UC Berkeley Police Officers Allegedly Arrest Journalist for Taking Their Picture

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

Jonathan Turley

32 thoughts on “UC Berkeley Police Officers Allegedly Arrest Journalist for Taking Their Picture”

  1. The police are using antiquated wiretap laws. The audio portion of the video comes into conflict with the laws. Have they made a distinction between surveillance cameras in and around my home from a hand held ( or helmetcam in the case of the motorcyclist) cameras?

  2. @Kay I don’t think people realize how traumatic a strip search is, and how police use it to punish people.

    But here’s a case of using this abuse on a crime VICTIM!!


    In this case also there was a conspiracy to cover it up, by the sheriff’s dept, the state, the FBI, & even the papers (which printed stuff they KNEW to be lies).

  3. I don’t think people have a clue as to how bad corruption is getting in this country.

    Even with the net, you don’t really get a clear pix of what all is going on, because it may not show up in local news.
    And usually a local matter is kept as quiet as possible, any corruption is covered by saying they won’t make statements while in litigation.
    Then any lawsuits are paid out as quietly as possible, and taxpayers foot the bill.
    After that if you try to find out what was going on, they make it out to be an “old” case that has been settled, and that people should forget it.

    Happens every time.

  4. It really is all staged. “The Obama administration has loudly opposed a provision of the omnibus spending bill, passed last week by the House, that would ban the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to U.S. soil, even for trial.

    “This provision goes well beyond existing law and would unwisely restrict the ability of the Executive branch to prosecute alleged terrorists in Federal courts or military commissions in the United States,” Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter to Senate leadership, calling the provision “dangerous” and asking that it be stripped before the Senate votes on the bill this week.

    “We strongly oppose this provision. Congress should not limit the tools available to the executive branch in bringing terrorists to justice and advancing our national security interests,” White House spokesman Reid Cherlin said just before the bill passed.

    So you would think, then, that this was perhaps a provision snuck into the must-pass government funding bill by Republicans intent on derailing Holder’s plan to try self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian criminal court.

    You’d be wrong.

    According to sources on both sides of the House Appropriations Committee, which had purview over the legislation, the bill was written entirely by the Democratic side. It was revealed to Republicans only hours before the vote. No amendments were allowed on the House floor. No Republicans voted for it.

    And, the committee sources said, the White House would have seen the final package — including the transfer ban — and would have had the chance to object.

    The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

    Republicans have tried to put similar language in a slew of bills over the past year, and succeeded in doing so via a defense funding bill that passed the House in May but died in the Senate. A similar provision also appeared in last year’s spending bill, which expired in October at the end of the fiscal year.

    Although leadership and the White House oppose the provision, it’s had support from some Democrats. In October 2009, for example, 24 Democrats voted for a provision to ban the transfer of Gitmo detainees to the U.S. for prosecution or incarceration. Thirteen of those voted for last week’s bill — which passed by just six votes, 212 to 206.

    House Republican leadership, for their part, believes the measure doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t ban the transfer of detainees to other countries.

    “Considering the press reports regarding the recidivism rate of released or transferred detainees, House Republicans are strongly disappointed and will be addressing this issue in the 112th Congress,” said Minority Leader John Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel.

    Senate leadership, including a spokesman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, would not say whether the provision will be included in its version of the spending bill. The Senate is expected to vote before Saturday, when the current resolution funding the government expires.” (rawstory)

  5. Actually police departments get really long detailed manuals about procedures and they have conferences sponsored by their insurance companies.

    Taking a long view, in today’s society most or all interaction between citizen and government eventually is recorded in systems of records so the Privacy Act and state equivalents have the potential to limit government reach.

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