MPD investigate officer intimidation of man who videotaped police downtown

WASHINGTON – D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier was “shocked” that one of her officers intimidated a man videotaping an altercation Sunday and says the matter is now under investigation.

The video shows a group of D.C. police officers crouched around a man lying on the ground outside the downtown D.C. Library. Two officers then approach the videographer, who identifies himself as Andrew Heining, telling him to pack up and go, saying that the video could be considered evidence.

“We had a call for a bunch of people fighting with sticks. If you’re going to sit here and videotape, that makes you part of that investigation, sir,” says the officer, who also accuses the videographer of interfering in their investigation.

A second officer warns the videographer not to block the sidewalk. The first officer begins to cordon off the sidewalk with yellow police tape, warning the videographer not to cross the line or he would be arrested.

The cameraman appears to be more than 10 feet away from the officers and stays in the same spot. He tells the officer he was concerned and decided to begin filming to make “sure that everybody knows what’s going on here is public and we see it,” Heining says in the video.

In his YouTube post, Heining writes that he didn’t see what prompted the large police response or whether the man on the ground had been fighting. “But in light of the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island, N.Y., and elsewhere, I thought it prudent to stay and observe the arrest.”

Lanier says in an email to WTOP that the department has a clear policy recognizing that the media and the general public have a First Amendment right to video record, photograph or audio record D.C. police officers while they conduct official business or act in an official capacity in any public space, “unless such recordings interfere with police activity.”

The Metropolitan Police Department has spent “an extensive amount of time” to make sure that its personnel understand that policy, Lanier says.

“The video speaks for itself. I was shocked when I saw it. There is no excuse for an officer to be unaware of the policy,” she says.

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