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Indybay Journalist Files Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Against UC Police Department
by dave id
Thursday Dec 9th, 2010 10:26 PM

For Immediate Release:
December 9, 2010

Contact:
David Greene, Geoffrey King, First Amendment Project 510.208.7744
Whitney Leigh, Gonzalez & Leigh LLP 415. 912.5950



VETERAN JOURNALIST WHO QUASHED ILLEGAL WARRANT FOR HIS PHOTOS FILES FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT AGAINST UCPD

  • Photographer Was Covering UC Berkeley Chancellor House Protest
  • Officers Told Photographer, "We Want Your Camera" Before Arresting Him Without Cause
  • Search Warrants for Journalistic Work Product Expressly Barred By Federal Law

Oakland — On Thursday, December 9, veteran journalist David Morse filed suit against University of California, Berkeley Police officers and other defendants in U.S. District Court for violations of the First, Fourth and Eighth Amendments and for violations of a federal law barring the use of search warrants for unpublished journalistic materials. The lawsuit follows Morse’s successful motion to quash a search warrant that issued for his unpublished news photographs.

Morse is a 42-year-old journalist who has covered hundreds of demonstrations and other events since 2002. He was arrested without probable cause at a protest he was covering at UC Berkeley on December 11, 2009. The arrest occurred after officers allowed a rowdy group of demonstrators, many of whom were wearing masks, to flee. Instead of giving chase, Morse’s arresting officer pulled his car up to Morse and said, “I saw you take a picture of us. We want your camera.” Officers arrested Morse despite the fact that he informed them of his journalist status six times and denied all wrongdoing.

Officers jailed Morse, then increased the charges against him in order to buy themselves time to prepare a misleading search warrant affidavit that omitted any mention of Morse’s newsgathering activities. First Amendment Project successfully quashed that search warrant in June on the basis that it violated Section 1524(g) of the California Penal Code, which absolutely bars search warrants for unpublished journalistic materials. Federal law also bars such warrants.

Although Morse’s charges were dropped at his first court appearance, the defendants refused to return his images for more than six months and even made surveillance photographs of him when he attempted to retrieve them in person.

The federal suit filed today seeks damages against the various defendants, as well as a judicial order mandating additional training. High-ranking UCPD officers are separately being sued under similar causes of action by the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation for searching a newspaper office in 2008, litigation that was ongoing at the time of Morse’s arrest. Nonetheless, UCPD Captain Margo Bennett has been quoted as stating that UCPD has not considered changing the way it deals with journalists.

Morse is represented by First Amendment Project and Gonzalez & Leigh, LLP.


###



Background Info:
§Civil Cover Sheet
by dave id Thursday Dec 9th, 2010 10:26 PM

(1-page PDF)

(42-page PDF)
§Summons
by dave id Thursday Dec 9th, 2010 10:26 PM

(2-page PDF)

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by D. Boyer
Friday Dec 10th, 2010 11:57 AM
Wow, I am so glad you filed that lawsuit.
by stanley
Friday Dec 10th, 2010 12:27 PM
why aren't you seeking punitive damages?
UCPD has not yet returned the final photograph I shot on December 11th, that of the first patrol car approaching the scene.
by Courthouse News Service
Tuesday Jan 4th, 2011 2:20 PM
ucpd.jpg
ucpd.jpg

Monday, December 13, 2010
Last Update: 1:53 PM PT

By MARIA DINZEO

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A photojournalist claims that UC Berkeley police officers wrongfully arrested and detained him on bogus charges as he covered a student demonstration last year.

David Morse, 42, a photographer for online newspaper Indybay since 2004, arrived at the Berkeley campus on Dec. 11, 2009 to cover a concert, but instead got caught up in a student protest. Morse followed the protestors, photographing them as they made their way up the steps of the Chancellor's house, as a UCPD squad car approached.

"Rather than pursue the fleeing demonstrators, many of whom had their faces covered, the police car pulled up directly in front of Morse," the federal complaint states. "UCPD officers Manchester and Wyckoff exited the vehicle and briskly approached Morse. As they approached, Officer Wyckoff shouted, 'I saw you take a picture of us. We want your camera. We believe your camera contains evidence of a crime.'"

Morse says he told the officers that he was a journalist and tried to show them his press pass, but they handcuffed him and put him into the back of the squad car and confiscated his camera and cell phone.

"Morse explained to the officers that he did not think it was legal for them to detain him and seize his camera. Officer Wyckoff responded by saying, 'You're not a lawyer, so shut the fuck up,'" according to the complaint.

In an interview, Morse's attorney Geoffrey King said the whole incident was "quite striking."

King said Morse was "completely separate and apart from these protesters" and "was clearly newsgathering at the scene."

King said Morse "told the officers six times that he was a journalist, showed them a press pass, and they told him to 'shut up,' that it didn't matter and they'd done this to other news organizations. They didn't let him explain at all, and they said they had done it to KTVU as well."

Riot and vandalism charges against Morse were dropped a few days later, but the memory discs containing the photographs were not returned to him. The UCPD also searched his camera using a warrant that was later quashed.

As a journalist, Morse says he is covered by the Privacy Protection Act, which King said "applies to anybody gathering information for the public."

King said Morse has "covered these things hundreds of times, and he wasn't doing anything differently. I think he just ran into the wrong officers."

King said this isn't the first time the UCPD has been accused of violating the rights of journalists, noting a pending 2008 action claiming the UCPD violated the Privacy Protection Act when it searched a newspaper office. King said the force has not done enough to change, and that Captain Margo Bennett has said the force has no plans to revise the way it deals with journalists.

Morse demands the return of his photographs, and that the UCPD be ordered to train its officers to "ensure defendants' acts are not repeated in future years."

He sued the regents of UC Berkeley, the UC Berkeley Police Department and its chief and five officers, Alameda County and its Sheriff's Department and sheriff.

He seeks nominal, compensatory and special damages for constitutional and Privacy Protection Act violations. He is represented by Geoffrey King with the First Amendment Project.
top_r3_c2_1.jpg
top_r3_c2_1.jpg

Published 1, December 13, 2010

We have yet another arrest of a citizen for simply photographing police officers. We have been following this trend of abusive arrests (here and here and here and here), which are tolerated by legislators and police officers in clear violation of constitutional rights and good public policy. David Morse, 42, is a photojournalist who was arrested when he took pictures of a protest. Two UC Berkeley police officers allegedly wrongfully arrested him for taking their pictures.

In his lawsuit, Morse claims “Rather than pursue the fleeing demonstrators, many of whom had their faces covered, the police car pulled up directly in front of Morse . . . UCPD officers Manchester and Wyckoff exited the vehicle and briskly approached Morse. As they approached, Officer Wyckoff shouted, ‘I saw you take a picture of us. We want your camera. We believe your camera contains evidence of a crime.’” Despite the fact that Morse offered to show him his credentials, he was arrested and charged with riot and vandalism.

The charges were later dropped but there is no indication that the officers were fired for first arresting a citizen (let alone a journalist) for taking pictures and then falsifying charges. If true, they succeeded in violating the fourth amendment as well as the first amendment in both freedom of speech and the free press.

It is particularly shocking to occur in a protest associated with a university, which must be a bastion for free speech and individual rights. The university website states:

The department is empowered as a full- service state law enforcement agency pursuant to section 830.2 (b) of the California Penal Code and fully subscribes to the standards of the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). Officers receive the same basic training as city and county peace officers throughout the state, plus additional training to meet the unique needs of a campus environment.

I am surprised not to see a statement from the university or an announcement of a formal investigation into the conduct of these officers. In the past cases, officers have not been terminated despite these abuses arrests — signaling to other officers that the violation of constitutional rights are relatively minor matters.

This is an important lawsuit and counsel Geoffrey King and the First Amendment Project deserve praise for bringing the action.

Source: Courthouse News

Jonathan Turley

26 Responses to “UC Berkeley Police Officers Allegedly Arrest Journalist for Taking Their Picture”
by Reclaim UC
Tuesday Jan 4th, 2011 2:35 PM

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lawsuit vs. UCPD

ucberkeleychancellorhouseprotest_121109a.jpg Before dawn on December 11, 2009, UCPD illegally arrested 66 protesters and sympathizers who had been participating in the week-long open "occupation" of Wheeler Hall. While university spokespeople feigned concern over a concert planned for that night, internal administration emails reveal that in reality they had planned to shut down the action from the beginning, and were simply looking for the opportunity to strike. But the concert was held anyway at an off-campus location, and from there a group of protesters marched to the Chancellor's house to demonstrate. Some minor property damage occurred, the police arrived quickly, and the protesters scattered. Eight were arrested.

Two of those arrested were UC Berkeley students, who suffered abusive and unconstitutional punishment at the hands of the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) and the UC administration more generally. OSC and the Code of Student Conduct together constitute one arm of the university's repressive apparatus, but it can only be deployed against students -- not their sympathizers.

The other arm is UCPD. Also arrested that night was Indybay reporter David Morse, who had been taking pictures of the demonstration. After arresting Morse, the cops illegally tried to use his photos in order to gather evidence against the protesters. Morse had the search warrant they used to justify stealing the photos quashed, and they had to be returned. Now, a year later, he's posted some of the photos on Indybay (including the ones used here).ucberkeleychancellorhouseprotest_121109b.jpg Furthermore, Morse has filed a lawsuit against UCPD for the illegal arrest. From the press release announcing the suit:

Oakland — On Thursday, December 9, veteran journalist David Morse filed suit against University of California, Berkeley Police officers and other defendants in U.S. District Court for violations of the First, Fourth and Eighth Amendments and for violations of a federal law barring the use of search warrants for unpublished journalistic materials. The lawsuit follows Morse’s successful motion to quash a search warrant that issued for his unpublished news photographs.

Morse is a 42-year-old journalist who has covered hundreds of demonstrations and other events since 2002. He was arrested without probable cause at a protest he was covering at UC Berkeley on December 11, 2009. The arrest occurred after officers allowed a rowdy group of demonstrators, many of whom were wearing masks, to flee. Instead of giving chase, Morse’s arresting officer pulled his car up to Morse and said, “I saw you take a picture of us. We want your camera.” Officers arrested Morse despite the fact that he informed them of his journalist status six times and denied all wrongdoing.

Officers jailed Morse, then increased the charges against him in order to buy themselves time to prepare a misleading search warrant affidavit that omitted any mention of Morse’s newsgathering activities. First Amendment Project successfully quashed that search warrant in June on the basis that it violated Section 1524(g) of the California Penal Code, which absolutely bars search warrants for unpublished journalistic materials. Federal law also bars such warrants.

Although Morse’s charges were dropped at his first court appearance, the defendants refused to return his images for more than six months and even made surveillance photographs of him when he attempted to retrieve them in person.

The federal suit filed today seeks damages against the various defendants, as well as a judicial order mandating additional training. High-ranking UCPD officers are separately being sued under similar causes of action by the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation for searching a newspaper office in 2008, litigation that was ongoing at the time of Morse’s arrest. Nonetheless, UCPD Captain Margo Bennett has been quoted as stating that UCPD has not considered changing the way it deals with journalists.
UCPD must pay for its authoritarian actions. In our efforts to get COPS OFF CAMPUS, anything that puts pressure on the police is helpful. More coverage of the lawsuit here.ucberkeleychancellorhouseprotest_121109e.jpg

Posted by d at 12:13 PM