Months After LAPD Officers Attacked A Journalist, Prosecutors Are Trying To Charge The Journalist For Failing To Disperse

from the that's-one-way-to-mishandle-criticism dept

Cops have been using protests against police violence to engage in police violence against journalists. The addition of federal cops to the heated mix in Portland, Oregon made this worse. The new cops amped it up so much journalists had to seek a protective order telling cops to stop doing things they knew they shouldn’t be doing, like targeting journalists with things like pepper spray and rubber bullets.

But they’re going further. Wading into the policing of protests — something already fraught with First Amendment concerns — cops are arresting journalists simply for covering demonstrations. An attempted prosecution of a reporter in Iowa ended with an arrested journalist being cleared of all charges. That it ever reached the point it needed to be handled by a judge and jury is an indictment of local cops and local prosecutors. (But not the kind of indictment that leads to prosecutions, unfortunately.)

A similar case is underway in Los Angeles. A reporter for website L.A. Taco released footage of him being attacked by LAPD officers while covering the city’s chaotic “celebration” of a World Series win.

For months, nothing happened. Then, despite officers not arresting him last October, the city has decided to prosecute him for the criminal act he was never arrested for.

Lexis-Olivier Ray, a freelance journalist who covered the upheaval for the news website L.A. Taco, was not among those arrested. But last month he received a letter from the Los Angeles city attorney’s office notifying him that he faced a criminal charge for failing to follow an LAPD officer’s order to disperse during the tumult.

No arrest happened that night. A report written a week later by an officer raised this allegation. But it wasn’t until February he was even informed he was considered a criminal suspect.

This looks suspiciously like retaliation by the LAPD for Ray’s release of his recording of their abuse targeting him — a recording that racked up more than 400,000 views. Further examination of police actions and statements made in response to inquiries by the LA Times confirms this suspicion.

The LAPD has no explanation for why officers did not arrest Ray that night for violating an order to disperse. It also had no explanation why none of the 19 people arrested were charged with failing to disperse or why only a person who identified himself as a journalist would be the only subject to this order to disperse.

Then there’s this, which shows the LAPD is either incapable or unwilling to follow its own guidance on handling interactions with journalists.

The LAPD’s handling of Ray’s case seemed to run counter to orders it gave its own officers following the Dodgers celebrations. Two days after Ray’s video went viral, LAPD Deputy Chief Dominic Choi issued a departmentwide memo instructing officers and field commanders to respect the rights of reporters during demonstrations whether or not they had formal press credentials.

Nothing adds up to a legitimate criminal prosecution. But whatever the LAPD can do to hurt the journalist that hurt them by doing little more than providing uncut footage of being attacked by officers, they’ll do. There’s no heat of the moment, split-second decision making going on here. At best, bad judgment was displayed by some officers last October. That could have been the end of it. But now the LAPD has compounded its errors and it will be lucky to escape this debacle without being sued.

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Comments on “Months After LAPD Officers Attacked A Journalist, Prosecutors Are Trying To Charge The Journalist For Failing To Disperse”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

LAPD: '... meh.'

But now the LAPD has compounded its errors and it will be lucky to escape this debacle without being sued.

Which will be paid for, both the legal fees and any fines that might result, by people who aren’t them. Police departments getting sued is nothing to them because it’s always someone else footing the bill, and as such it serves no deterent, provides no reason to change at all.

Meanwhile whether they win in court or not they’ll have made it very clear that you make the LAPD look bad at your own risk, as they can and will drag you through court and make your life miserable if you have the audacity to show the public what wanton thugs and criminals they are.

Police departments keeps doing stuff like this because it works, and because they risk nothing and pay nothing to engage in such behavior. To stop this sort of thuggery from continuing will require a hefty shift in the system such that police are no longer coddled little snowflakes and actually face consequences for their own actions, and until that’s the case they have no reason to change.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: LAPD: '... meh.'

"…in between your whining about your random one line spam attempts being treated as the spam they are."

Well, to be perfectly fair, given how Baghdad Bob has been a thoroughly unlikable pile of shit for ten years around here I’d be surprised if he wasn’t spamming a dozen other blogs and forums with the same rancid crap. If all you do in life is pissing people off by trying to piss on them I’d be surprised if he hadn’t manage to attract the hostile attention of at least half a dozen script kids by now.

It might actually be that he does have problems accessing websites in general because his computer keeps getting reamed from one end to the other on a regular basis by irate online shitkickers.

A bit like how throwing poop at every window in the neighborhood at random will end up with random bypassers keying your car and stealing your hubcaps.

Baghdad Bob being that very stable genius that he is, by his own admission an expert in law, IT, sociology, medicine, history and an innovative entrepreneur only foiled by evil pirates stealing his scam mailing lists…he has instead come to the conclusion that Techdirt is "out to get him".

Who are we to argue with his delusions? Especially given that according to his own repeated assertions, we’re all astroturfing zombies commissioned by Mike Masnick on behalf of Google and the CIA.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Tim R (profile) says:

Cops have been using protests against police violence to engage in police violence against journalists. The addition of federal cops to the heated mix in Portland, Oregon made this worse.

For some reason, I read this as "feral cops", and after further reflection, didn’t change the overall meaning much.

Anonymous Coward says:

If that were my wife, I would have avenged her by breaking into the LAPD computer network and trashing their network and cost them BIG MONEY in repair bill to get it fixed.
.
I would have taught the LAPD that if you mess with my wife, I WILL get revenge.

Then I would have used on a number of secure disk wiping programs on the mark to obliterate the evidence from my hard disk, so they could not build a case against me.

No evidence = NO CASE

Anonymous Coward says:

One thing I have got to point out here – journalists are NOT a special class. They don’t have extra privileges on where they can be or to ignore direction from police during a dispersal action. They have exactly the same rights as anyone else.

To be clear – I am NOT making a pro-police argument here. The LAPD certainly seems like it crossed some serious lines, and the officers involved directly ignored orders from their superiors on how to deal with reporters, regardless of carried credentials… which is a problem all on it’s own.

My point is that we shouldn’t be MORE upset about ill treatment to a pro-journalist than ANY OTHER member of the public. The idea that action against a journalist is more objectionable is BS spouted off by big media outlets in order to suppress independent journalism. The truth is we are ALL the press, with all the privileges that entails, but by inverse journalists are also not in anyway more legally entitled than anyone else.

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PaulT (profile) says:

"The idea that action against a journalist is more objectionable is BS spouted off by big media outlets in order to suppress independent journalism"

Erm, how does that work? What rights are they trying to claim for their journalists that wouldn’t apply to independent journalists?

"The truth is we are ALL the press"

Well, that’s something that can be, and is, debated a lot in modern times. But, a real professional journalist is often able to use their experience in a role to get more valuable insights that someone who randomly manages to catch something on camera, and their professional experience shouldn’t be discounted just because others are able to replicate one part of their role with modern technology.

Anonymous Coward says:

'They hurt our feelings, make them pay!'

with the memo telling the blue lies mafia to leave journalists alone, the waiting of months to file a charge, and the disregard of rights! the charges will get tossed! and most likely a lawsuit will now get filed!
had the copsucking DA left it alone, the issue most likely wound have been sweped under the rug like the rest of the blue lies mafia crimes!

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