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.
— Lexis-Olivier Ray (@ShotOn35mm) October 28, 2020
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.