Virginia Police Force BBC Reporters To Delete Camera Footage Of Police Pursuit Of Shooter

from the hello-first-amendment dept

The story of this morning’s live “on air” shooting of a local TV news reporter in Virginia is horrifying on many, many levels. Like with many senseless killings, there are all sorts of “big questions” being raised, most of which aren’t really appropriate Techdirt fodder, though I’m sure those of you interested in those things can find other outlets for them. However, one tangential story fits right into Techdirt’s core areas of focus: apparently two BBC reporters who were covering the police pursuit of the apparent shooter (who then shot himself) were forced by police to delete their own camera footage. This is illegal. I don’t know how many times it needs to be repeated. Even the DOJ has somewhat forcefully reminded police that they have no right to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping things, so long as they’re not interfering with an investigation. And yet…

Two BBC reporters covering the police pursuit of Vester Lee Flanagan said that cops threatened to seize their car and camera if they didn’t delete footage of site where the Flanagan shot himself. “Was too far away to get any good footage. One officer threatened to tow my car and take my camera,” reporter Franz Strasser tweeted. “Watched me delete my one file, and let me go. Other officer apologized and said we have to understand.” His colleague, Tara McKelvey, filmed the encounter.

It appears that the cops used the same bullshit excuse we’ve seen them use in the past: that it’s “evidence.”

But, as Strasser notes, if that’s true, then why did the cops make them delete it?

As has been noted before, this is a clear violation of Constitutional rights, and the BBC and the reporters in question could file a civil suit against the police department, potentially winning a fair amount of taxpayer money because the police in Virginia are apparently unfamiliar with the First Amendment of the Constitution.

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Comments on “Virginia Police Force BBC Reporters To Delete Camera Footage Of Police Pursuit Of Shooter”

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54 Comments
wereisjessicahyde (profile) says:

Re: BBC is well trained

“They’re Brits. They do whatever the nanny gov tells them to do.”

Not true. The BBC are public enemy number one as far the Tory UK government are concerned. The UK Gov had nothing to do with what happened.

Franz has since said “It was either not being able to work for the rest of the day, w/o camera and car, or delete crappy footage from far away. Chose the latter.”

The Virginia Police did this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 BBC is well trained

Any statement made by a government is effectively “propaganda”; if the BBC, or any other organisation, broadcasts a government statement, they’re effectively broadcasting “government propaganda”.
If you’ve got a particular point to make about specific reporting done by the BBC, relating to a specific broadcast event, make it, or at least reference it.
If you’re just going to make wild accusations and follow them up with “I’ve made my wild accusation and you should accept it at face value, you pleb”, then you’re really not contributing positively to the discussion.

Anonymous Coward says:

it’s done because it can be done! it’s done because the Police think they are entitled to do whatever they want, regardless of the situation and be protected from anyone having ‘evidence’ that may (and in numerous situations has) give a completely different account to the one(s) offered by officers. until someone physically goes round to the highest authority of each county and enlightens the head of the Police Force, who them has to pass it on under threat of punishment if not done and done correctly, not as if it’s a fucking’ joke, how those same officers treat it, things wont change! as far as the police is concerned, the only law is what they deem appropriate at the time, regardless of how many rules of the Constitution are broken or lives lost or the manner in which those lives were lost! as with so many other things (seems to be more in the USA than anywhere else), when there is no punishment for those in charge, be it police or company heads, there will always be total abuse if the situation dictates!!

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

According to the guy’s Twitter, they threatened to
> tow the car because it was illegally parked.

That’s one thing these media assholes need to be called to account for. They think just because they have a camera that none of the normal parking and traffic laws apply to them. They pull up on sidewalks, block driveways and alleys, even park on lawns.

They shouldn’t tow them for not deleting footage, but they should certainly do it for all of that other crap.

Anonymous Coward says:

As has been noted before, this is a clear violation of Constitutional rights

And the law. Intentional destruction of evidence is a crime whether it’s the police doing it or anyone else.

I suppose you could argue that there wasn’t any useful evidence on the cameras (meaning the entire thing was without justification, but also meaning that no evidence was destroyed.) But I notice there were *two* officers, which makes it a conspiracy, which means this law could be applied…

“If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same… They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both” – Title 18, Section 241, US Code.

Anonymous Coward says:

Let’s consider the following:

1. Officer Apologize indicates the footage on the camera could be evidence
2. Officer Apologize then instructs the camera operator to delete said evidence

Assuming both of these could be true, then Officer Apologize is demanding the camera operator commit a crime.

Now, let’s assume that the camera operator grew a set of testicles, and pointed out the abject stupidity of Officer Apologize’s directive.

Why should the camera operator even consider turning over the camera to Officer Apologize, or anyone from his agency for that matter?

Isn’t this the same as letting evidence fall into the hands of someone who can clearly not be trusted, given the unlawful and potentially criminal context of his order?

I basically have two questions:

Why do people keep falling for this bullshit?
Why do police continue to insult the public’s intelligence with this ridiculous horseshit?

Actually, I have 3 questions…

Why isn’t the police union saying to these cops “you know, when you say shit like this, it makes us look like the assholes the public thinks we are…”

tom (profile) says:

Two cops telling the reporters to destroy evidence is Obstruction of Justice and Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice. Threatening the reporters with loss of property if they don’t agree to destroy the evidence is Blackmail while in the act of other felonies(the OoJ and CtOJ).

If Virginia has a three strikes law, these two cops may have just struck out. Of course, there has to be an umpire willing to make the call.

Joe Random says:

Live Streaming

Hopefully when bandwidth and efficient compression make it cheap and easy to stream live video from everywhere, the futility of police demanding to delete video will end.

(Of course, it shouldn’t have to come to that. In the meanwhile, 1st Amendment testers have taken to hiding recorders in multiple locations, on multiple people all recording eachother.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Live Streaming back to HQ or to a HD

Law enforcement officers roughing up the press (or anyone else for that matter) doesn’t make the police look like jackbooted thugs. They would in fact be, jackbooted thugs.

Broadcasting or reporting on that behavior doesn’t create the image of that, it just puts that behavior in the light of day.

If you don’t want to look bad, then don’t do that shit.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Live Streaming back to HQ or to a HD

“They would in fact be, jackbooted thugs.”

Wince we’re being pedantic and all, the only way they would really by “jackbooted thugs” is if they were actually wearing jackboots. Since those have been out of fashion with cops for a very, very long time, it’s more accurate to just call them “armed thugs”.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Live Streaming back to HQ or to a HD

Law enforcement officers roughing up the press (or anyone else for that matter) doesn’t make the police look like jackbooted thugs. They would in fact be, jackbooted thugs.

Yeah… they would both be and look like jackbooted thugs. Read it again:

“Law enforcement officers roughing up the press… makes the police look like jackbooted thugs.”

If they are going to BE jackbooted thugs, it’s important that they also LOOK LIKE jackbooted thugs so that we, the citizens, can tell what’s going on.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The British don’t have constitutional rights under the U.S. Constitution.

The 14th Amendment disagrees.

And furthermore, the Constitution doesn’t “give” or “grant” rights. It tells the Government what it can do, and what limits it can impose, on the rights given to us by the flying spaghetti monster (insert your deity here, or if you don’t believe in one, insert “those rights inherited when you were born from those who came before you.”)

That was kind of the whole point of the exercise.

The British have as much right as anyone else since they are born with those rights…they just aren’t allowed to tell us what we can or can’t do, and certainly aren’t allowed to tax us for something we neither want nor need, certainly if we aren’t allowed to tell them what we do want or need.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m of the belief that the Bill of Rights applies to anyone and everyone who has dealings with the US government.

Nowhere in the Bill of Rights is the word “citizen” used. The words used are “person” or “persons”. The word “citizen” is used specifically in later Amendments to limit their application to actual citizens.

Obviously, many courts do not agree with my contention.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: British don't have constitutional rights

It depends on the rights.

Congress shall pass no law… means that they won’t pass laws, even ones that apply only to visiting foreigners.

I think when we talk about rights to life, liberty, property, privacy, speech, practice of worship, to bear arms etc. We’re talking about rights due to all persons, not just United States citizens.

TheHolyCrow says:

Re: What were the police doing that they felt the need to force press correspondents to delete video footage?

Speeding ? And endangering the public in doing so ? I do not believe it is lawful for police to speed and drive recklessly, no matter what the circumstances. They can always radio ahead and have other officers set up roadblocks or tire strips to slow the perp down.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: What were the police doing that they felt the need to force press correspondents to delete video footage?

I do not believe it is lawful for police to speed and drive recklessly, no matter what the circumstances.

It’s certainly legal for them to speed if they have their emergency lights on. I doubt there’s an exemption for reckless driving but they can do things that would ordinarily be illegal if necessary.

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