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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  • identicon
    Ragnarredbeard, 26 Aug 2015 @ 11:56am

    BBC is well trained

    They're Brits. They do whatever the nanny gov tells them to do. An American reporter would have told them to eff off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      wereisjessicahyde (profile), 26 Aug 2015 @ 12:18pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Seegras (profile), 26 Aug 2015 @ 1:36pm

        Re: Re: BBC is well trained

        The Virginia Police did this.

        Somebody needs to remind them. Sic semper tyrannis.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Sheogorath (profile), 26 Aug 2015 @ 7:01pm

        Re: Re: BBC is well trained

        The BBC are public enemy number one as far the Tory UK government are concerned.
        Really? Even though the Beeb basically tore up the Charter in broadcasting ConDem propaganda?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          wereisjessicahyde (profile), 26 Aug 2015 @ 7:19pm

          Re: Re: Re: BBC is well trained

          "Even though the Beeb basically tore up the Charter in broadcasting ConDem propaganda?"

          The BBC has no power over the charter. The government controls that.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Sheogorath (profile), 26 Aug 2015 @ 8:06pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: BBC is well trained

            They have the power to decide whether or not to follow it though, and they decided not to by broadcasting government propaganda (reiterated for the reading comprehension impaired).

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 12:35am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Stephen May, 26 Aug 2015 @ 5:48pm

      Yeah . . . right (NOT)!

      I respectfully disagree.

      The American media are absolutely nothing but presstitutes. They will do whatever the government wants to maintain their "access."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 6:26pm

      Re: BBC is well trained

      ...eff off

      I see what you did there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 11:59am

    Virgins is for Sorebacks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 12:02pm

    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!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      trinsic, 28 Aug 2015 @ 12:21am

      Re:

      The real answer is that we dont really have any rights, just the illusion of rights that can be taken away at will. Divest from state and federal governments, stop supporting a corporation that works for foreign interests at the expense of the people.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 12:06pm

    cops threatened to seize their car and camera if they didn't delete footage

    Their car. Threatened to seize their car. Their car that had nothing to do with anything. This is extortion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 12:09pm

      Re:

      According to the guy's Twitter, they threatened to tow the car because it was illegally parked. But yeah, that's pretty much a pretense, since the guy was right there and could move it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        btr1701 (profile), 28 Aug 2015 @ 1:24pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 26 Aug 2015 @ 1:02pm

      Re:

      State of Virginia vs. BBC Reporter's Car

      Guilty!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 10:29pm

      Re:

      In a police state police can do whatever they want because they know their word will be believed over any evidence to the contrary.

      Whether or not there are no consequences. In practice the police do not act like police, they act like criminals with badges.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 12:06pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 3:54pm

      Re:

      Ah; but the previous government redefined "person" as "legal citizen of the US" -- are these reporters American?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 5:06pm

        Re: Re:

        A US person is a US citizen or a lawfully admitted resident (ie 'green card' holder but not, I believe visa holder). (I have green card ie a permanent resident, so I care about this type of thing).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 12:16pm

    I've been listening to the BBC World Service all morning. This story of the interaction between the BBC reporters and the police hasn't been broadcast yet. 1214PDT.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 12:28pm

    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..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 8:44am

      Re:

      "Why do people keep falling for this bullshit?"

      Because most people realize that any officer who gives such a contradictory and obviously illegal order to them has a significant chance of throwing them in jail on trumped up charges, or worse, if defied.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 10:39am

        Or worse.

        Yeah, at that point they're already fearing for their safety, at least the safety of their career and reputation.

        That's still cause to gun you down.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 12:42pm

    These Cops need to be fired. Plain and simple, they broke the law now they should have a criminal record and no longer be allowed to hold their position at the police department.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 10:31pm

      Re:

      that would require the police actually giving a dam about the law. It is no longer about upholding the law but conditioning the citizenry into obeying their orders or risk being beaten up, charges of resisting arrest or just plain old murder by cop.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Aaron Walkhouse, 26 Aug 2015 @ 12:46pm

    Don't forget…

    …that which was merely deleted can also be undeleted.

    The reporters probably know that. ;]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 12:52pm

    ignorance of the law is no excuse

    unless you're the one enforcing the law then the high court says it's okay.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tom (profile), 26 Aug 2015 @ 1:41pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 26 Aug 2015 @ 1:58pm

    You didn't say which police dept. Are you under the impression that all police departments everywhere work the same way?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joe Random, 26 Aug 2015 @ 1:58pm

    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.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      a, 26 Aug 2015 @ 11:45pm

      Re: Live Streaming

      You could stream the video to a hidden WI-FI harddisk.

      a

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 1:07am

        Live Streaming back to HQ or to a HD

        I suspect this may become standard practice for journalists on the field, if the police are going to stop them from doing their job.

        Law enforcement officers roughing up the press makes for excellent ratings. And makes the police look like jackbooted thugs.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2015 @ 6:40am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 28 Aug 2015 @ 8:38am

            Re: Re: 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".

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 28 Aug 2015 @ 8:55am

            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.

            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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TheHolyCrow, 28 Aug 2015 @ 8:15pm

      Re: Live Streaming

      I like to tell people that I am chipped and transmitting. Kind of puts a chill on their bull when they try to pull that crap. Wouldn't it be nice to have a bionic camera eye that transmits to the cloud 24/7 ? With shut down capability on demand, of course, maybe voice activated.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Silent Bob, 26 Aug 2015 @ 3:05pm

    The British don't have constitutional rights under the U.S. Constitution. That was kind of the whole point of the exercise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 4:29pm

      Re:

      The Constitution regulates and limits the behavior of government actors, a group that includes police.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ltlw0lf (profile), 26 Aug 2015 @ 4:36pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Gwiz (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 8:35am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 10:36am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2015 @ 2:22pm

        Re: British don't have constitutional rights

        Congress shall pass no law...

        And therein lies the problem, the constitution limits the power of government.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 28 Aug 2015 @ 8:39am

      Re:

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

      Yes, they do.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    drjimmy (profile), 26 Aug 2015 @ 4:51pm

    And these same cops will then wonder why people don't trust them and why they are targets..

    The facts remain that most cops are nothing more than idiots with badges and guns.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 5:16pm

    Too late now, but...

    ... the best thing they could have done re the "delete your footage now" is to immediately turn the camera off and swap memory.

    Then take the memory with the deleted video to get it examined, and possibly un-deleted.

    And then bill the cops for the cost of the service.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 26 Aug 2015 @ 9:20pm

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

    This sounds like they thought they were doing something wrong and were caught on camera doing it.

    And then, by trying to cover it up, they did something wrong.

    There's a missing piece to this story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 2:50am

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

      No one deletes or orders the deletion of exonerating evidence, so yes, if they wanted the videos deleted that badly, odds are they feared what they would show.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TheHolyCrow, 28 Aug 2015 @ 8:26pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 29 Aug 2015 @ 9:31am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GEMont, 27 Aug 2015 @ 3:45pm

    Slight Correction here....

    "...the police in Virginia are apparently unfamiliar with the First Amendment of the Constitution."

    Not Unfamiliar.

    Just Unhappy.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyoty (profile), 27 Aug 2015 @ 6:08pm

    It's not evidence, it's a recording of evidence. The evidence is still physically there. The police have cameras too, I presume, to make their own recording. But the point may be they don't want any evidence of the evidence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nonya, 8 Sep 2015 @ 3:39pm

    Dont make sense

    Why would cops delete evidence unless they committed a crime. Are the cops criminal now. The law was suposed to apply to all. If it dont its not law but a bias guideline. Sad that i beleve in law just not the law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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