“There’s Nothing You Can Hold Over My Head”: Suffolk Police Settle Arrest of Photographer For $200,000 in Latest Case Involving Filming of Police In Public

Photojournalist-wins-200K-settlement-for-illegal-arrest-300x160We have yet another settlement against a police department for the arrest of a citizen for videotaping police in public. We have been following the continuing abuse of citizens who are detained or arrested for filming police in public. (For prior columns, click here and here). Despite consistent rulings upholding the right of citizens to film police in public (most recently here), these abuses continue. New York photojournalist Philip Datz won a $200,000 settlement stemming for his 2011 arrest during which Suffolk County Police Sergeant Michael Milton proclaimed “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. There’s nothing you can hold over my head or anybody out there.”

This case is particularly serious because Datz was wearing press credentials. He was working for Stringer News Service, which sells video to television stations and other news outlets. He was arrested in Bohemia on Long Island in July 2011 when he started to videotape a scene while standing with other bystanders.

Here is the videotape that shows the officer clearly denying he rights of Datz and acting abusively:

The settlement also requires a new training program. However, once again, there is no mention of any disciplinary action against the officer (though such discipline may have been reached on a voluntary or undisclosed basis). This case happened to be captured on videotape so there was no question about the lack of any basis for the charge. Without the videotape, it would have been a dispute between the arrestee and the officer which ordinarily goes against the arrestee.

Absent such discipline, Milton will have been proven correct that “there’s nothing you can hold over my head.”

Here is the original complaint.

Kudos: Michael Blott

33 thoughts on ““There’s Nothing You Can Hold Over My Head”: Suffolk Police Settle Arrest of Photographer For $200,000 in Latest Case Involving Filming of Police In Public”

  1. LaserDLiquidator

    Wacky (on $30K remark) took a quantum leap into pomposity with “translate –”

    haven’t the slightest clue what this sentence is supposed to mean.

    Basically what I was saying is I would be more than willing to pay a cop $30,000 to arrest me if I could get $200,000 as a result.

  2. Datz is very lucky that the police did not destroy the video, which proved his case.

    Perhaps if the police departments keep getting hit with these punitive settlements, they will learn their lesson – that people are allowed to film them in a public place.

    We not only depend on the police; we need to feel we can trust them to do the right thing. When police throw stun grenades on sleeping babies on no-knock warrants, or arrest citizens for filming them, or pile charges on what was clearly an abuse situation, it erodes that crucial trust.

    I typically support the police. Without them we’d have anarchy. And they risk their lives every day for strangers as part of their job. I honor that. But wrong is wrong, and they, of all people, should have a moral compass.

  3. Wacky (on $30K remark) took a quantum leap into pomposity with “translate –”

    And James – your comment details the surreal – Really!

    An associate of mine (in the battle against tyranny, cronyism and corruption), who is also returned from Russia (arms/explosive engineer & Professor);

    also went to a show in Washington D.C.

    Where the war mongering profiteers found a whole new way to further manifest injustice; by selling local police military armaments and vehicles extraordinary!

    Sheeesssh – are we in BIG trouble!

    I’m just sayin…………..

  4. ““I’ve been doing this for 30 years. There’s nothing you can hold over my head or anybody out there.”

    Those days of rank entitlement to power appear to be slipping slowly into the past. Surveillance tech is on the rise. Also, there is nothing stopping anyone from finding out where this cop lives and organizing regular flash mobs until he is fired if he hasn’t been already.

    Cops have always been crooked. What we are seeing as the kitchen lights are flicked on by the technology, is just how bad indeed the cockroach problem has become.

    Of course, treating waterboarding as almost-maybe-torture though it remains a war crime has shown police departments everywhere that any tactic only slightly less awful than torture is now available for rapid deployment by police in the form of SWAT teams to deal with parking infractions.

    “There’s nothing you can hold over my head or anybody out there.”

    Citizens retain the power to end it, but they have to unite, and remain so.

  5. Back in 2007, I consulted an attorney at law about a legal problem which had come to my attention. As I remember what I said, and what the attorney said, most of 7 years ago, it went like this:

    Once on a time I asked an attorney, “Is it reasonable to require people to do what is impossible?”

    The attorney replied, “I don’t know.”

    I next asked the attorney, “Is it decent to require people to do the impossible and punish them for the inescapable failure?”

    The attorney replied, “I don’t know.”

    “The law” requires that people, police officers included, regularly do the impossible, for the law takes no factual account of what is, or is not, actually possible.

    I asked another attorney to tell me how, in clear and willful conscious conscience, I could learn the law well enough to never, never ever, violate it. That attorney informed me that what I wanted the attorney to tell me impossible.

    If it is impossible for me, with clear, conscious, conscientious intent prior to any, and every, act of overt conduct on my part, to avoid becoming in violation of the law, is it I who am capable of violating the law, exclusive-or, is it the law which incessantly violates me?

    How, on earth, or anywhere else, is it true that the make-believes of the law are actually superior to life itself if the law as established is an activity of life itself?

    What if the whole universe of universes (the set of all parallel, perpendicular, or otherwise-oriented universes) is absolutely and perfectly innocent, as is everything and everyone therein and thereof, and the universe of universes is so recently begun that no aspect of the universe of universes yet understands life accurately enough to recognize as fact that there is only truthful innocence striving to learn how to find and recognize itself?

    Existenzphilosophie, vielleicht?

    For so long as I am being as-though completely not understood, what difference can it make what language I happen to use?

    The police officer’s overt conduct is his manifest expression of his accumulated life experiences as they were, to him, relevant to his career as a police officer in the context of his encounter with Philip Datz. There is no actually-achievable standard of human conduct that is better than that.

    No one who starts threads on the Turley blog, and no one who responds to Turley blog threads can actually do any better in using prior life experiences to shape overt conduct than did Suffolk County Police Sergeant Michael Milton?

    Scientific, not merely imaginary-hypothetical, refutation of the above, via scientifically reproducible demonstrations is, for me, profoundly welcome.

    However, a useful definition for “the impossible” may happen to be, “whatever does not actually happen as it actually does not happen.’

    Die Zeit vergeht, und auch Mode?

    Ich versteh Deutsch beinahe gar nicht, und auch Englische…

    Understand not? Google translate?

  6. If there was any accountability to be found within the Suffolk County Police Department Sergeant Milton would be personally responsible for paying the $200,000.00 settlement not the tax payers of Suffolk County. It were his unprofessional acts in his official capacity as a police officer which merited the sanctioning.

  7. Reblogged this on Seth Connell and commented:
    Scumbag Suffolk County Police… They have zero expectation of privacy because they are public servants, and have been shown to be rather abusive of power in too many cases. This is good news for our freedom of speech.

  8. Since they suspect was in custody, I don’t see the distance as being a problem for where the video reporter was standing. If the scene was hot he would have been too close. It definately wasn’t hot as the suspect was in custody and the police stood down.

    There was no excuse for the sergeant’s behavior. What especially to me, aside from the arrest, was how the sergeant roared up to the reporter and stopped several feet next to him. There was clearly no basis for this and shows to me anger on the part of the sergeant. This wasn’t a person posing any threat to the public or a flight risk. It was endangering the reporter when it completely unnecessary and unwarranted.

    In reading the complaint, there is clearly an endemic problem with violation of reporters’ rights as alleged.

    1. Darren, if this were in Houston, I could understand the cops reaction. Here it is SOP to beat the hell out of a suspect if they were In a police chase. The TV reporters know enough to get away and put down their cameras when it is asswhipping time. This might explain why the cops was so upset.

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