Several recent incidents suggest a disturbing new trend: public safety officials targeting photographers, including professionals, reports the American Journalism Review. “Cops don’t want to be identified,” says Lucy Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “They don’t want their pictures taken.” The relationship between journalists and police officers has always been tense, of course. “They’re both aggressive professions, and sometimes they get in one another’s face,” says John Timoney, former police chief in Miami and Philadelphia. Something clearly has changed. “It used to be guys with a reputation for not following orders” who wound up in confrontations with police, Dalglish says. “These days, it’s folks keeping their mouths shut and doing their jobs.”
What’s different now, some say, is the proliferation of cellphone cameras on the street combined with heightened concern about terrorism. “I think that post 9/11 police treat everyone with a camera as suspect,” says Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association. “In certain instances, news photographers are singled out because of their high visibility.” Police officers should know better than to run anyone in just for taking pictures. “We tell them constantly at the academy, ‘Take it for granted, you’re going to be on camera,'” Timoney says. “Everybody has a camera and they’re entitled to use it. We police have to suck it up.” Journalism groups say officers need training to make sure they understand the rights of professionals and citizens alike to take pictures of police activity in public places. Timoney doubts that more training is the answer. “If police don’t understand this now, all the training in the world isn’t going to help.”
For more on this subject, see this article in The Crime Report.