A Detroit Free Press photographer was arrested last week for filming police officers as they made a separate arrest on a public street.
The Detroit Police Department is investigating the actions of the officers as well those of photographer, Mandi Wright, that occurred Thursday. The Detroit Free Press reported that the investigation is also looking into a missing SIM card from her work-issued iPhone and claims that she was briefly held in the same room as the original suspect.
The Free Press reported the police department’s Deputy Chief James Tolbert saying that if Wright were detained with the suspect — a man who Wright said police told her had been armed and lead them on a chase — it “could be a serious breach of department policy.” Wright claimed the police interviewed her in front of this suspect, asking for name and address, among other questions.
Wright was let go after being detained for six and a half hours with no charges.
The footage Wright recorded shows several officers leading a handcuffed man to a cruiser. A man in plain cloths approaches Wright, telling her to back up and turn off her camera. She then identifies herself as a reporter working with the Free Press.
“I don’t care who you are,” the officer said.
Then there appears to be a bit of a struggle as the video footage shakes and Wright can be heard saying “are you touching me?” Then the clip cuts off.
Check it out:
Wright, who has been with the newspaper since 2000, later told the Free Press it didn’t immediately register that he was an officer, given his lack of uniform. She claims that he grabbed her arm and took her phone.
“I was just surprised at how quickly it escalated,” reporter Kathleen Gray told the Free Press, which noted the incident occurred while the two women were out training. “There was no effort to try to figure out who we were or what we were doing. It was just immediately going for the phone.”
The situation allegedly escalated when Wright grabbed the tail of the officer’s shirt as he walked away with her phone and other police said she jumped on his back. She was arrested for interfering with police work.
When she was released, her phone was returned but its SIM card was missing. The video above was stored on the phone’s internal memory.
The Free Press reported its leadership supporting Wright:
Paul Anger, editor and publisher of the Free Press, said the situation should not have escalated as it did.
“First, our photographer was doing what any journalist — or any citizen — has a right to do in a public place,” he said. “All she knew was that someone had grabbed her and her phone. We understand the difficult job that police officers do, and we understand how tensions can rise. Yet some of the police actions all through this incident need scrutiny — not the actions of our photographer.”
Hershel Fink, Free Press legal counsel, said courts in the U.S. have consistently agreed that “citizens, much less the press, have a right to photograph police officers in public places. The video shows she did not interfere with the police action and the officer had no right to order her to stop filming and to confiscate her camera.”
The newspaper also noted Tolbert saying he expected the police department to be reminding officers of the legality citizens and the press have to film officers performing public duties as long as it is not interfering.
TheBlaze has previously reported about the rights one has to film and photograph police in public as well.
This story has been updated to correct a typo and change “memory card” to “SIM card.”