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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Personal drone gets off-duty journalist suspended and violates the First Amendment, journalist says

The story of Pedro Rivera and his personal drone is in full swing with The Courthouse News Service bringing more today. In his suit, Rivera claims that a police lieutenant called his boss claiming "he had interfered with the police department's investigation of the accident, and had compromised the crime scene's 'integrity.' " He says the lieutenant suggested that he be suspended; or, perhaps he exchanged Rivera's suspension for his continued "goodwill." CNS's report begins:

In a bizarre twist to a civil rights issue, a news photographer claims in a federal lawsuit that Hartford police wrongfully arrested him for using a drone to photograph a fatal car accident - at an elevation of 150 feet, far too high to interfere with police, as officers claimed.     Pedro Rivera, a photographer and editor for a local television news station, claims he was not breaking any laws or hindering emergency operations by recording police activity after a Feb. 1 fatal car accident.

 

YmJmM2I5Yjc5MyMvTkZkNkVjWjdxYmlHUkwtU1FRaFVuS2VtRDl3PS84NDB4NTMwL3NtYXJ0L2ZpbHRlcnM6cXVhbGl0eSg3NSk6c3RyaXBfaWNjKDEpL2h0dHAlM0ElMkYlMkZzMy5hbWF6b25hd3MuY29tJTJGcG1idWNrZXQlMkZzaXRlJTJGYXJ0aWNsZXMlMkY1MTcwNSUyRm9yaWdpbmFsLmpwZw=="On February 1, 2014, the plaintiff heard on a police scanner that there was a serious motor vehicle accident in the City of Hartford. He responded to the scene of the accident, where he operated a remote-controlled model aircraft, colloquially known as a 'drone,' he owns to hover over the accident scene and to record visual images of the accident scene. His device was hovering at an altitude of 150 feet. At all times relevant to this action, the plaintiff was standing outside of the area denoted as the crime scene by officers responding to the accident. He was standing in a public place, operating his device in public space, observing events that were in plain view," Rivera says in his brief, 5-page lawsuit.

 

It continues: "Although the plaintiff is employed as a photographer and editor at a local television station, he was not acting as an employee of the television station at the time, a fact he made clear to police officers who were also at the accident scene, including defendant [police Sgt.] Yergeau and others.

 

"The plaintiff did acknowledge to defendant Yergeau and others that he does, from time to time, forward the video feed from his drone to the television station for which he works."

 

Rivera claims that Yergeau "and other uniformed officers of the Hartford Police Department surrounded the plaintiff, demanded his identification card, and asked him questions about what he was doing. The plaintiff did not feel as though he were free to leave during the course of this questioning."

 

He claims the police "demanded that the plaintiff cease operating the device over the accident scene, and that he leave the area."

 

But Rivera's attorney, Norman Pattis, claims his client wasn't breaking any laws.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/civil_rights/2014/02/personal-drone-gets-off-duty-journalist-suspended-and-violates-the-first-amendment-journalist-says.html

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Comments

Something is wrong here.

The police, malls, casinos employ millions of video recordings, including police car cameras for traffic stops. Yet, when they are being recorded in public, with no expectation of privacy, they arrest people for unauthorized surveillance.

While a lawsuit may have some effect, legislation protection public recordings and their publication in media should be enacted.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 22, 2014 10:51:13 PM

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