Just Down the Road Apiece (Update)

Stories of cops arresting folks for taping them in the performance of their duties have become legend, well documented and frequent subjects of exposure and ridicule.  Even  other cops have had enough of it.  But my view of this silliness has always been from a safe distance, the closest being upstate Rochester, viewed from the safety of my sophisticated Long Island window as New York’s version of hicks.

My world has been shattered by the actions in my own backyard.  Via Newsday :

Suffolk police on Friday arrested a news cameraman in Bohemia who was trying to videotape the aftermath of a police chase, officials said Saturday.
The cameraman, Phil Datz, was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of governmental administration, police said. The department said it is investigating the case.
Datz said he was standing on a public street open to pedestrians and vehicles…

 

Seriously?  Has this Suffolk County sergeant not been paying attention at all?

There’s nothing to investigate.  There’s nothing to explain.  This can’t happen.  Phil Datz can videotape the police in the performance of their duty, and no cop, not even with 30 years experience, can decide otherwise.  I mean, not lawfully, anyway.

True, you didn’t beat Datz or tase him.  You didn’t pull your weapon and put his life at risk.  But you arrested him because he didn’t obey you?  Did you think nobody would notice?  Did you think that Suffolk County was sufficiently distant from the metropolis that no one would notice your abuse of power?

I can’t help but wonder what good things this 30 year vet might have done during his career as a police officer.  I can’t help but wonder how many people he arrested for contempt of cop.  But what I can’t fathom most of all is that this happened in my own backyard.

I’ve known many local police officers, whether working the job in Suffolk or Nassau County.  I’ve known many who are city cops, all of whom live on Long Island because that’s the natural progression of New York City police officers.  They know that being a cop here is different than in some backwater.  They know they are being watched, and that we’re not inclined to let something like this pass unnoticed.

And I won’t let this pass unnoticed.  Not in my backyard.

Update:  Suffolk County settled the case for $200,000.

13 comments on “Just Down the Road Apiece (Update)

  1. Dan

    Does this 30 year vet make 150K or 250K, and how much overtime did he make processing this arrest?

  2. SHG

    A 30 year vet in Suffolk County makes a very comfortable living.  Overtime only becomes an issue in the three years preceding retirement, when it kicks the pension into high gear, but I didn’t get the sense this was a money issue.  Then again, I could be wrong.

  3. Thomas R. Griffith

    Sir, thanks for simply not letting it go. May be you could wire up some folks to introduce a bill that automatically brings in the FBI & DOJ when public servants go left.

    From past experience it would be wise to remember his name, for he’ll be on a judicial ballot after he does a year or two pretending to be an attorney/lawyer. Thanks.

    Note: Would you consider appointing a future Post for the declaration of a date to mark as “National – Film a Public Servant (24 Hour) Day”?

  4. SHG

    An excellent idea.  I doubt I have the juice to make such a thing happen, but perhaps a star like Radley Balko would pick up the idea and run with it.

  5. Mike Foley

    This problem is more widespread than most people believe. I believe it is a function of the lack of oversight of our police forces and the lack of any punishment when law enforcement or government personnel abuse their powers. This is true of police officers, state attorneys, etc. We have granted immunity that most of these people hide behind. Even when found to be in the wrong, the results are no punishments or slaps on the wrists.

    [Ed. Note: link deleted per rules.]

  6. Crawdad

    Contrast that frothing lunatic with the following:

    [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules.]

    Unfortunately, if you run into an LEO, you’ve no choice if it’s the ghoulish cretin in your post or the cool and sober fellow linked in this comment.

  7. SHG

    This is about as good an update as one can expect.  Via Newsday, charges dropped as Datz wasn’t obstructing anyone. The police won’t provide the sergeant’s name or say what will happen to him, but will be providing a “refresher” course to its police regarding the interaction between police and the news media (as opposed to regular folks with cameras). 

    The explanation being offered is that there were undercover officers on the scene, and the sergeant didn’t want their identities revealed.  Datz responds that had he merely said that (which he never did), their faces would have been blurred out of the footage as they usually are.  Whether it’s true that this is what motivated the sergeant’s conduct remains an article of faith.

  8. EarlW

    Thanks for the update. With the advent of Youtube and smartphones, interactions with law enforcement is going to get much more public. They are not going to like that.
    I predict a larger demand for smartphone apps that can stream directly to the internet, eliminating the possibility of videos being ‘lost’.

  9. Blind Guy

    There is a great difference between an undercover cop and one in plainclothes. I am not always sure the cops notice this when the press is around. A u/c should not have been on this scene. Just because a cop is in plainclothes does not make her an uncercover cop.

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