We have yet another arrest of a citizen for simply photographing police officers. We have been following this trend of abusive arrests (here and here and here and here), which are tolerated by legislators and police officers in clear violation of constitutional rights and good public policy. David Morse, 42, is a photojournalist who was arrested when he took pictures of a protest. Two UC Berkeley police officers allegedly wrongfully arrested him for taking their pictures.
In his lawsuit, Morse claims “Rather than pursue the fleeing demonstrators, many of whom had their faces covered, the police car pulled up directly in front of Morse . . . UCPD officers Manchester and Wyckoff exited the vehicle and briskly approached Morse. As they approached, Officer Wyckoff shouted, ‘I saw you take a picture of us. We want your camera. We believe your camera contains evidence of a crime.’” Despite the fact that Morse offered to show him his credentials, he was arrested and charged with riot and vandalism.
The charges were later dropped but there is no indication that the officers were fired for first arresting a citizen (let alone a journalist) for taking pictures and then falsifying charges. If true, they succeeded in violating the fourth amendment as well as the first amendment in both freedom of speech and the free press.
It is particularly shocking to occur in a protest associated with a university, which must be a bastion for free speech and individual rights. The university website states:
The department is empowered as a full- service state law enforcement agency pursuant to section 830.2 (b) of the California Penal Code and fully subscribes to the standards of the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). Officers receive the same basic training as city and county peace officers throughout the state, plus additional training to meet the unique needs of a campus environment.
I am surprised not to see a statement from the university or an announcement of a formal investigation into the conduct of these officers. In the past cases, officers have not been terminated despite these abuses arrests — signaling to other officers that the violation of constitutional rights are relatively minor matters.
This is an important lawsuit and counsel Geoffrey King and the First Amendment Project deserve praise for bringing the action.
Source: Courthouse News