The Detroit Guild on Thursday sent a letter to Police Chief James Craig denouncing Free Press photographer Mandi Wright’s arrest last week after filming an arrest with an iPhone.
“The Guild demands that you issue a formal apology to Wright and that you take disciplinary action against the officers responsible for this illegal conduct against a photo journalist, who was just doing her job while witnessing a police arrest on a public street,” guild president Lou Mleczko wrote. He also sent a letter to Free Press publisher Paul Anger urging the organization “to take further action directed at the Detroit Police Department.”
The letters come the same week the National Press Photographer’s Association sent a letter to Detroit police this week saying Wright’s First Amendment rights were violated.
“In any free country the balance between actual vigilance and over-zealous enforcement is delicate,” NPPA lawyer Mickey Osterreicher wrote in the letter to Detroit Police Chief James Craig, the Freep’s Gina Damron reports. “It may be understandable that law enforcement officers have a heightened sense of awareness after pursuing an armed suspect — but that is no excuse for blatantly violating a person’s First Amendment rights — as appears to be the case here.”
Wright was working on a training project with reporter Kathleen Gray on July 11 when she began to record the arrest of a suspect on a public street. She was wearing press identification when she was approached by a police officer not wearing a uniform and told to stop recording, then had her phone confiscated before being arrested. The officer, who has not been named, asserted that Wright was obstructing an officer by jumping on his back to retrieve the phone; Wright says she only pulled on his shirttail.
Detroit police are now investigating the incident, including claims that Wright’s SIM card was removed from her phone and that she was left in an interrogation room with the suspect whose arrest she had been recording, an allegation “that could be a serious breach of department policy,” Deputy Chief James Tolbert told the Freep.
Free Press attorney Herschel Fink told Fox 2 News’ Amy Lange that Wright’s arrest was improper, to say the least. “Any citizen has a right to photograph police conducting activities in public. This thing just spiraled out of control.”