As the General Counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) I deal with news photographers being interfered with and sometimes arrested by the very same people who are sworn to protect and serve their community. I commend the Times Free Press for bringing this situation to the public's attention. As I have often told our members - the press may not have a greater right than the public but they certainly do not have any less right to gather the news and report from public places.
Far too often publications are reluctant to raise First Amendment infringements by public officials for fear of alienating them on future stories. The only way to keep these constitutional freedoms meaningful is through education and proper training. Law enforcement officials should make sure that officers understand and respect the laws that they are enforcing. Wearing a badge carries with it the responsibility to uphold the law, not make up rules to suit a purpose. To hear that a police chief and a sheriff violated that trust is truly disappointing. They should be leading by setting a positive example. Hopefully being taken to task in print will make them realize the error of their ways. If not one can only hope that voters will remember their unlawful conduct come election time.
Thank you again for bringing this situation to light.