A police officer forcibly escorted Baltimore Sun photo editor Chris Assaf away from the scene of a police-involved shooting on Feb. 21.
He had been taking pictures from outside the police lines, but an officer told him he had to move back further. Assaf protested, stating he was within his First Amendment rights to be where he was standing. Another officer then forced him to move. The Sun is posting all of Assaf’s images from the shooting scene as well as photos taken by Sun photographer Lloyd Fox, who witnessed and documented the incident. Lt. Eric Kowalczk, the chief spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, said the department has opened an internal investigation into the allegation. He declined to comment more specifically on the incident, “because we have an investigation and we don’t want to prejudice that.”
(contains some mildly graphic pictures in both links)
As police departments around the country are increasingly caught up in tussles with members of the public who record their activities, the U.S. Justice Department has come out with a strong statement supporting the First Amendment right of individuals to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties.
In a surprising letter sent on Monday to attorneys for the Baltimore Police Department, the Justice Department also strongly asserted that officers who seize and destroy such recordings without a warrant or without due process are in strict violation of the individual’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
“You know what Miami gets in their crime show? They get detectives that look like models, and they drive around in sports cars. And you know what New York gets, they get these incredibly tough prosecutors, competent cops that solve the most crazy, complicated cases. —What Baltimore gets is this reinforced notion that it's a city full of hopelessness, despair and dysfunction. There was very little effort—beyond self-serving—to highlight the great and wonderful things happening here, and to indict the whole population, the criminal justice system, the school system.” —Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III,
on the effect of The Wire
on Baltimore’s reputation. [more inside]
The Wire - David Simon's original pitch and series bible.
"At the end of thirteen episodes, the viewer - who has been lured all this way by a well-constructed police show - is not the simple gratification of hearing handcuffs click. Instead the conclusion is something Euripides or O'Neill might recognize: an America at every level at war with itself." [Previously.
"A detective does his job in the only possible way. He follows the requirements of the law to the letter -- or close enough so as not to jeopardize his case. Just as carefully, he ignores that law's spirit and intent. He becomes a salesman, a huckster as thieving and silver-tongued as any man who ever moved used cars or aluminum siding -- more so, in fact, when you consider that he's selling long prison terms to customers who have no genuine need for the product.
" [more inside]