Vancouver police are under fire for their rough handling of a newspaper photographer during an incident where a man was shot. The photographer surrendered his camera under the threat of arrest but later the cops admitted their mistake
Police spokeswoman Const. Jana McGuinness said Monday that “it’s not our policy to take video or cameras away from the media.”
But McGuinnes went on to say that:
But she said police may have to seize phone or video evidence from individuals at a crime scene. The incident with Payne is being investigated internally, she said.
But who’s footage is it? People have the right to free speech. In the digital age, photographs and video are no less a form of speech than the printed word. Taking someone’s camera is a supression of that right.
This is the kind of policy that would have prevented the video of Robert Dziekanski getting tasered at the Vancouver Airport from being released. Dziekanski was repeatedly tasered by police after becoming disoriented at the the airport. Testimony from police was directly contradicted by the video evidence shot by Paul Pritchard who was in the airport at the time.
If police have the right to examine crime scene evidence then there should be very clear rules about how to handle that footage. As the Dziekanski story demonstrates, there will be times when police have a vested interested in not having that material made public.