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Veteran NYTimes Photographer Arrested & Allegedly Beaten by NYPD (chasejarvis.com)
255 points by aaronbrethorst on Aug 7, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments

Interestingly enough, it looks like his assignment was probably related to this:


stop-and-frisk is a significant issue in NYC. Ostensibly the authority is granted as part of a larger effort to eliminate firearms on the street. It resulted in nearly 700K stops in 2011. That got 800 some-odd guns off the streets of the city at an unknown cost to goodwill (given most people stopped-and-frisked are Black or Latino).

On the flip side there is no doubt that stop-and-frisk has contributed to one of the highest rates of marijuana arrests in the country for NYC. Odd, given New York state effectively decriminalized small amounts of weed in the 70's. It's only through a loophole that states publicly displaying the drug makes possession an arrestable offense and it's been reported that the NYPD consistently instructs people in stop-and-frisk situations to remove any drugs from their pocket and present it for inspection prior to frisking, making it publicly displayed.

Gov. Cuomo called on NY state legislature this year to eliminate the public display issue, but nothing happened before the end of the January-June session.

edit: added "small amounts"

They stop and frisk 47,000 women. They make 4000 arrests and find 59 guns. I daresay the arrests are mostly low-grade possession with some contempt-of-cop thrown in. At _best_ their hit rate is under 10%.

How on God's green earth are these searches "reasonable" under the Constitution?

I'm not a big one for "racism" or class analysis but there is no, no way a cop would try this on me, middle-class white guy, walking down the street. If he did I'd give him grief. I'd end up complying, but I'd look him in the eye and say "I've got your badge number. I've got your partner's badge number. Go ahead, take me in. This shit is writing up and you are going to be in paperwork on this for the next six months. I'll call my lawyer, you call your union rep 'cause he'll be working this for a while." And he knows, I've got the free time and the entitlement attitude and am sufficiently pissed off to go after him. And he knows the city council and the mayor's office won't just ignore me, that IAD will have to look into it.

At the end of the day I won't be able to touch him -- the union and the blue line will keep him from serious harm -- but it's going to be a hassle for everyone and it makes him less promotable / supportable in the future. And God only knows what else might get turned up.

All in all, a cop needs a _reason_ to frisk me, and if he hasn't got one he's going to pay a price, maybe just a nuisance, but maybe a high one. But he can bust on some black lady because, hey, maybe she's got a gun, and no one cares enough to listen to her complain.

And I don't want to hear this crap about a cop's safety. It is a tough, tough job and that's why I respect guys with badges. I would never do anything to make a cop's job harder. But if you are to claim safety as an excuse for violating my rights -- fuck you. That kind of "safety" looks a hell of a lot like the government dominance the Bill of Rights is supposed to prevent. You wanna be safe, be an actuary. Don't put on a uniform and expect me to treat you like a hero while you get nervous because someone _might_ have a gun.

I seriously do not understand why this stop and frisk thing is constitutional. If I had to put up with it I'd be pissed off too. Every time they do this they are telling people they are crap, they aren't citizens the way white guys like me are. Their gun hit rate is 0.12%! That isn't police work, that's a gang letting everyone know who's boss.

Yup. Probably low grade possession (untold number that qualify as citation offense, but ended up being arrests), possibly warrant type stuff, etc:

  In 2011, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 685,724 times.
  605,328 were totally innocent (88 percent).
  350,743 were black (53 percent).
  223,740 were Latino (34 percent).
  61,805 were white (9 percent).
  341,581 were aged 14-24 (51 percent).
source: http://www.nyclu.org/issues/racial-justice/stop-and-frisk-pr...

> it's been reported that the NYPD consistently instructs people in stop-and-frisk situations to remove any drugs from their pocket and present it for inspection prior to frisking, making it publicly displayed.

That's really interesting. Are you saying that if an officer finds marijuana, instructs you to remove it, and you refuse, you can't be arrested because you didn't display it publicly?

From my understanding, it is against the law to disobey a lawful order. I have been told that the way out is to ask explicitly 'Is that an order?', as you can not be charged due to following a lawful order. Maybe someone can confirm this, as at best, I have hearsay.

Either way, 'you can beat the rap but not the ride'.

No, they say "empty your pockets," and if there is pot there, they charge you not only with possession, but display as well.

This is one of those things where I say "isn't that illegal?"

And then realise it's the people enforcing the law who are breaking it. Even if it isn't illegal, no chance they'd enforce that.

Judges don't always stand for stuff like this, though I assume most of the people caught in this manner are leaned on until they plea bargain.

A while ago a family was flying out to visit their home in Africa and carrying a large amount of cash. When asked how much they had they said something like "About $4,000" and the agent they were talking to said that the estimate was fine and instructed them to write that down. When they got further in, though, another agent insisted that the money be counted and when it came out a bit higher than was written down used this as an excuse to seize the money. After a lengthy court battle, though, the family got the money back.

I wonder how much money they spent trying to get their money back..

I don't know, but apparently I misremembered the amount of money. Here's the ruling from the judge: http://www.volokh.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/35131.pdf

You probably know this already, but The Agitator has been doing a bunch of posts about seizing money recently. The vast majority are taken from minorities, and sometimes the cops threaten to take any children you are travelling with away from you if the money isn't forfeited on the spot. I'm probably getting some details wrong so check on him for details.

Exactly. On top of that, police are not required to tell you the truth, so they can claim they will only ticket you and so forth in an attempt to you get the drugs out in the open.

"I don't consent to this search."

The article is about a guy who got the shit beaten out of him for trying to assert his constitutional rights ...

I'd accept getting the shit beaten out of me (really!) for the resulting multimillion dollar payout. A few minutes of pain in exchange for being financially secure the rest of my life? Sign me up.

I had that same opportunity and I passed on it. It's dirty money. I prefer to earn the money I have. It gives me satisfaction when I use it.

With the government, you know that money came from some hardworking individual who paid his taxes ... and the only reason you have it is because some corrupt piece of garbage was drawing a salary on that money and you ended up being his victim.

Not how I want to live my life and certainly not something I want to be reminded of every time I take out my wallet.

So why not take the money, then use it to stop police brutality? The mere loss of the money will teach the government a lesson, plus you can use it for the cause you care about.

My point was: if you're carrying illegal drugs and are selected for a random search, don't consent. If you're not carrying illegal drugs, it's really up to you.

Of course people shouldn't go looking for a payout, but the taxpayers are responsible for their police dept. They have control over that dept.

Since the crap when!? Last I checked, police and most of their superiors aren't subject to recalls or indeed any accountability whatsoever.

(Would be an interesting scenario.. individual officers elected on popular vote..)

The police are accountable to elected representatives. Therefore the taxpayers are responsible for their police dept., and owe money to the victims when their police go astray. I chose my town in part because of its professional police dept., which in turn implies smart voters.

The thing about those beatings is that while they are occurring you don't know whether it's going to stop at a point that still allows you to enjoy that financial security.

The NYPD is absolutely out of control and needs a shakedown from the top down. There is so much corruption and abuse going on that it may not even be fixable.

It's a pretty safe bet that no such thing would ever pass a state legislature, but in cases where it can be demonstrated that an officer's behavior is clearly illegal, there need to be provisions for the officer to be held personally liable: no more hiding behind the city or the department.

Again, not that it'd likely ever happen, but hey, petitioning your elected representatives never (okay, rarely) hurt.

In this recent case, NYC officials are refusing to defend a police inspector in lawsuits against him: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/08/03/city-wont-defend-nypd...

However, his union is now paying for his defense.

Well, legally speaking the union has to defend him no matter what he does.


> I was taking pictures of something that was really wasn’t anything shocking for them. There was no police line. Ive been doing this a long time and its frustrating. Im credentialed. They asked for the credential, I’m shooting, the next thing I know I’m in jail and my equipment is confiscated.

Serious question: Why does/should it matter that he is credentialed?

It shouldn't - but it being NYC, and being a veteran reporter for the NYT, with your classic credentials just drives the point home even harder as there's no room to debate whether it was journalism or not....

I really hope he presses charges and brings yet another wrongful suit against the state. Police officers must be held accountable for things they do and if it is a public area then they should act accordingly. A judge already ruled this many times, when will they learn.

He won't. Just read the article - he's already apologizing for the officers' behavior and just wants his equipment back.

Hope they don't wage asset forfeiture on him.

It's the NYPD. They'll wage whatever they want on him; they consider themselves well above the law.

"He was charged with obstructing government administration and with resisting arrest as he was taking photographs of a brewing street fight in New York that involved a teenage girl."

Let's call it for what it is... the police were enjoying watching the fight and didn't want to be disturbed. What happened to the girl or rather the attacker? nothing, the justice was instead leveled at Stolarik, and what's he going to do back, nothing. What a shit hole NYC must be. (I might be wrong too)

As a tourist, NYC was pretty awesome, far better than I expected. Then again, it's awfully hard to generalize about a city that has the population of my country.

Interesting, but what does this have to do with HN?

Privacy and civil liberties are immensely important to the technology entrepreneur. We need to be aware of the legal pitfalls of technology, and be sensitive to the privacy risks we can create. I find this story very relevant to HN.

For example, if you are creating an app that records sound or images, you would want to be aware of the risks to camera users. Especially if that camera is less obvious than the camera used by the photographer in this story. The law seems to be on the side of the photographer but the realities are complex.

This is covered under the HN guidelines, as the intersection between technology, privacy, and civil liberties is definitely an interesting new and ongoing phenomenon.

There's no new technology intersection here. If someone got beaten up and jailed for refusing to disclose the password to an encrypted hard drive, that would be an example of what you're talking about. Full disk encryption is new. This is not. We've had photography and cops beating up photographers for a long time.

Let's be honest: this story is here because it makes people angry. It's the kind of story that you'd get as an email forward from your aunt. It gets attention and stirs up emotion. It does not gratify one's intellectual curiosity.

I agree with you on the lack of technology focus, but I didn't vote it up out of anger. Instead, I was astonished to find that the photographer was able to offer an even-handed account of the difficulties of his job and the need for balance:

CJ: Do you feel your rights were violated?

RS: Of course, but you have to realize that each situation each different. Just because we have this constitutional right doesn’t give us a complete right to do whatever we feel like doing. This needs to be understood. You can’t just stand your ground, in the middle of a police scene, and say, “Its my right to shoot this.” You have to walk carefully every time you show up to a [police] scene. There’s a lot involved. These police officers are trying to do a job too. Everyone needs to understand that. I always try to respect that.

CJ: For the benefit of those photographers up in arms about your situation, can you explain what you mean by “respect”?

RS: You want to be respectful of the police officers space as well. We need to be conscious of our surroundings. Even as we’re protected by our constitutional rights – this is important [as photographers] to remember. However, in this case, there is no question that what I was doing was right. I’m never the one to say the picture is more important than everything else on the scene. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for “standing my ground”, and an officer is in the middle of doing his job and [because of interfering] and an officer gets injured as a result of what I chose to do. Just because I have the “right” do take photos. I would never do that. And that is kind of what the police are saying about me. That they have the “right” to charge me with obstruction of government administration. They are using that to say, ‘we can do whatever we want.’ It’s unfortunate because I’m the one who was totally abused.

I'm scared of slippery slopes of Mount Reddit as well, but this is an article worth reading.

I've been a fan of Chase Jarvis for years now. He's a level-headed professional guy and doesn't need to stir up anger to get page views.

This isn't "fuck the police", this is "be responsible, be respectful, be polite, know your rights"

Every civil liberties story ever posted to HN has been accompanied by that justification, and, were it to be taken seriously, there would be nothing but social justice stories on HN, there being no dearth of important social justice stories to find on any given day.

If we included every Rails internals article, that'd push everything else off the front page too. HN catches the highlights, and I like that that includes a lot of different stuff.

"were it to be taken seriously, there would be nothing but social justice stories"

Total non-sequitur. I'm not saying I think this is a good HN article to upvote but the idea that this is somehow going to exclude everything else is bizarre.

I think you misread (or, equally likely, I wrote unclearly). I'm not saying "if you take the article seriously, we'll have nothing but social justice stories". I'm saying that if you take the premise that social justice is inherently interesting to hackers, then we'll end up with nothing but those stories.

Many people here, myself very much included, get their social justice stories in a different section of their RSS readers. It's not that those stories aren't interesting; it's that they simply aren't Hacker News, any more than updates about Girl Talk albums are Hacker News because hackers are so likely to listen to them.

I completely understand you don't want this type of article on HN. But, you don't need to worry the site will only be articles on social justice if hackers find the topic "inherently interesting." Most people here are inherently interested in a variety of topics and that's why the community makes room for a few these "off-topic" stories.

Broken window theory. The rate of civil rights outrages worldwide is more than high enough to overwhelm the forum, so the number of completely off topic stories only remains low thanks to people visibly objecting to them.

Acknowledging that social justice is inherently interesting does not imply that only social justice is interesting or that it is the most interesting. As such, the claim does not lead to 'nothing but those stories'. For that, additional premises are needed, none of which were posited.

Or to take a purely commercial angle: Where there is change, there is opportunity. Startups don't make money by joining the herd, but by exploiting changing situations.

Change can come in many forms, including social. Such stories are a record of social change, and the pressures that drive it.

My startup covers business news for the waste management industry, among others. But surely you don't want to hear about Virginia's new landfill and recycling restrictions even though they're tangentially connected to a startup and to technology?

Slamming a photographers camera in his face you call complex? i would call it stupid abuse of power, if the police officer felt threatened, he should act like a pofessional, not a bully from highschool.

Most of us carry smart phones that could, at any time, be recording audio, photos or video. It is useful to know if the police can abuse you simply because you are suspected of recording them.

Some of us are building or contemplating building products that make use of those smart phone features. If such activity is likely to result in police brutality directed at our customers, that is worth knowing.

Technology impacts the real world. How and where our technology touches society in general is worth understanding.

Most of us carry smart phones that could, at any time, be recording audio, photos or video.

Most of everyone does, though. That doesn't make it HN material. I'd wager that most of us brush our teeth, but I don't think that an article about toothbrush sales should be posted here.

> I'd wager that most of us brush our teeth

Woah, woah, woah! Let's try to be realistic here!

HN has really turned into anti {government, Hollywood, big music, Facebook, Google, Craigslist, anything-else-that-is-large-and makes-a-bunch-of-money} lately so this isn't surprising.

Well, government, Hollywood, Big music, Facebook, (arguably) Google, Craigslist, and any other enterprise which is large and makes a bunch of money, are clear and present dangers to the mostly free internet we have today. Which, considering my job, and considering the average startup, is the biggest threat to their existence.

If this bothers you, good. It should.

Craigslist is a danger to the free internet? I've browsed my way into the twilight zone...

Since it doesn't allow other websites to wholesale copy it's listings and data for their own use (and monetization) it is a danger to the free(loading) internet apparently.

Considering you now have to give up your copyright to them if you post anything there, I'd have to say yes. Abusing our broken system of laws makes you a danger.

That sounds like the same attitude of 2600 or /. It is hardly new in this sub-culture, and has been around for decades.

Innovative technologies are disruptive, and those behind the disruption generally look down on monopolies with antiquated products. Given the pace of change, sometimes we as the disruptive become the disrupted.

Agreed. I think everyone here is aware of Reddit- if we want to talk about that kind of stuff, let's just go there.

Reddit also has /r/programming, so why don't we just move all the technical discussions there too, while we're at it?

The reason HN is interesting is not that it has unique submissions--it mostly doesn't--but that it has consistently insightful commentary. It makes sense to bring up topics like this here rather than Reddit simply because of the resulting discussions.

Also, my impression is that HN has always been disproportionately libertarianish. In fact, in my experience, this is true of the tech and startup communities in general. So I don't think this is a particularly new development.

I'd argue that it doesn't have consistently insightful commentary with regards to these issues.

I love reading HN comments on tech news/debates/articles because I know there's going to be a huge depth and breadth of different commenters' experiences and anecdotes. This generally isn't true with regards to political/social stuff, where the vast majority of commenters have the same belief and experience.

That being said, I don't really mind the submissions -- because they're easily identifiable -- I just hope they aren't signals of a larger trend towards generalism. (Reddit, too, used to be predominantly tech/programming articles.)

I like to keep in mind http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html for these topics. And it does seem like there have been more and more of them--hopefully at worst it's a trend to "tech, programming, startups, and politics" rather than full generality. From that essay, the large number of comments on these threads is explained by "Politics, like religion, is a topic where there's no threshold of expertise for expressing an opinion. All you need is strong convictions." Though I would add that this extends to many more subjects, including bashing companies.

If submissions to nothing more than image macros ever get popular, then it's time to jump ship because HN has become way too much like Reddit.

One of the reason HN has consistently insightful commentary is that we consistently flag/downvote non-insightful articles and posts.

You can't simply introduce more social-justice type articles and expect the rest of HN to stay the same. This is why I recommend sticking with the site guidelines: if it would be covered on TV news (this would!) it doesn't belong here, unless it's evidence of some new phenomena (this isn't!)

While civil liberty issues get upvoted here, I think the added element of photography amplifies the interest. The intersection between techies and photography enthusiasts seems pretty high (you'll note there are a number of photography/imaging technology stories here as well).

Photography, even before digital, has always been such a technical art form that it makes sense that a lot of hacker-types are drawn to it.

I have more computers in my house than cameras, but only barely.

It has nothing at all to do with HN.

Right. Well... except for that little bit where it is an interesting data point in how official backlash against amateur photography and journalism is reaching the formerly safe "credentialed pro" folks. You know, the thing where the cops nation-wide, and honestly world-wide are starting to attack everyone reporting on them using easy access tech like phones, because it upsets the former balance where only they had those powers.

Has nothing to do with those of us making that tech at all. You're right.

Yet here we all are, reading it and discussing it. :-)

You are trolling HN with your constant complaining about off topic stories. Down vote and move on. Look at amout of "discussion" that is in response to the OT story. The second level OT-OT I can only construe as to poison the well.

I think there is a story here actually that is a valuable lesson to those who read HN.

He goes to a great lengths to tell this as "nothing to see here, move along.."

Now why would he do that?

My theory on this is that in the past he didn't have to contend with pain in the ass bystanders doing the same thing that he did. Those amateurs are now making it increasingly difficult for a professional like him to do his job.

As a result he wants to send a message out there for fear that if he doesn't his rights will be restricted as a result of others behaviors. It's a little "last man over the bridge".

The other possibility of course is that he has something to hide. He doesn't want to stir the hornets nest for fear that something will happen to him and he wants to keep a low profile by ending this as soon as possible.

Really? He didn't say there was nothing to see here. He said his rights were violated (and given his professional history, he seems capable of making that determination). He said he was appalled at his treatment, at the individual police who did this to him, and the people who are backing up the police who did this to him.

His equivocation was intended to head off the "police are all nazis because one of them took my camera and arrested me when I was in the middle of a crime scene and interfering with the police" attitude that's all too common. He pointed out that there is a line between responsible documentation of events, and interference, and that line is crossed sometimes, and people criticize the police anyway, and that's not right.

I agree that he might be concerned about the proliferation of amateur journalism. But, my guess is that his balanced attitude is really because doesn't want to be known as a problem photographer to NYPD officers. It would just make his job (and life) more difficult.

American democracy has now begun to begin "The Internet Reformation". This will be annoying for the apathetic. Expect significant friction with police as they are the tools of those currently in power.

To put it another way, how useful is the right to read the source if one does not have the right to free speech, assembly, religion (or lack there of), and petition for redress of grievances.

To be even more blunt, the Magna Carta Libertatum is under attack.

I would say that it shows evidence of the increasingly common trend of police officers frequently greeting citizens going about lawful activities with violence.

And what does that have to do with HN?

Off Topic indeed it would appear.

It's technology related, is it not?

You have to know about the world in order to change it.

I don't want to sound like an idiot spouting zen koans but you really have to be aware of major trends to be able to navigate around them or even perhaps change them. The clash between technology and authority is a very interesting one.

The individual, the mob and the government are all empowered differently by each new advance.

So read a newspaper, no? Nothing says you have to get the totality of your news from HN.

It's part of the Redditization. Please try to keep up.

I think the reporter may be suffering from stockholm syndrome.

I have lived in NY for 12 years. In my opinion NYPD is one of the worst I have seen in any developed country I have visited. They act and work like one big mafia thugs. If you are blacklisted by the NYPD, esp if you publicly badmouth them, you can count on them making your life a living hell.

Of course I am not saying everyone in NYPD is like that, and I have seen and known my own share of great individuals who works for NYPD. But generally speaking they are pretty bad, they have this attitude that they are above law and more often than not they get away with doing almost anything.

He wants to keep his job at the NYTimes. If he is known as an biased photographer who 'agitates' police, he won't be sent on certain assignments.

Yes, one should always keep their impartiality towards human rights. It's important that journalists refrain from writing pieces which advocate human rights.

Photojournalists follow a slightly different standard of operations than reporters. They are supposed to let images speak for themselves and work as an impartial observer. This is the attitude that allows them to be embedded in dangerous war zones where hopefully they wont be shot or kidnapped...

Here are some quotes from James Nachtwey:

"I want my work to become part of our visual history, to enter our collective memory and our collective conscience. I hope it will serve to remind us that history's deepest tragedies concern not the great protagonists who set events in motion but the countless ordinary people who are caught up in those events and torn apart by their remorseless fury. I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

"I used to call myself a war photographer. Now I consider myself as an antiwar photographer."

"There is a job to be done...to record the truth. I want to wake people up!"

Doesn't sound impartial to me.. and Nachtwey is no noob, to put it mildly. Embedded or not, anyone calling themselves photojournalist ought to learn from him and others.

People who can remain impartial in the face of suffering or abuse of power aren't being professional, they're being sociopaths. It takes a strong, big heart to not be impartial and still do the job, sure. It's not for everybody. So what. Lead, follow or get out of the way :P

As a side note, why do Americans frequently refer to the New York police department by its acronym (NYPD) instead of simply calling it "the police"? Is it because this particular police department is distinct from other "regular" police departments? I find it a bit strange since I don't recall observing this phenomenon for any other city's police departments (except maybe LAPD).

Because most of the police force in US in maintained by local government, like cities or counties. Since laws vary from state to state and cities to cities, it is helpful to mention where the incident is taking place. Mentioning NYPD tells you a lot of things at once- that the incident is specific to New York city (since state and federal authorities were not involved), and that it was done by local police force of New York city, which has very distinct operating pattern and policies from some other police force, like one in LA (the LAPD), or some small rural police force.

As to why LAPD and NYPD are famous, that must be probably because these two cities have incidents that are worth national/international discussion. If you start reading more local US news, they usually mention which police department is involved in the case, like the county head or State attorney, etc.

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