New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) are suing Suffolk County for its treatment of Philip Datz, a video journalist who was arrested in July of 2011 while filming police activity. The lawsuit claims that Datz was well within his rights and he was unlawfully arrested and detained. The charges have since been dropped.
According to Robert Balin, the lead counsel on the case, the incident is common in Suffolk County. “Mr. Datz’s arrest was not an isolated event,” said Balin. “Suffolk County police officers have a pattern of unlawfully interfering with the recording of police activity conducted in plain view. As a journalist, Mr. Datz has a responsibility to cover police activity in public places. The Police Department has a constitutional obligation to respect his First Amendment right to perform this important public service.”
Datz is hoping that his lawsuit will bring about “a comprehensive and effective policy to protect the First Amendment rights of the public and press to observe and record police activity in public, including appropriate training and procedures to test the effectiveness of that policy on the ground and to discipline appropriately those who breach it.” He is also seeking damages for physical, psychological and professional damages and legal fees.
Datz’s video can be seen above.