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.