As many of you know, whenever there is a serious crime that police are investigating, officers place crime scene tape around the perimeter of the scene (usually bright yellow). Why? To protect the integrity of the scene by assuring that no person or animal contaminate the scene. This is good police work! Now if you cross the tape, you’re subjected to arrest! If you don’t cross or violate the tape barrier, you’re okay, meaning that you cannot contaminate the investigation.
Now I’m writing this article to illustrate a basic point, although not very serious, but a point indeed, especially if this scenario happens to you! A homicide this past Sunday recently occurred in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Louisiana again) and Baton Rouge police officer Derek Evans rightfully taped the scene, “as a crime scene”. He placed the “yellow tape” around the scene, assuring that this boundary was protected.
Along comes Baton Rouge newspaper photographer Mark Saltz, an authorized employee of the newspaper, waiting to photograph any pictures of the scene from a distance, behind the barrier, from a legal distance. For some unknown reason, the officer approached the photographer and asked him to move back. The photographer “rightfully” stated that he was behind the barrier. This officer insisted that he move. At this point, the photographer asked for a supervisor, attempting to deal with the situation in a legal way. The officer responded that HE was the supervisor. At that moment, the photographer attempted to use his cell phone and was instantly arrested, later released and given a summons. His cell phone was actually taken from him as he attempted to make a call!
Now, I’m not saying the officer was a rogue cop, but he was clearly wrong and the situation could have escalated to another crime scene. The reporter was clearly “obeying” the boundaries set by the officer”, and had every right to be there! But for some reason, this officer “challenged” the photographer! (this story made news in the Baton Rouge area and beyond).
This is an example of what I’ve been speaking and writing articles about … police officers exercising powers that are needless and excessive .This shouldn’t have reach this point! If the officer felt that the distance to the “scene” was too close, then taped a wider and/or deeper area.
(His boss, Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeff LeDuff, is actually one of the most honorable chiefs in the nation in my opinion. I've actually met him twice and he agrees with me that bad cops are not good cops).
I’ve been in contact with Mr. Saltz and have stated to him that many have contacted me supporting his position. And he in turn has emailed me that he will “let the courts” decide the matter. I for one am happy that he will follow up on this. If you desire to let him know you support him,, email him at the advocate.
Bert P. Kragas II, a noted Oregon attorney who drafted the widely distributed “Photographer’s Rights Guide, stated that police cannot confiscate cameras or media without a court order! Marc Radazzo, a noted first amendment attorney, seems to echo the same position!
Why did the officer take his cell phone? I’ll tell you why, and most of you know the answer…POWER! He became soo caught up with showing Mr. Saltz who the boss was that he escalated the problem. He was a cop and knew that at that time, Mr. Saltz would respect the fact that he was a uniformed police officer, no other! Totally unnecessary, a clear display of misplaced power, and probably a civil crime! Fight on Mr. Saltz, fight on!