The Vancouver Police took a newspaper photographer’s camera last Sunday as the journalist snapped shots following a police shooting.
On Wednesday the police issued a statement about the incident as CBC reports:
“I am here this morning to advise you that the Vancouver Police Department has formally apologized to the Province newspaper for retaining the camera belonging to their photographer Jason Payne for longer than we should have,” Chief Jim Chu told reporters during a morning news briefing.
Canada.com reports that the police know better than to take cameras from the media.
“As police officers we know, or should know, that media personnel have special protections in law, and that a search warrant is the appropriate legal mechanism to seize such evidence from a media person in these circumstances,” said Chu. “Unfortunately, the constable was not given the appropriate advice by a senior officer.”
The camera was seized for about an hour when an officer believed it had pictures of police shooting a man as he tried to ram a police car with a stolen truck. The man was hit in and leg and suffered gun shot wounds.
Chu says that the police were unaware that the camera belonged to a member of the press.
The Calagary Herald was told Payne’s side of the story.
“They said I was obstructing justice and they were going to confiscate my camera as evidence. They ended up taking my camera from me. It was either that or be arrested,” he said.
“They were manhandling me,” he said. Payne was shocked.
Payne’s side of the story fits into what another witness recalled. A movie crew was witness to the events as they were filming close by. The best-boy on the production Nicholas-Kandie told the Calgary Herald.
“He was assaulted by the police. They had him in a lock hold and (Payne) had his foot on his camera,” trying to stop it from being taken, said Nicholas-Kandie.
The Editor-in-Chief at the Province, Wayne Moriarty said that he would be investigating the matter. He wants to know why his photographer had to endure what he called typical police bully tactics.
While Payne accepted the chief’s apology he denies that he did not identify himself as a member of the press.
“I appreciate the explanation that Chief Chu has presented but I reject his claim that I did not identify myself immediately as a press photographer for the Province newspaper,” said Payne, a news photographer for 16 years. “The first thing I did when the police attention was drawn to me was to tell them that I was a press photographer for the Province newspaper. I was there in an official capacity as a journalist and I reject that claim that I did not announce who I was immediately.”
Chu has told his officers since the incident that they do not have authority to take cameras from either the press or the public unless they have made an arrest, have a warrant or believe important evidence may be destroyed.
Police can easily track down images from the press but when it comes to the general public that is iffy. At times for investigative reasons those cameras can be taken for that reason.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has filed a formal complaint with the police board about the incident.
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression joins in with condemning the event.
CJFE calls upon the Vancouver police and police departments across the
country to ensure that their officers are given comprehensive training that
sets out the rights of the media. We also expect that police will be held
accountable if they flout these rights. CJFE looks forward to the results of
an internal investigation that the Vancouver police has indicated it will be