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Purdue Cops Throw Student Journalist To Ground, Seize His Camera And Detain Him For Three Hours

from the we'll-let-you-know-what-your-rights-are-once-we've-finished-violating-th dept

Cops vs. cameras: the apparently never ending battle continues. A student photojournalist at Purdue found himself on the receiving end of a little extra “attention” while attempting to cover Tuesday’s on-campus shooting.

In the midst of Tuesday’s shooting, an Exponent employee was detained by the police while trying to fulfill his journalistic duties.

Exponent photo editor Michael Takeda, a junior in the College of Technology, was slammed to the ground by the Purdue Police after being found in the Electrical Engineering Building taking photos. The area had not been closed off to the public at the time.

The officers confiscated Takeda’s camera and photos, detained and questioned his whereabouts within the building, which was then on lockdown after being held by the police for roughly three hours.

While it’s somewhat understandable that the campus police might be a bit on edge while looking for a shooter, that doesn’t excuse any of the actions they took when they came across Takeda. (You can see his article on the shooting here.) It shouldn’t have taken three hours to determine whether Takeda was involved in the shooting and his presence in a building that hadn’t been “locked down” should not have been greeted with the use of force. Those who say people who are “doing nothing wrong” shouldn’t fear police officers might want to reexamine that assertion in light of Takeda’s experience. One also wonders whether the presence of the camera escalated the officers’ physical response.

The police finally let Takeda go after detaining him for three hours but they had no interest in returning his equipment to him until someone higher up the ladder at Purdue interceded on his behalf.

[I]it was only after Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, prodded the University that Takeda’s belongings were bequeathed to him.

“They were very cooperative, and they recognized right away that this was a serious situation that required their immediate attention,” LoMonte said.

LoMonte said, though the University was helpful in releasing Takeda’s belongings, it was just the police’s instinct to retrieve his belongings, despite the possible infringement of a federal law.

By “retrieve,” I assume LoMonte means “seize.” Notwithstanding this oral typo, what LoMonte says next is both unsurprising and sad.

“Honestly I think almost nobody knows that is the law, not even lawyers,” LoMonte laughed.

LoMonte may be laughing but I don’t think I’ll be joining him. People who are charged with enforcing laws or keeping clients out of jail should be familiar with the laws that are an integral part of their jobs. The law LoMonte refers to isn’t a recent development prompted by the ubiquity of smartphone cameras. It’s been on the books for more than 30 years and was crafted in response to an incident at another college, Stanford University.

“(It) specifically says that the police cannot confiscate or search where journalists keep their unpublished work product unless they first go in front of a judge and give the journalist the chance to argue his side,” LoMonte said

Now, police have ways around this limitation — the always-useful “exigent situation” exception. This is supposed to be used only when the safety of officers or the public is immediately threatened. In reality, the exception is most frequently used to ask for post-rights violation “forgiveness.” The Purdue officers didn’t cite this exception, but it will probably be deployed if Takeda decides to make some more noise about his treatment. Is it really too much to ask for law enforcement officers to know and respect the laws governing their actions?

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Comments on “Purdue Cops Throw Student Journalist To Ground, Seize His Camera And Detain Him For Three Hours”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

WTF is a professional camera? I know that camera manufacturers have certain models that they deem “Professional” grade which just means that they are built more sturdy and are devoid of many of the hand-holding consumer grade features that professionals will never use. Still there are many professional photographers that use and sometimes even prefer some of the “consumer” and “pro-sumer” line models. At the end of the day, a camera, any camera, is just a box with a hole in the end of it to let light in.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’d imagine a DSLR would be considered professional. If you’re Joe Bloe and just want to snap some photos you’ll more than likely just use your smartphone, but hobbyists on up to professionals use DSLRs. There are features such as DOV, aperture, swappable lenses, colour/angle/lighting adjustment. Also, the number of pixels – your average smartphone has an 8 megapixel camera, while a DSLR has 20 and up.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

AFAIK a professional camera is just a camera with features. It has nothing to do whether it’s suitable for the use of a professional, or it takes professional quality photos.

The list of features are things like: settings for shutter speed, exposure, etc all accessible by dials instead of a menu. Swappable lens. A really fast flash sync speed. Probably, be somewhat “rugged”.

Oh, and expensive enough that professional photographers normally can’t buy one 😉

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Nervous much?

Normal cameras are those with fewer features and lack of good optical zoom, semi-professional are those that allow much more fine tuning without changing lenses and professional are those that accept multiple types of lenses depending on the need and allow further tuning. I’m not saying that professionals must use them. I’ve seen pros using mobile phone cameras and getting awesome shots.

At the end of the day, a camera, any camera, is just a box with a hole in the end of it to let light in.

That line clearly shows you know nothing about photography. While the physics behind them are the same the quality of various components of the camera are key for a quality shot.

Anonymous Coward says:

they are not interested in the slightest in doing anything except what they want. the have authority and power and instead of using in a manner to make the public respect and cooperate, they use it in the ways of a dictator. that is because there have been way too many examples of the police getting away scot free with all manner of actual crimes themselves, including murder!!

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“?Honestly I think almost nobody knows that is the law, not even lawyers,? LoMonte laughed.”
And he should be fired.

“executive director of the Student Press Law Center”
Laughing and ignoring a law he should be well aware of, he is at worst incompetent at best has no business running ANYTHING that has to do with law if he is this ignorant of something that isn’t a 300 yr old weird law about walking a duck on a leash on a sunday.

As for the officers I expect we will see charges for violating the law that they are duty bound to uphold, isn’t the quote ignorance of the law is no excuse?
If we allow them some sort of pass, then why have any laws at all? If we don’t feel like it and won’t be punished what is the point? Or is this one of those do as we demand, not as we do?

The job is to uphold the law and the absolute failure at every level at this University should require a serious review of what exactly they are paying these people to do, because none of them did what their job requires.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Stop trespassing.

Enlighten us, who was trespassing? It was a publicly accessible building, and one that hadn’t been closed to the public at the time, so he had as much right to be there as anyone else did.

As for suggestions, perhaps police could learn the gorram law they’re trying to enforce(rather than just going off of what they think and/or want it to be), that would seem to be a good start.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Stop trespassing.

Feeling hurt? Trolling much mr officer? Or are you a relative of an officer? Because if you read the article right you’ll see there was no reason to have the guy arrested. The fact that he came clear of any accusations is further evidence that the police overreacted.

Also, trespassing what if he is a student there and therefore is allowed in the campus?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Stop trespassing.

If only, if his commenting history is any indication, assuming he isn’t trolling, the reason he always seems to jump in to defend cops going overboard like this is because he’s likely one of those cops that give the rest a bad name, and hence probably sees nothing wrong with cops abusing their authority or roughing up a suspect.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Stop trespassing.

Even if he was trespassing, it is really hard to convicted someone of it, at least in Washington. In Washington the trespassing sign or signs have to be visible from all areas on entry to count. Then the trespasser is ask to leave the premises by an officer and informed that he/she is trespassing. They can only be detained and or arrested if they try to continue trespassing in that area after the warning.

Joseph says:

Sad but ye

” Is it really too much to ask for law enforcement officers to know and respect the laws governing their actions?”
Sad but yes. Ignorance of the law is only innocence if you are an authority. That fact that these people are the ones that “should know” the most is irrelevant to them.

Here is what Lamonte meant to say ?Honestly I think almost everybody knows that is the law, especially lawyers, However, it is considered rude to ask police officers to follow proper procedure and law.?

Don Cordell (profile) says:

Constitutional Rights

More and more the police seize and confiscate and ignore our Rights, daring citizens to complain for fear they will be treated worse the next time for Demanding Rights, who do we think we are American Citizens? It is getting worse since Indiana Supreme Court decided any office may force entry to your residence IF they believe you might be doing something illegal. We have lost our nation, until we ReVote and Restore our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Peaceful complaints about our Rights are considered reason to abuse us more, until we learn to Cooperate, and obey. I was born in Indpls in 1927. He was lucky to get his camera, as Asset Confiscation is the new norm. Got to steal money from the citizens, then dare citizens to try to get recovery. Time to Pray, until they close our churches too.

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