August 1st, 2011
Press Club of Long Island Takes A Stand For Unjustly Charged Journalist
By Luther Turmelle
The Press Club of Long Island, the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s largest journalism organization, is calling on the Suffolk County Police Department to drop all charges against freelance video journalist Phil Datz, who was arrested for filming police response to a car chase on July 29.
PCLI also demands that the department investigate the sergeant involved for what video taken at the scene indicates is a clear case of police abuse of authority and infringement of the journalist’s First Amendment rights.
The video shows Datz, who was working for Stringer News Service at the time and was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of governmental administration, was filming across the street on public property. He had not crossed a police line and was in no way interfering with officers. When confronted by the Fifth Precinct sergeant, he politely asked where he could film and suggested contacting the Public Information Office but was only threatened.
After he moved further away, he was then arrested without cause. Meanwhile, pedestrians and motorists freely moved around the scene without interference by police.
We hope the department will correct this matter and work to avoid this kind of incident in the future.