaping police

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 (; 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:

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  • Anonymous

    What protocol was he breaking?  He was well away from the scene in both instances and clearly not interfering with any part of the investigation.

  • kombizz

    It seems to me Phil was trying to try his human right on the street.

  • Tony L

    Hmmmm and what about stores or places of business that have “security” cameras in place but no signs posted that cameras are recording all areas of the store?  Seems to me that this fails the “2 party consent” rule as well and would take away from law enforcement a valuable tool.
    Time for either some common sense or some new rules.

  • Silver City Kid

    How about Enhanced Penalties for law enforcement personnel who abuse their authority or commit crimes. If I hit a cop, I get an ‘enhanced sentence’. Why don’t they since they are the thugs in charge?

  • Tasos Katopodis

    That cop should be fired, end of story, the street was not closed and kids are walking by, it amazing, the ones where should protect us have no brain at all

  • J Blue

    My brother was arrested while under contract @ a hip hop concert for not leaving. The city of new york now has a huge law suit for their complete and utter ignorance to respect the law in which they are meant to uphold.

  • Larry Higgs

    Sometimes a little education on both sides of the badge goes a long way. Police need to be educated about what the first amendment allows us to do  (and what it prohibits them from doing) and some journalists could use a course in crime/fire scene protocal.  

  • Bryan Cox

    When citizens violate the law they are typically prosecuted; it will be interesting to see if Suffolk County applies the same standard to its police force. Refresher media relations training is great, but false arrest and depriving an individual of his civil rights are themselves criminal offenses.

  • Anonymous
  • Robert.R.Cathey

    Can’t wait to hear the Sgt’s side of this. 

  • Anonymous

    I wrote about this in the front page of the Boston Globe about a year and a half ago.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s the article from Newsday Mobile. Great way to get around the Dolan paywall: