Blue Earth
Glazer's Camera

Citizen Photojournalism May Change Future for Police


The surge of "Occupy" protests at the end of 2011 and the increased availability of handheld recording devices have led to a rise in citizen photojournalism. In the struggle to balance police rights and personal rights, this phenomenon could have some serious repercussions on law enforcement.

For one, police must now be aware that amateur photographers may be keeping watch on them, as an officer in Oakland, Calif., learned this past winter when he arrested spectator Scott Campbell. Although Campbell was about 50 feet away from the action and had asked police if he could film from where he was standing, he was shot with a rubber bullet. Campbell recorded the whole incident and has his conversation with the police on video.

In Tennessee, reporter Jonathan Meador recorded himself as he was arrested and incorrectly charged with public intoxication.

A similar incident occurred in Milwaukee, where reporter Kristyna Wentz-Graff was arrested while covering an Occupy demonstration. While police stated that they believed Wentz-Graff to be a protester, other images taken at the scene show her press badge and credentials clearly visible. Wentz-Graff was later released without being charged.

In the past, courts have accepted police accounts of altercations with protesters as the official narrative. As post-Occupy trials take place this year, citizen journalism could have a big impact on the outcome.