Greater Greater Washington

Shocking video shows serious Park Police disregard for rights

Yesterday, Park Police arrested 2 reporters simply because Taxi Commission interim chair Dena Reed wanted them removed. Jim Epstein, one of the reporters, has posted video showing a shocking disregard for constitutional rights from the arresting officer.

The video shows Peter Tucker, the other reporter, insisting this is a public meeting and he's doing nothing but recording it; the officer is telling him he has to agree to stop reporting or be arrested.

Police are supposed to protect the public, not act as the private security force for people in power.

What is going through these officers' heads? Say you're an officer who gets a call from someone running a meeting objecting to a reporter there. You show up and see for yourself that the reporter is just sitting quietly recording or taking notes, not disrupting the meeting. What would make you think that your appropriate course of action is to get rid of that person just because the chair asked?

This isn't an isolated incident. It relates to three troubling police-related subjects: The Park Police becoming very disrespectful toward individual liberty, the Metropolitan Police Department's escorts of celebrities, and numerous stories of officers arresting or assaulting people for legally videotaping events.

The Park Police's troubling behavior. The National Park Service is a paradoxical agency. It operates parks but frequently seems to not want anyone to enjoy those parks, or to be able to travel easily to and from them except by the least environmentally friendly means. It operates the venue that hosts the largest numbers of protests (the Mall), yet its police seem constantly averse to smaller and less intrusive First Amendment behaviors.

The Park Police chose to turn some silent and respectful dancing at the Jefferson Memorial into a major issue, and again overreacted to the subsequent dancing protest. They told an ABC7 news crew they couldn't report from the Mall, which is entirely false. They even shut down all the food trucks at Farragut Square despite them operating completely legally.

MPD escorts. Today the DC Council also held a hearing on news that MPD gave Charlie Sheen a high-speed escorts, with sirens and lights, in contravention of policy, and further that they do this quite often. Our police force is not supposed to be making life easier for celebrities, or helping them reach events quickly and get through traffic.

Its mission is keeping the public safe. That public does include celebrities, but as witnesses argued at the hearing, there was no reason to believe the Sheen escort was necessary for public safety. It seems to simply involve doing the bidding of famous or important people. That isn't far from the mindset that someone like Reed could simply ask the police to get rid of a pesky journalist and that the police would comply.

Nationwide harassment of photographers and videographers. Carlos Miller has documented many troubling cases of police blocking or even arresting people who try to take pictures or video of police activity or other public buildings and objects. Rochester, NY police arrested a women for videotaping from her own front yard. Boston police arrested a man for videotaping in a park.

Los Angeles police kept a teen in prison for 7 months after he videotaped them arresting an unrelated person; they are continuing to harass him despite him being uninvolved in the original crime.

Albuquerque police took away a reporter's camera and deleted footage of arrests at a nightclub; Miami police pulled a gun on a citizen taking video of a police shooting.

It's not just about people actually taping police activity. People have recently been arrested or detained for photographing a TSA checkpoint in Denver, a whale in Florida, and a courthouse in Dayton.

In this region, we've had problems with officers harassing people for photographing USDOT's historic gas pumps, Union Station, and the Baltimore light rail.

Certainly, this is a minority of cases. People probably photograph federal buildings, whales, transit, arrests by police and more all the time without being harassed. People videotape on the Mall constantly and the Park Police doesn't bother them. And for all we know, there have been times when the chair of a meeting asks officers to remove a reporter and the officers properly refuse, saying he or she is breaking no law.

But when there are so many incidents, we can say there's a pattern. There seem to be far more incidents with the Park Police than with other police forces. Police look for patterns of behavior to solve crimes. There's a pattern of behavior from the Park Police having trouble understanding or following the Constitution.

We hear many calls for Congress to intervene in District affairs, often on completely internal matters from those unhappy with an outcome. The Park Police, though, is a federal police force. Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress should be very concerned about their officers so blatantly disregarding the First Amendment. And DC officials should take strong action to correct this kind of behavior from the DC Taxi Commission.

Update: Reed says that Tucker insisted on placing his microphone in certain locations to get a better recording, and claims she was entitled to bar the practice or even to refuse recording entirely.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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That is insane. The US Park Police officer looks like his only training was How to Be an A**hole 101, instead of actually listening to the reporter. He's clearly sitting down and taking notes. That isn't disruption. Those officers on video should be repremanded immediately.

by CB on Jun 23, 2011 2:32 pm • linkreport

Agreed. The NPS generally knows how to deal with wilderness issues and does a tolerable job handling its non-urban parks. However, the NPS has proven to be near-incompetent when it comes to its urban parks. Rock Creek is a mess, the Mall is terribly unattractive, McPhereson Square is shabby, and even Dupont Circle, despite its reputation as a Great American Park, is ill-maintained. Priority goes to roads, they sign empty-headed concession contracts, and now their urban Park Police seem to be out of control. This is an absolutely unacceptable state of affairs.

I see two options going forward. Either the NPS sections off its urban lands into a sub-organization wholly administered by itself, or some other entity takes control of maintenance and design with NPS in an oversight position. It is unconscionable that DC has allowed so much of its public lands to be so ill-managed.

by OctaviusIII on Jun 23, 2011 2:32 pm • linkreport

At what point do these people get removed from office for flagrant violation of rights of press and free speech? Are we really in a society where a taxi commission meeting needs to be held behind a closed door so they can say hateful things and not have them on record? Shameful. Public meetings are public. They should ALL be recorded.

The Park Police should simply be sued. Maybe a few million dollars and a case or two in front of the Supreme Court about people's right will help convince them. They apparently didn't learn after being forced to re-hire and pay back salaries.

The last comments in this clip say everything, "Fox 5 is going to come in now, I wish they wouldn't do that." I'll bet she does wish that. I hope her new job affords her more opportunities to oppress people than this one does. Good job everyone who left that meeting.

It sickens me as a DC home owner, resident and tax payer to see our officials and law enforcement officers behaving like this. Will this city ever get out of the 1950's?

by Darian Lewis on Jun 23, 2011 2:33 pm • linkreport

The problem of police overstepping is endemic. Police are trained to control the situation at all costs. Heck, we even give them unconstitutional charges to do so...Disorderly Conduct, interfering with a police officer, et cetera. And most prosecutors are weary of going against the police. Most citizens for that matter don't even care about police overstepping their legal authority, so long as the police aren't doing it to them.

And why should the police not overstep their authority? There is generally no negative feedback. You arrest somebody for whatever, control the situation at hand, and then the charges are dropped, and the police are happy and the prosecutor is happy and only the citizen suffers any ill effects.

Maybe if Chief Lanier would fire officers for arresting people for taking photographs, they'd stop doing so. But that will never happen. Because power begets power and the police will never voluntarily concede power back to the people.

by Joe on Jun 23, 2011 2:33 pm • linkreport

More people need to get fired for these egregious cases. Until there are real consequences, I'd expect the abuses to continue.

by Geof Gee on Jun 23, 2011 2:34 pm • linkreport

Fire the officers and picket the PArk Police stations nearest you.

by Redline SOS on Jun 23, 2011 2:35 pm • linkreport

This meeting was held in a NPS facility? I'd assume Park Police have jurisdiction (don't they have it over the entire District?) but is removing/arresting people based on a Taxi Commission committee's authority based on their actual authority?

The easy answer is a nice, ripe civil lawsuit against the Park Police. However, in the end that benefits almost nobody.

This is getting to be a real problem, and the Mayor needs to step up.

by charlie on Jun 23, 2011 2:37 pm • linkreport

I spoke to Tommy Wells' office. They have submitted a letter to DC Attorney General for clarification. Wells is clear in his position that all public meetings should permit recording.

by NomaGuy on Jun 23, 2011 2:38 pm • linkreport

WOW. Sigh. But surely, we should give these police officers the benefit of the doubt because they're putting their lives on the line every single day?

by Jasper on Jun 23, 2011 2:46 pm • linkreport

A comment by Radley Balko ...

"One thing about the video I found interesting: Note the outrage from the taxi drivers as Tucker is hauled off in handcuffs. The vast, vast majority of D.C. taxi drivers are immigrants, most from east Africa and the Middle East. And yet they seem to have a far better grasp of free expression and the need for transparency in government than the federal and city employees working in America’s capital city."

http://www.theagitator.com/2011/06/23/more-on-the-journalists-arrested-at-a-meeting-of-the-d-c-taxicab-commission/

by Geof Gee on Jun 23, 2011 2:46 pm • linkreport

On second thought. The new law that Reed invoked bans video and audio taping. It says nothing about writing or typing. Next time the reporters should go in with stenograph machines! Definitely disrupting, but according to the new law, perfectly legal!

by CB on Jun 23, 2011 2:48 pm • linkreport

Maybe I don't get it but why did the officer think the reporter wasn't allowed to record the meeting in the first place?

by HogWash on Jun 23, 2011 2:55 pm • linkreport

The problem of police overstepping is endemic.

Actually, the problem of police overstepping and violating First Amendment rights seems to be particularly endemic to the Park Police.

Sure, we occasionally have awful incidents involving MPD, MTPD, and USCP, but those seem to always involve individual "bad egg" officers in those departments. In the case of the Park Police, it seems like we're beginning to see a pretty systematic pattern of troubling incidents. It's pretty obvious that something's gone awry with that department.

by andrew on Jun 23, 2011 3:13 pm • linkreport

I can't speak to what happened at the public meeting, but Park Police officers are well within their authority, according to the Park service's own written regulations as well as numerous court opinions, to arrest individuals for dancing at the Jefferson Memorial. This is really not an example of a "troubling" police incident.

As I recall, another, rather large dancing protest took place following the first small dancing protest and the police did not intervene in that protest at all. They did however watch guard to make sure it did not get out of hand.

by Scoot on Jun 23, 2011 3:16 pm • linkreport

I just read on anothe site that although recordings of these meetings are made available to the public..but that the Open Meetings Act does not require that videotaping is to be allowed.

If true, wouldn't this be important information for GGW to provide its readers? We all read this laundry list detailing the ridiculous acts committed by some officers. Why not the info on the actual video allowances?

by HogWash on Jun 23, 2011 3:20 pm • linkreport

I hereby nominate Leslie Knope as Urban NPS Director.

by Denny on Jun 23, 2011 3:21 pm • linkreport

What kind of Muppet Show are these clowns running?

This is something you expect in Zimbabwe but not in DC. The Mayor needs to grow a pair and just start firing people. If he doesn't it makes you wonder what kind of "suction" they have on him.

I can't believe we chose this over Fenty.

by NiklasM on Jun 23, 2011 3:22 pm • linkreport

@andrew Agreed.

Actually, in looking at the organization charts, it appears as though the Park Police do not have a detachment under our NPS regional authority; rather, they're administered out of a separate office. Anyway, if you want to complain, the people in question are: Sgt David Schlosser, Park Police Public Information Officer and William Line, National Capital Region Communications Officer. I suspect their respective offices are already dealing with the fallout.

by OctaviusIII on Jun 23, 2011 3:23 pm • linkreport

HogWash: That info just came out after I wrote this. I added an update with links to that. However, even if the law is silent on whether it's okay to ban recording, I don't think that makes it right to ban recording (the Constitution trumps) or for Park Police officers to so heavy-handedly enforce the law instead of trying to work out a liberty-preserving solution.

by David Alpert on Jun 23, 2011 3:23 pm • linkreport

i love at the end how she says 'i m not giving you the right to film me.' ...in a public meeting. wow.

and it was great to see the majority of the room get up to leave in protest.

as unfortunate as suing a public agency at the cost of tax payers is, it may be the only way to get this to change. NPS police are at the forefront of the abuse and maybe other departments will back off when the park police are dinged for infringing on constitutional rights.

speaking of constitutional rights and meddling in things, where are the GOP congress-folks? shouldn't this flagrant abuse of the constitution get them all hot and bothered. for once, they may be useful to those of us who live in the district.

by dano on Jun 23, 2011 3:26 pm • linkreport

No words. Just wow.

by Johnny on Jun 23, 2011 3:30 pm • linkreport

I like how you tied this into the whole NPS is evil thing. Someone needs to answer for the behavior of this organization.

Here's one place to start:

National Capital Region
Steve Whitesell, Regional Director
National Park Service
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington D.C. 20242
(202) 619-7000

by Ward 1 Guy on Jun 23, 2011 3:40 pm • linkreport

@Scoot:

As I recall, another, rather large dancing protest took place following the first small dancing protest and the police did not intervene in that protest at all. They did however watch guard to make sure it did not get out of hand.

When a centrist defense of NPS starts to sound like a Jack Handy quote, I think at least a reevaluation is in order.

by oboe on Jun 23, 2011 3:40 pm • linkreport

She's a direct appointment by mayor Gray. He actually removed someone who was useful to put this bag in power. The NPS was removing people on her request. She's the problem, and Gray is going to be the problem if he doesn't get a handle on his deputies.

by ahk on Jun 23, 2011 3:41 pm • linkreport

Speaking of constitutional rights and meddling in things, where are the GOP congress-folks?

I think this falls outside of the purview of "unrestricted gun rights" and "forcing Jewish kids to pray to Jesus in public schools".

by oboe on Jun 23, 2011 3:44 pm • linkreport

For as disgusting as Dena Reed and the officers are, the immediate outcry and support for the reporter is beyond awesome.

by jag on Jun 23, 2011 3:45 pm • linkreport

so Ms Reed claims she is concerned about the meeting being disrupted and makes the decision that calling police in to confront (and ultimately arrest) a reporter who is annoying her will be LESS disruptive than the annoyance she is experienceing from the reporters'actions? So disingenuous. She was not concerned about disruptions. She was pissed the reporter didn't do what she said. -or she's a complete idiot who was unable to foresee how having police come in to confront someone (and arrest him and take him out) might be a greater disruption to the meeting than the placement of a microphone.

by Tina on Jun 23, 2011 3:51 pm • linkreport

@oboe, you're crackin' me up. You're funnybone's on high today.

by Tina on Jun 23, 2011 3:58 pm • linkreport

^"your"

by Tina on Jun 23, 2011 3:58 pm • linkreport

@jag-yeah, it was! So glad that part got recorded!

by Tina on Jun 23, 2011 4:00 pm • linkreport

David, oh ok thanks.

I will say that if the reporter wasn't fully sure if recordings were allowed, he should have followed the officer's orders or attempted (if he didn't) to find out.

I'm sure that Tommy Wells will look into this and issue a presser.

by HogWash on Jun 23, 2011 4:35 pm • linkreport

It seems that those of us who advocate for freedom of speech may have jumped the gun on this one. I think everyone should read the record of events as outlined here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/mike-debonis/post/dc-taxicab-commission-says-it-banned-disruptive-videotaping/2011/06/23/AGzlMdhH_blog.html

Freedom of speech does not mean that anyone can repeatedly disrupt a public proceeding when they are given guidelines for their behavior and their recording equipment. Pete Tucker acted in a completely unprofessional manor, if this account is correct. He would have been removed from teh National Press Club if he had tried this during an event there.

Repeatedly approaching the podium and placing recording equipment there, moving it back when it has been placed in the designated area for equipment, sitting on the floor in front of the podium, actively mic'ing attendees by placing equipment in their personal space. I'm sorry, that is not protected behavior at all.

There is still missing information here, and I'm willing to keep an open mind until we know what occurred, but if I attended a public hearing in which the press acted in the way alleged here, I would want them removed as well.

by CJ on Jun 23, 2011 4:39 pm • linkreport

The Park Police has a history of wasting resources, a clear sign they are over-budgeted. If only their budget could be moved to actually improve the parks.

Tales of the Park Police hunting gay men in P Street Beach (http://www.washingtonblade.com/2010/10/28/local-news-in-brief-oct-29/ also signify that the police have misguided objectives.

I also don't trust their handling of their ban on swimming in parts of the Potomac: In 2009 I met people along the Billy Goat Trail who had been given $75 fines for WADING IN SHALLOW WATER along the Potomac. See http://flickr.com/mvjantzen/3880238930/ - I don't believe swimming needs to be banned (caution signs are sufficient), but in this case it's pure idiocy to cite people who are wading, standing upright with water below their knees.

Then there's their idiotic handling of the Mall on the 4th of July: miles of fencing, checking bags, mobile police towers.

And of course most famously their assault on the Jefferson Memorial dancers. At the most recent protest I saw Park Police in riot gear (http://flic.kr/p/9QM3Mn), a police dog, and even two cops with machine guns. The police caused a far greater disruption than any of the protestors, going so far as to "close" the memorial with a cordon of jack-booted cops.

And now to have them acting as henchmen for the taxicab commission. This is too much. The Park Service is dangerously incompetent and out of control.

by M.V. Jantzen on Jun 23, 2011 4:58 pm • linkreport

@ CJ, wanting someone removed is not the same as having legal basis or authority to remove them. The DCTC had prohibited video recording at its proceedings in the past (the journalist in question should have known that, and perhaps approached the DCTC chair in private to make a special request to record), but I wonder if that rule in itself is backed by any legal authority.

There are also some very touchy issues like the account of Epstein being detained "after refusing to hand over the cell phone on which he shot the video." Typically, it's not legal to compel people to hand over their cameras at the request of police unless there is a warrant.

by Scoot on Jun 23, 2011 5:07 pm • linkreport

i love at the end how she says 'i m not giving you the right to film me.' ...in a public meeting. wow.

This has gone on in ANC meetings, as well.

Generally, disruptive officials don't want their misbehavior to be recorded, and they use the fact that someone is recording their misbehavior as a pretext to cause more trouble.

by JustMe on Jun 23, 2011 5:20 pm • linkreport

@Ward 1
The Park Police aren't directly under the National Capital Region's jurisdiction. Write instead to the Chief:

Office of the Chief
United States Park Police
1100 Ohio Drive S.W.
Washington, DC 20242

by OctaviusIII on Jun 23, 2011 5:40 pm • linkreport

Forbes Magazine, yes, Forbes Magazine is weighing in. This thing is poised to go national. Thank god. These assclowns need to get owned HARD. http://blogs.forbes.com/erikkain/2011/06/23/why-are-d-c-police-arresting-journalists-at-a-public-meeting/

by NomaGuy on Jun 23, 2011 5:42 pm • linkreport

"Repeatedly approaching the podium and placing recording equipment there, moving it back when it has been placed in the designated area for equipment, sitting on the floor in front of the podium, actively mic'ing attendees by placing equipment in their personal space. I'm sorry, that is not protected behavior at all."

When I read the article you linked, it appeared to say that Mr. Tucker was given the choice between having his recordind device in the area for recording devices or sitting in front of the podium. He chose the latter. So, sitting in front of the podium isn't the problem. I don't think there is a constitutional right to "personal space" that trumps freedom of the press (especially if the personal space in question is not a clear measurement of distance in a statute (time/place restriction) but instead is an arbitrary decision made by a city employee).

I would say Tucker is still protected by the First Amendment here. Now, if he physically attempted to attach a mic to someone's clothing against their will THAT is a different story and would amount to assault.

by Alan Page on Jun 23, 2011 5:55 pm • linkreport

The behavior described sounds like usual press tactics. Not that disruptive. The chair lost control

Reason mag and Forbes have been Bed for a long time.

Preventing recording isn't a 1st amendment issue

Gray needs to fire that woman, stat.

by Charlie on Jun 23, 2011 6:37 pm • linkreport

"Tucker was “defiant and disrespectful of [Reed’s] request and suggestions” to place his microphone somewhere other than in front of her and later “caused some distraction” by moving his microphone between witnesses and commission members."

by HogWash on Jun 23, 2011 6:37 pm • linkreport

Kinda shocked no one has suggested this:

Why don't we go to the next Taxicab Commission meeting en masse and pull out recording devices? Politely, but steadfastly.

by Legba Carrefour on Jun 23, 2011 7:10 pm • linkreport

@hogwAsh: disrespect? Yes. Disruptive - no. That is what press do. She lost control and needs to be fired.

by Charlie on Jun 23, 2011 7:25 pm • linkreport

While I'm all for the reporters right to report this event, there's something wrong when the newsman sent to cover an event influences the news he was meant to cover. Couldn't this reporter have just said 'I'm sorry' put away the mic ... and started taking notes like reporters have done for years? The right to report does not convey with it the right to take photographic images or record voices. As we all know, those images and recordings can easily be taken out of context and used to convey that which was never intended. If he really had a problem with the way he was being allowed to cover this event, he should have taken it up with the powers that be (Council? Mayor's Office?) AFTER the meeting ... Instead this reporter brought the meeting to a standstill because he didn't see the fine line between covering the news and making the news.

by Lance on Jun 23, 2011 10:14 pm • linkreport

I dunno. I smell bullshit all over your justification. The fact is that Reed caused the entire disruption when she violated a journalist's first amendment rights, thus welcoming the entire audience to leave the venue knowing full well that democracy was being shat on in front of their faces. I find your view of the event cowardly and sycophantic.

by @Lance on Jun 23, 2011 11:07 pm • linkreport

so you think a jouranalist has a fundamental right to record an event? if that's the case, then why do judges have the discretion to allow cameras into the court room ... or not ... ?

by Lance on Jun 23, 2011 11:19 pm • linkreport

Seriously? The right to a trial by jury is also in the Constitution. Judges banning cameras in the courtroom normally regards the objectivity of the witnesses or the identity of victims. The former strikes me as constitutionally permissible. I believe the room was full of cab drivers not a jury.

by @Lance on Jun 23, 2011 11:43 pm • linkreport

Firing individual officers won't change policies. The chiefs will just hire a replacement officer and have him/her do the same thing. It's a policy thing, not a personnel thing. It shouldn't be surprising that management (chiefs) much prefer sacrificing labor (cops) instead of themselves. Piece of cake.

This abuse won't end until someone sues in a spectacular fashion and wins millions of dollars from some PD and chiefs start losing their jobs. That would get the attention of PD's across the country.

by crin on Jun 24, 2011 6:53 am • linkreport

I just did some Googling on the so-called 'reporter' involved in this matter. Turns out he's not a reporter but an activist. And what he did at this meeting was pure activism. Shame on him for mis-using the First Amendment to promote his agenda.

by Lance on Jun 24, 2011 9:03 am • linkreport

@ Scoot and Alan,

I'm not going to take on the defense of the park police and Reed. My point is that if all or part of their spokesperson's account is correct, then there were grounds for removing (not arresting) the reporter. The press does not, and has never had, unbounded discretion for their behavior in a public meeting or proceeding. I checked with our VP of communications who was a reporter for years. He made the following point:

- radio reporters are the most intrusive types of reporters when it comes to placement of recording instruments, and they are usually ignored or aided by meeting organizers. There is a norm for their behavior, and they are sometimes instructed to be less intrusive. Our communications guy thinks that both Reed and Tucker should be reprimanded for letting this issue get as out of hand as it did.

- He is not sure that the park police had any jurisdiction to eject Tucker, even if he was video taping. Taping is not illegal, it is only against the stated rules for these proceedings. The chair had several options, but having him removed by police may not have been one of them.

- reporting is a protected 1st amendment issue, actions taken while reporting are not. If a reporter is told where and how reporting must be undertaken in a particular setting, then within reason, he or she has to follow those rules.

I'm not swallowing the council's account of what happened wholesale. It's disturbing to me that this blog thinks that reporters are allowed such wide discretion for their actions though.

by CJ on Jun 24, 2011 9:07 am • linkreport

What journalist ISN'T an activist? All journalists, save a large contingent from Fox News, are advocates of a single issue: The truth. Your sycophantic and cowardly approach continues. Are you looking for a job at Reed's press spokesperson?

by @Lance on Jun 24, 2011 9:16 am • linkreport

But aren't ALL journalists activists in one way or another? Save Fox News' propaganda machine, aren't most journalists hunting down truth as an advocate (activist) for transparency? I'm getting a whiff of Reed's team in some of the comments above. Is anyone else?

by Gonzo on Jun 24, 2011 9:19 am • linkreport

To the commenter using the name "@Lance": Please pick a naame that's about you, not about Lance. The Name field is not to list who you are replying to, but rather who you are. So your entry there should be something relevant to you, possibly your first name or whole name or some other name. Then, if you are replying to Lance, you can put "@Lance" at the top of your comment to make that clear. Thanks!

by David Alpert on Jun 24, 2011 9:19 am • linkreport

I have two problems with this. The first, of course, is that any police would follow the chairman's tinpot third world-style request to arrest a reporter doing his job.

The second question is what the US Park Police are doing making an arrest at a DC Taxicab Commission meeting. We keep hearing that the Park Police are under-resourced, and certainly my experience is that they could do a better job just patrolling the park areas that area under their, not MPD's jurisdiction. I hope that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reviews this incident. Two bits of advice to the Park Police: 1. Understand and respect the First Amendment. 2. Stick to your core mission.

by Bob on Jun 24, 2011 9:37 am • linkreport

What exactly is this guy charged with? I'm not a lawyer, but I looked and couldn't find a statute or law or whatever which says it's illegal to disobey a police order. Can anybody point to the law this guy was breaking?

by Joe on Jun 24, 2011 11:02 am • linkreport

There is NO law prohibiting taping/filming, so evidently this is somehow up to the discrssion of the chairperson. If he had broken a law, it would then have to be trespassing (assuming he was uninvited), but I don't believe it is legally possible to trespass at a public meeting. This is really Bellarus style politics going on. I can't believe people on this comment board are defending these actions. Do you people NOT care about democracy and the freedom of teh press? If this were a Soviet nation, you'd be pummeling children to move up rank. It's just so cowardly.

by Gonzo on Jun 24, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport

Joe: It was this general "disorderly conduct" statute which was intended for people who are drunk, yelling loudly, disrupting people, etc. but which has turned into a sort of "contempt of cop" or "not doing what police tell you to" law.

The National Press Photographers Association explains the legal issues in this letter to the Park Police on the subject.

by David Alpert on Jun 24, 2011 11:10 am • linkreport

@Gonzo Do you people NOT care about democracy and the freedom of teh press?

I think people DO care about democracy which is why they're upset with what this activist did. I don't even know what the discussion at the meeting was supposed to be about (and as such definitely don't have a pro or anti stance on what the commission is or was doing), but I do know that because someone pretending to be a reporter hijacked the meeting, nothing got accomplished there. Democracy is about everyone getting heard. To ensure this happens meetings have rules. The fake reporter purposely broke the rules to get his message out and in so doing kept other people, those people who WERE playing by the rules, from getting THEIR messages out. It doesn't take a genius to see this guy didn't advance the ideals of democracy by misusing the protections of the press guaranteed under the First Amendment to get HIS message, and HIS agenda out. If we all acted so childishly, there'd be no democracy. It would be one chaotic shouting match like what this guy caused to happen at this meeting. Shame on him.

by Lance on Jun 24, 2011 11:39 am • linkreport

Sorry Lance, but democracy itself is disruptive. I challenge you to tell me definitively what law was broken. The reporters were both released without charges because no charges could possibly be brought. This is police state behavior, the kind that UNDERMINES democracy. I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but democracy is not easy. It requires transparency and disagreement and, yes, sometimes things get disrupted. Like, say, the order in which people sit in the bus, who gets to sit at lunch counters, who gets to attend classes, who gets to vote and who gets to live in a community. The civil rights movement was rather disruptive, wasn't it? Your whole campaign to push "not rocking the boat" in a PUBLIC meeting for the sake of order sounds more like something a Soviet dictator would say than anything I'd like to hear in American democracy. Fake reporters do not run blogs and write stories. I actually don't care what someones agenda is, as long as they have a right to pursue it. You evidently have issues with his agenda, which he has every right as a journalist to have, just as American journalists reporting in Egypt or elsewhere should have but don't. Your use of the terms "childish" also smacks of some authoritarian flavor. Call it what you will, but he had every right to report on and record the event according to our Constitution, or have we forgotten about that?

by Gonzo on Jun 24, 2011 11:50 am • linkreport

@Gonzo but he had every right to report on and record the event according to our Constitution,

Please tell me where the Constitution gives anyone the right to electronically record an event? And as for your 'disruptive' argument .... umm ... there's disruptive via passive measures that may involve breaking inherentaly unjust laws and then there's disruptive that involves breaking a law just because you don't like. I think you're confusing the two. If the chair of a meeting says 'no recording devices please', that's the way it is. Don't like it? Go talk to the people who appointed her and get that rule changed. It's not like there's anything inherently unjust in the chair of a meeting saying 'please don't use electronic recording devices'.

by Lance on Jun 24, 2011 12:00 pm • linkreport

@Lance,

IMO, you seem willfully ignorant about democracy and due process. In your rambling emotional response, you don't once make reference to how this persons actions, however childish or annoying or however you characterize them, translate into a criminal behavior worthy of Arrest. Nothing you say in your response is criminal behavior, but somehow you indicate that this guy deserved what he got.

You talk about this person misusing the protections of the press, but then don't comment on the Government's misuse of authority. Additionally, your use of words seems to me to indicate where you stand on the rule of law. "misuse of rights." Due process exists to protect the rights of the minority against the will of the majority. There is no such thing as misusing rights. To say that people are doing so indicates to me that you are too lazy to deal with the ugliness of our legal system. That people's rights, when they get in the way of the desires of the state or the majority, no longer deserve legal protections. Which is BS.

Shame on you, for failing High School Civics.

by Joe on Jun 24, 2011 12:03 pm • linkreport

@Lance - Please, I'll ask one more and one last time: What law did he break? I will rest my case when you tell me.

@Joe - thank you for standing up for democracy. Well said.

by Gonzo on Jun 24, 2011 12:15 pm • linkreport

Gonzo, He disobeyed the officer. One can get arrested for that. You don't need to break a law to get arrested. Arrest does not equal getting charged with a crime. I think you're confusing the two .

by Lance on Jun 24, 2011 12:49 pm • linkreport

Btw ... Arrest means simply 'stopped' in Old French ... and in the law. And all the cops did is stop him from disrupting a public meeting. How is that not protecting the democracy that the meeting was intended to enable?

by Lance on Jun 24, 2011 12:57 pm • linkreport

@ Gonzo,

I'm uncomfortable with being cast as a defender of the council, because without knowing the facts of the meeting prior to the taping of the arrest, I'm not sure that Tucker was being truly disruptive. That is what Reed is alleging though.

To your point, people can be barred from public meetings. Here is a good UCLA law review of the case precedent. http://uclalawreview.org/?p=1151

The city is allowed to set reasonable "time, place and manor" restrictions on the meeting. This seems to include manor of reporting. Tucker may have disregarded the chair when told in what manor he could report on the proceedings.

If tucker was not being disruptive in his reporting, and if he was allowed to record, and then that allowance rescinded, then he should not have been removed.

As it stands though, I can't tell if he was or was not.

by CJ on Jun 24, 2011 12:59 pm • linkreport

@Lance - Yes, I see your point regarding arrest vs law violation, however I would still side with the journalist and I do anticipate a legal discussion over the authority and judgement of the chairperson, the actions of the park police as well as the constitutionality of these types of restrictions in the coming months.

@CJ I think this is a good read of the situation, however I would be more concerned about the chairperson abusing the definition of "disruptive" and see too much room for abuse particularly as the journalist did not seem to be disrupting the meeting and I believe the camera was in iphone, not a TV camera, which seemed to be the justification for disruptiveness cited in many articles. I think the reaction of the audience to the situation is telling, as is the video itself (ironic, no?).

and here's some food for thought for the peanut gallery:
http://gizmodo.com/5553765/are-cameras-the-new-guns

by Gonzo on Jun 24, 2011 1:51 pm • linkreport

The Park Police have been out of control for some time. I've actually seen them tackle kids to the ground for skateboarding in Freedom Plaza. Granted, they're not supposed to be there, but is it really necessary to tackle a 13 y/o to the ground? Why not just tell them to leave or write them a ticket?

Also, I've been stopped for traffic offenses around the mall by them for things I have not even done. In one case, the officer was two blocks away and claimed he saw me make an illegal left turn when I had not even turned. I took it to court and got it dismissed.

by Ward 5 Rez on Jun 24, 2011 2:05 pm • linkreport

@Gonzo,

What that article doesn't discuss, and what might be a complicating factor for the police seizing cameras, is the iCloud. And the whole social cloud computing thing in general. Apple's new iCloud software, as I understand it, basically real-time autosyncs media amongst your devices and social networks. So the next time a cop snatches a phone, with the intent of stopping the recording from seeing the light of day, it may be too late, and that video may be synced to hundreds of Facebook walls.

by Joe on Jun 24, 2011 2:13 pm • linkreport

@Lance

"You don't need to break a law to get arrested."

Are you saying there is no such thing as an illegal arrest? That the police can arrest anyone at anytime for anything?

by Joe on Jun 24, 2011 2:16 pm • linkreport

@Joe - glad you mentioned this because I was thinking the same thing. I am less familiar with the new iCloud platform, but streaming video has been around for a while and I think the cloud platform will make it vastly more accessible, which, IMO is a great thing not just for Americans, but for people in more authoritarian states who enjoy fewer liberties. There are so many examples of abuse of authority that have been caught by cameras that would not have otherwise. There's a good point regarding this in a dissenting opinion mentioned in the article. Thanks for reading it!

by Gonzo on Jun 24, 2011 2:23 pm • linkreport

@Joe, No, that's not what I said.

I'm not a lawyer or law enforcement, but I do know that law enforcement is given powers of arrest that are fairly wide ... and that breaking a law is only one of various reasons a person can be arrested. Ever hear of people being taken in for questioning? If a cop says I want to take you in to question you about a crime you might have been a witness to, it's not like you have a legal right to so 'no, I won't go'. He has the right to 'arrest' you for that in the true sense of the word ... which is nothing more than to 'stop' you. When you get stopped by an officer because he thinks you were cheating, you've technically been arrested ... whether or not you ever got taken into jail ... and whether or not you end up getting a ticket.

by Lance on Jun 24, 2011 2:32 pm • linkreport

@Gonzo I think you and I (and CJ) are now in full agreement.

by Lance on Jun 24, 2011 2:32 pm • linkreport

@Joe, I don't see iCloud as being a complication. On the contrary, I think it makes it a more clear cut case that if the meeting is not supposed to televised, then no recording or broadcasting devices of any type are allowed.

by Lance on Jun 24, 2011 2:40 pm • linkreport

@Lance,

I think you are misinformed. Being taken in for questioning...You do have the right to refuse. Because you have the right to remain silent at all times in all regards. The police can't compel you to speak, ever. Only a judge can do that, and that's arguable as well.

The police want you to think that you don't have the right to refuse, so that you don't, because when you do, you make their job harder.

Per wikipedia:

In United States criminal law, probable cause is the standard by which an officer or agent of the law has the grounds to make an arrest, to conduct a personal or property search, or to obtain a warrant for arrest, etc. when criminal charges are being considered. It is also used to refer to the standard to which a grand jury believes that a crime has been committed. This term comes from the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

If you can point to a law somewhere that says the police can deprive people of their liberty for things that aren't necessarily illegal, I'd certainly appreciate it. "Disobeying a police order" like you said above might be appropriate if there were such a law in DC. "Disorderly Conduct" is the closest thing we have in America to give the police the powers that you think they have. In America, the executive branches have only the powers that the legislative branches give them, hence the name, the executive branch...because they execute laws.

You asked where is the "Constitutional right to record"? The rights of citizens where neither enumerated nor prohibited are assumed. On the other hand, the authority of Government neither enumerated nor prohibited is denied.

You say that people without a law allowing them to act are behaving illegally, and that the government without a law directing it's action is legal. That is about as backwards as it can get.

by Joe on Jun 24, 2011 3:07 pm • linkreport

@Joe, you are an idealist ... and I am (nowadays at least) a pragmatist. I only wish what you said were how it really played out in life. I don't think it is.

by Lance on Jun 24, 2011 3:19 pm • linkreport

@joe, Lance,
I think you are misinformed. Being taken in for questioning...You do have the right to refuse. Because you have the right to remain silent at all times in all regards. The police can't compel you to speak, ever. Only a judge can do that, and that's arguable as well.

But Lance didn't say that. Or at least I didn't read it. What he actually said was: If a cop says I want to take you in to question you about a crime you might have been a witness to, it's not like you have a legal right to so 'no, I won't go'. He nevers mentions anything about a right to remain silent but that you can't "refuse" to go to a police station if the officers orders you to.

It's a shame that some of you are so eager to defend the reporters even in the midst of these "questionable" accounts. Even this article was written w/o having all the facts yet presented as a missive against the Park police. Attacking the police and defending the reporters is the angle here. Most of you aren't even willing to accept that the reporter may have been disruptive.

by HogWash on Jun 24, 2011 3:33 pm • linkreport

It's the same sort of dissonance that had most of you believing that ambushing couples who don't clean up dog shit and posting it alone is citizenry in action.

BTW, I notice that there are few who are attacking Lance's intelligence not his positions and seem just as "bad" as those found on the now closed for comment article. Insinuating that he failed high school civics? And that's respectful? That's allowed...today?

by HogWash on Jun 24, 2011 3:38 pm • linkreport

Sorry to interrupt the lecture on police powers by people who believe they can hold forth on the topic without, say, once mentioning what a Terry stop is (or the underlying case of same name), but I bring news. The DC Taxicab Commission has deemed yet another reporter "disruptive"--so "disruptive" the commission apparently must have security kick him out, lock their doors and shut off their lights. Mark Segraves of WTOP is the reporter (a very non-disruptive type), and he independently says he'll have video at 5, on Ch. 7:

http://va.mu/AcQx

by Joel on Jun 24, 2011 3:41 pm • linkreport

I think Lance is both right and wrong.

There isn't a 1st amendment right to tape somebody. 1st amendment is free exercise of the press. You can interrupt parts of that as protecting elements of being a journalist, but bans on taping are well recognized. Go try to tape a federal court hearing and see where the 1st amendment will get you.

That being said, the actions described are typical of what journalists do and are not distractive. The chair is out of line, and she needs to fired. stat. I'm sorry, but calling the police in was not necessary.

Lance, you can always refuse to talk or cooperate with the police. Depending on your race and bearing, that might be you arrested. It is hard to get those charges to stick. Example: I see white kid on bike. I think he may be drunk. Ask for ID. If the kid is disrespectful, I arrest him and then find weed in his back pocket. Score!

That being said, the park police should have taken one look and told the chair, your mess, you clean it up. there is something very stinky in that organization, and the mayor needs to get on top of it.

by charlie on Jun 24, 2011 3:45 pm • linkreport

@Lance

I'm not an idealist. I'm just asking you to support your assertions with facts. I feel like I have supported my position with facts and rational ideas derived from these facts. Your assertions seem have come down to "he was being a pain the butt and was arrested for it" and then "I'm not a lawyer, but I know the police have wide enforcement powers"

Government is a set of rules determined by the people. This set of rules is recorded on paper and called Law. The Government acts according to this Law, and only according to this law. At least it is supposed to. If the police, in practice, are allowed wide enforcement powers outside what the law prescibes, its only because the people being policed are voluntarily discarding their rights. But just because you voluntarily give up your rights, doesn't mean I have to voluntarily give up mine.

Support your statement that the police are empowered to arrest people who haven't broken laws. I just pulled out the 4th Amendment saying that probable cause is the legal standard for arresting people. Show me otherwise.

by Joe on Jun 24, 2011 4:06 pm • linkreport

That being said, the actions described are typical of what journalists do and are not distractive. The chair is out of line, and she needs to fired. stat. I'm sorry, but calling the police in was not necessary.

That being said, the park police should have taken one look and told the chair, your mess, you clean it up. there is something very stinky in that organization, and the mayor needs to get on top of it.

*sigh*

According to the person being raked over the coals, she didn't call for the reporter to be arrested. Also according to her, the reporter was being disruptive by attempting to move his mic to an inappropriate location. I've never participated in a press conference but do reporters have the right to move his mic wherever he see's fit even if asked not to..even if it's seen a disruptive?

Sure, we can debate his side or her side of the story. But calling for her to be fired based on the reporters account is a stretch beyond objective.

by HogWash on Jun 24, 2011 4:10 pm • linkreport

Where oh where is Leon Swain?

by greent on Jun 24, 2011 4:19 pm • linkreport

@HogWash

He very well may have been being disruptive. That isn't the point. The point is that being disruptive isn't illegal. And that people are defending the arrest of someone for something that isn't illegal.

@Joel

I certainly know what a Terry stop is. Terry is the last name of the defendant or plaintiff in the case where the Government determined it's ok to stop and briefly detain people when the probable cause standard isn't met but reasonable suspicion is. I had this discussion last week, whether the smell of alcohol on one's person is reasonable suspicion of DWI, in the absence of bad driving or any other factors. I am closely related to a judge and I have strong opinions, sometimes informed, sometimes misinformed. If you are a greater authority than I on matters of law, please offer your opinion. I'd love to hear what a lawyer has to say about this.

Sure. Lets talk about legal standards. What crime is this guy suspected of being guilty? And what is the evidence supporting his guilt?

by Joe on Jun 24, 2011 4:27 pm • linkreport

@Charlie - Well put, however as I mentioned above, I don't think we can equate public meetings with courtrooms and thankfully we have mention of trials by jury in the Constitution to enlighten us. I would presume that limitations within the courtroom are a natural extension of one's right a jury of one's peers and the special status of courtroom, which, while certainly a public instution, is not really a public meeting. There are some rights but there are also privileges as regards courts. I think courts are treated much more narrowly than public discussions.

by Gonzo on Jun 24, 2011 4:34 pm • linkreport

@HogWash; distinction between the chair calling in the police and the chair asking the police to arrest the gentleman. I fully agree with you that she didn't intend an arrest. However, my point it was stupid to even call in the police.

I've done tons of press events and people moving the mike and other little distractions like that are 100% standard.*

@Gonzo; actually, you can. They are exactly the same. Again, there is not a constitutional issue here. A public body can set some rules regarding decorum. Banning recordings is certainly within the ambit of reasonableness and I don't see a constitutional 1st amendment challenge working.

Yes, there are concerns in criminal courts about prejudicing a jury or jury pool, but obviously not an issue when dealing with civil cases. And I can't see any problem in that angle on a supreme court hearing.

This is the worst part of Miranda -- giving everyone the idea they have "rights." You do have some, but not as many as you think, and sometimes the constitution doesn't protect them.

The answer here is the chair needs to be fired for bad judgment, and the mayor needs to have a press conference and publicly berate the park police. They go draw some chalk paintings...

* have you ever seen a politician avoid a microphone?

by charlie on Jun 24, 2011 4:44 pm • linkreport

SORRY FOLKS! THE POLICE GAVE A LAWFUL ORDER, AND THE REPORTER REFUSED! DISOBEY A COP, YOU GO TO JAIL, PLAIN AND SIMPLE!

by TJ on Jun 24, 2011 4:46 pm • linkreport

(@Joe: To be clear, I am most certainly not an Atty. I was simply highlighting that a couple thousand words re: police powers were flying by without even a glancing reference or citation to the law. Maybe I'm weird like that, but hint hint, I thought they might be worthy of tossing into the discussion.)

by Joel on Jun 24, 2011 4:49 pm • linkreport

@TJ: If only it were against the law to use all caps. Anyway, I'll take the AG's word over yours. This afternoon, he's dismissed all charges.

by Joel on Jun 24, 2011 4:51 pm • linkreport

Sadly, this is a pattern of behavior in essence endorsed by default by NPS leadership, i.e., they take no definative action to reverse it. To get more detail about how NPS handles itself on law enforcement matters (and constitutional rights) in the hinterlands read the following:

The Case of the Indian Trader: Billy Malone And the National Park Service Investigation At Hubbell Trading Post by Paul Berkowitz (an ex NPS special investigator)

by Anonomous on Jun 24, 2011 5:14 pm • linkreport

I wonder if the Park Police know what a "lawful order" consists of.

by 1bad540i on Jun 26, 2011 12:12 pm • linkreport

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