MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A freelance videographer has settled a civil rights lawsuit against the Suffolk County Police Department, after he was arrested an arrest following an order by a police sergeant to stop taping the arrest of a suspect.
Philip Datz worked for Stringer News Service, which sells video to television stations and other news outlets. He claimed in his federal lawsuit that his arrest in 2011 obstructed him from doing his job.
Datz said the settlement requires Suffolk County to pay him $200,000. The county legislature approved spending the money in a vote on Tuesday.
The New York Civil Liberties Union hailed the settlement, 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported.
Datz said as important as the financial settlement is, he is proud the agreement requires the department to create a committee to address problems between the press and the police department.
Representatives for the county executive and police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“This settlement is a victory for the First Amendment and for the public good,” Datz said in a statement. “When police arrest journalists just for doing their job, it jeopardizes everyone’s ability to stay informed about important news in their community.”
Datz was arrested in Bohemia on Long Island in July 2011. He contended he was wearing press credentials and was filming police activity from a sidewalk where bystanders also were watching. He said a sergeant ordered him to stop shooting and to leave. Datz claimed that none of the bystanders were told to leave.
Datz moved about a block away and resumed shooting, The sergeant pursued him and arrested him. The district attorney’s office later dropped an obstruction charge against him.
The lawsuit claimed Suffolk County “gives officers excessive discretion to prevent such recording,” lacks adequate training for officers in dealing with the media, and does not sufficiently discipline officers who obstruct journalists doing their jobs.
“The real challenge now will be to ensure the ongoing training of Suffolk County Police Department officers in order for Suffolk County to be a positive role model for other law enforcement agencies,” Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, said in a statement.
A video of the encounter that appeared on the Internet showed Datz suggesting that the officer call the department for advice on where Datz could stand. Milton is heard replying: “You can call and talk to the commissioner for all I care. You’re going away — I’ve been doing this for 30 years. There is nothing you can hold over my head or anybody out there.”
Following the much publicized arrest, an instructor from the FBI Academy in Virginia visited Suffolk County for several days, offering training on interacting with the media.
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