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. Come on guys, this was clearly just an honest mistake. Somebody honestly forgot to teach police officers that they have to obey laws as well as enforce them.

    Taking a LONG view, one of the greatest issues facing humanity is how do we shift our “twenty to a tribe of chimps” culture to a “millions to a tribe of humans” culture. In the small groups our innate behaviors developed in it was impossible for the chimp with authority to be separate from the tribe. Now not only is the authority isolated, but those in charge of enforcing that authority are a tribe unto themselves.

  2. I just read Jill’s post again about the mass surveillance. The first time I sued DOJ, Judge Bates ruled that the Warrant Information System doesn’t require that there is a criminal charge in order to issue an arrest warrant. He said a judicial order without an associated criminal prosecution is enough. He basically said that anything a judge says is an authorized law enforcement function. I since found out that he used to be a federal prosecutor.

  3. Every day brings reports of new abuses by the police and why not, no one is really protesting against it.

    “Four Queens men sue NYPD after being held for 30 hours, busted for laughing at cops”


    At least in Britain there are some protests and it’s making the government is apparently frightened over it. If this isn’t a fear reaction I don’t know what it is.

    This from Britain:

    “Boy of 12 hauled out of class by police over David Cameron Facebook protest”


  4. Well I am hoping to get some recognition from DOJ for what it did to me — unlawful imprisonment without a criminal charged to stop progress in a third party civil lawsuit.

    My opinion as to why it happened is that the Marshals were guarding former federal judge Nottingham at lap dance clubs and brothels and therefore they overran the computer controls to imprison me without due process, either because Nottingham’s buddies promised them women too or because someone took compromising cell phone snapshots of them.

    I don’t have to prove it, it is a possibility only.

    What I should be able to prove is that the Automated Booking System has an offense code that corresponds to the USC. I searched the House of Representatives U.S. Code on Criminal ADJ Contempt AND punish AND imprison and found a criminal contempt statute 18 USC section 403 “Protection of the privacy of child victims and child witnesses” and I think that is what they entered into the Automated Booking System for “contempt”. Then I think they switched that to “5005 civil contempt” from the outdated offense code in the Prisoner Tracking System, (where homosexual act with man, seduction of adult and anarchism are listed as crimes)

    It would be easy for the Marshals to game the Prisoner Tracking System because every of the 94 districts has it owns system or at least they used to. When I was imprisoned for three weeks in Wisconsin, they don’t have any Automated Booking System or Prisoner Tracking System records to return.

  5. rafflaw,

    I think you don’t see this because you have not stepped out of line in a way that makes you an over target. Of course, putting your opinions on Bush in writing on this blog and in your own blog guaranteed you were put under surveillance from that moment forward. I remember you mentioning that you saw some traffic from the CIA on your own blog. Why should you have gotten that? You were not doing anything illegal in stating that Bush was acting in an illegal manner on one issue after another.

    The ACLU, using the FOIA, has gotten 900 pages of redacted documents showing that just about everyone is under surveillance. That is a police state.

    As to overt violence or use of more visible state tactics (visible in that the victim has them right in their face, whereas most surveillance is done secretly) against “enemies of the state” (read, people who are fighting for justice, exposing injustice or are living while Muslim or immigrant)–that is now reserved for a few. This violence does not yet need to spread to the wider society. It is only necessary to bare the state’s fangs on a few. People can take the message. “Don’t get out of line, don’t challenge us or you will pay.” This is also the action of a classic police state.

    If we lived under the rule of law, the DOJ would go after war and financial criminals. Instead, they run the govt. In order to maintain unjust power it is necessary to do everything you see the govt. now doing. 1. mass surveillance, 2. mass propaganda, 3. turn citizens against each other, 4. restrict access to actual information and 5. really go after a small group of people, both to actually stop them from shinning a light on illegal actions and to send a message to anyone else thinking of protesting/chronicling injustice. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but everyone of these things is happening right now.

    I also agree that white people were allowed and are allowed still, to use unjust authority over black people (class and sex dependent). Racism is a classic case of rule of fiat instead of rule of law and it was opposed in the civil rights movement and still needs to be opposed today. The civil rights movement shows us that we should never bow to unjust power. That we must use soul force to oppose injustice. So far from saying, well this has happened in the past so present injustice is O.K., we see that the past teaches us that standing up to injustice, not accepting it, is the only way to counter wrongdoing.

  6. Swarthmore mom,
    Growing up in the Chicago area, I do remember seeing media excerpts of minorities being abused by the Chicago Police Department, but that has improved over the years. It is still there on occasion, but especially since Joe Burge’s torture issues, things are getting better.
    while I agree that there are bad indicators that lead one to think we are heading towards the police state that your reference, however, I do not think we are anywhere close yet. The term police state harkens an old guy like me to remember the KBG and other secretive and abusive arms of a government. I can’t agree that we in the same ball park as the KBG. At least we still have some recourse through the courts….as long as we are not labeled as an “enemy combatant”!

  7. Police beat black people all the time in Chicago when I was growing up. It was routine. Also, I witnessed anti-war protesters being bludgeoned by the police. This is nothing new in America.

  8. Here’s excerpts from a piece written by Chris Hedges: “We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative. It will, as the rot of the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist we will keep this possibility alive. If we do not, it will die.

    Go to Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, at 10 a.m. Dec. 16. Join dozens of military veterans, myself, Daniel Ellsberg, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, Dr. Margaret Flowers and many others who will make visible a hope the corporate state does not want you to see, hear or participate in. Don’t be discouraged if it is not a large crowd. Don’t let your friends or colleagues talk you into believing it is useless. Don’t be seduced by the sophisticated public relations campaigns disseminated by the mass media, the state or the Democratic Party. Don’t, if you decide to carry out civil disobedience, be cowed by the police. Hope and justice live when people, even in tiny numbers, stand up and fight for them.

    There is in our sorrow—for who cannot be profoundly sorrowful?—finally a balm that leads to wisdom and, if not joy, then a strange, transcendent happiness. To stand in a park on a cold December morning, to defy that which we must defy, to do this with others, brings us solace, and perhaps even peace. We will not find this if we allow ourselves to be disabled. We will not find this alone. As long as a few of us rebel it will always remain possible to defeat a system of centralized, corporate power that is as criminal and heartless as those I watched tumble into the ash bin of history in Eastern Europe.” (Common Dreams)

  9. rafflaw,

    I believe it is accurate to say we do live in a police state. The rule of law has ended. We are governed by the rule of fiat. In order to maintain unjust authority, it is necessary for the police to crush or otherwise make an example of anyone who will threaten its power.

    The press must be taken care of when it stops fawning over people who are in power. Most of the press is bought off (such as in JT’s write up of WaPo Salon of the powerful and many other examples). But sometimes there are members of the press who need a reminder that they better watch what they are doing or there will be real consequences to pay. For them, such as the case with the BP oil/corexit poisoning, where the state assisted a private corporation in depriving reporters of their rights (and citizens of our right to know what is really happening in our country), they will feel the force of the state. Wikileaks is also feeling the force of the state as it is likely the DOnonJ will draw up an indictment of Assange.

    This it what it looks like to live in a police state, under the rule of fiat, not law. It will get worse as more people go hungry and other people protest. The state is baring its fangs. It saddens me that our govt. has turned into a complete monster, but a nation isn’t only it’s govt. It is its citizens as well. It will be up to us to reassert a govt. of laws by peacefully taking on this unjust and lawless govt.

  10. rafflaw: I think you mean WikiLeaks instead of Wikipedia. Also, there is LiveLeak which does not censor videos as much as YouTube.

  11. This kind of abuse is just one more example why whistleblowers like Wikipedia are needed now more than ever. I just cannot understand how the police continue to abuse their authority with little or no reprecussions. Hopefully the civil suit will be successful enough to alter the University police abuses. Not likely, but if a judgement in favor of the journalist is large enough, the University just might wake up!

  12. Addiction Analyst wrote:

    “…while we still have constitutional rights, it is important that we don’t become apathetic… the main purpose of police control is to drive the public into apathy.”


    Some in America have already lost many of their constitutional rights, but those in power (and a compliant, generally apathetic populace) readily dismiss their complaints. There is little to no oversight of those in our “intelligence” communities, and there is also a “few holds barred” approach on the streets these days. Snitches and informants are being used in unprecendented numbers… And “citizen spies” are out there in greater numbers than many realize.

    The system is out of control but, to date, no one is talking. NSLs may be a piece of it, but the abuses continue because too many are willing to submit to authority. When asked to do something to help “fight the war on terror” (or bribed, sometimes, with an extra bit of cash or a “stay out of jail” card), many people are all too willing to help the police — to help “the state.”

    Our government has a lot to hide — those “in the know” certainly don’t want their abuses to be be exposed… With groups like Wikileaks, Openleaks, and others, maybe there’s a ghost of a chance that “the truth will out”, but I’m not holding my breath.

  13. I am thankful for all of the efforts to combat the authoritarian take over that is being orchestrated at all levels in our society. It is obvious that the power-that-be are definitely heading us towards a police state and while we still have constitutional rights, it is important that we don’t become apathetic… the main purpose of police control is to drive the public into apathy.

  14. We’re living in a police state, where the “secret police” are thriving, as well. With no apparent oversight (the LEIU, is an example, I believe), some terrible things are taking place on the streets of America. Many are none the wiser…and where it will end, is anyone’s guess…

  15. Why should state police refrain from arresting citizens for doing legal things when DOJ arrests and detains citizens for truthful filings in federal courts (i.e. Kay Sieverding)?

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