INDIANAPOLIS – The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation is providing a $12,500 grant that will enable the Society of Professional Journalists to collaborate with the National Press Photographers Association on a national training program for police and journalists. The goal of the program is to foster greater understanding and awareness of the right to take photographs and video in public without being interfered with, harassed or arrested.
The program sprouted out of a need for improved relations between journalists and police officers when cooperating during crime scenes or other disasters. Since 9/11, there has been a heightened awareness of anyone taking pictures or recording events in public, and the increase of cell phone cameras has exacerbated tensions.
As a result, many in law enforcement have the false belief they can order people to stop taking pictures or recording in public. Interference and in some cases arrests have led to a number of court cases, some six-figure settlements, new policies and procedures, and serious disciplinary actions against the officers involved.
“SPJ and other journalism groups always rush to the defense of photographers arrested for taking pictures in public,” said Robert Leger, president of the SDX Foundation. “But it would be so much better if there was no need to do that. These workshops seek to ease tension between police and photographers so both can do their jobs.”
In 2014, program trainer Mickey Osterreicher will travel to five geographically-diverse cities to conduct the training. Osterreicher, general counsel for the NPPA, handles these issues on a daily basis. And his experience as a uniformed reserve deputy with the Erie County Sheriff’s Department since 1976 and a former photojournalist for almost 40 years gives him a unique perspective on this growing problem. Osterreicher has provided training for police in several cities as well as helped develop guidelines and policies for a number of departments, including the Miami Beach and D.C. Metro Police Departments.
“Mickey has been educating law enforcement agencies one by one for the last few years,” said Mike Borland, president of NPPA. “This approach will broaden that education and, we hope, make the daily life of all journalists easier. When both journalists and cops understand each other’s rights and needs, both will be able to do their jobs better.”
Founded in 1961, the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) public foundation that is dedicated to ensuring that those who carry on the tradition of a free press are prepared for the challenge. Its goal is to support the educational programs of the Society of Professional Journalists and to serve the professional needs of journalists and students pursuing careers in journalism. For more information about the SDX Foundation, please visit www.spj.org/sdx.asp.
Founded in 1946, the NPPA is the voice of visual journalists advocating for the rights of photojournalists, videographers, students, editors, multimedia journalists and representatives of businesses that serve the visual journalism community. The organization is dedicated to the advancement of visual journalism – its creation, practice, training, editing and distribution – in all news media and vigorously promotes the constitutional rights of journalists as well as freedom of the press in all its forms, especially as it relates to visual journalism. For more information about the NPPA, please visit https://nppa.org/.
Press release from SPJ National website, http://www.spj.org/news.asp?ref=1219.