D.C. police stop videographer at crime scene, against policy

WASHINGTON – D.C. police are still looking for the person who carjacked an SUV last week with a small infant in the backseat. The car and the baby were recovered but questions have been raised after police tried to prevent a reporter from videotaping the rescue.

Freelance journalist Alan Henney was the first photographer to arrive on the scene of the recovery.

He says he was asked by officers twice for ID. He showed officers his media pass and remained outside the police-line tape, he says.

At one point, a police officer walked over to Henney and told him to stop recording, and threatened to confiscate his camera as evidence.

Police Chief Cathy Lanier has since apologized to Henney.

“There is no policy against videotaping in public space. This is a clear violation by our members and we will have it addressed – you have my apologies,” she wrote in an email to Henney.

Lanier also wrote the department “will continue to work with our members to ensure they are clear about what is and is not permissible.”

Several times over the past year D.C. police have detained photographers and even confiscated a women’s cell phone and deleted all her video after she recorded police making an arrest.

D.C. Police policy on videotaping states (emphasis not added) “News media members may photograph or videotape police officers performing their official duties. Officers will not physically block or cover the lenses of cameras or video taping equipment. Members in accordance with General Order 204.1 will not assist nor hinder camerapersons at scenes. Members will not bring the media into private residences as part of a crime scene or police raid. COURTS HAVE RULED THAT MEMBERS MAY BE HELD LIABLE TO CIVIL SUIT FOR SUCH ACTIONS.”

Henney says police preventing journalists from photographing or videotaping crime scenes “is a chronic problem faced by news photographers in the District.”

Below is Henney’s encounter with D.C. Police:

WTOP’s Mark Segraves contributed to this report. Follow Mark and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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