Criminal charges have been formally dropped against New York news cameraman Phil Datz who was arrested at a crime scene last month. The video of the clearly abusive arrest was placed on YouTube (below) and shows an officer threatening and then arresting Datz. This is part of a continuing trend of officers arresting citizens and reporters for filming them in public — acts found to be unconstitutional but remain clearly tolerated (if not encouraged) in some jurisdictions.
On the film, Datz is shown a far distance from the crime scene – the end of a high-speed chase. The officer confronts him on the street in Bohemia, on Long Island. Even after Datz complies with an order to move away (and goes a block away) the sergeant again confronts him and arrests him. The officer sped down the street and jumps out of the car to arrest Datz.
Notably, the officer states “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and there’s nothing you can hold over my head; go away.” If so, he appears a bit of a slow learner on the rights of citizens and media. What is troubling is that, yet again, the officer does not appear to be subject to any discipline for the abusive arrest. The most that Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said was that all officers would receive refresher training on dealing with the media. Really? This video shows an officer who is irate and abusive toward the reporter. Is that a simple lack of training after 30 years?
I realize that officers can be pumped up after a crash and we have to keep in mind that these are humans trying to do an often super-human job. However, the latter pursuit of the reporter down the block moves this beyond an officer who loses judgment and control, in my view. Unless officers are sanctioned for such conduct, it is likely to continue. I do not believe the officer should be fired, but some discipline is warranted.