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News cameraman arrested for filming police

August 2, 2011

The Suffolk County police commission said Monday that the arrest on Friday of a news photographer at a crime scene on Long Island will be nullified.

The photographer ended up recording his own arrest.

“The department is conducting an internal review of the incident between a Suffolk County Police Department supervisor and a photographer that resulted in the photographer’s arrest. I am working with the Suffolk County District Attorney to have the arrest nullified,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said in a statement.

“The police department believes in keeping an open line of communication with the media and we will be reviewing the department’s policy concerning involvement with the news media. The department will also provide refresher training to all officers regarding the interaction between the news media and department personnel.”

The events started to unfold Friday about 6:15 p.m.

An undercover Suffolk County officer began following a suspicious vehicle in Ronkonkoma and tried to pull it over. The driver took off, hitting the bumper of the unmarked police vehicle.

About 10 minutes later the vehicle pulled into a driveway at 744 Sycamore Avenue in Bohemia. Several marked police cars rushed to the scene to help arrest two suspects.

A credentialed member of the press, working for an organization that sells news footage, arrived at the scene and began videotaping the crime scene.The photographer was identified as Phil Datz. He was standing across the street, when an unidentified officer started yelling for him to leave the scene. Datz asked how far back the officer wanted him to stand. The officer told Datz to simply leave because, “it’s an active scene and you’re leaving.”

The officer continue to yell, saying, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and there’s nothing you can hold over my head or anyone out there. Go away.”

The order appeared to be a violation of Datz’s rights as an accredited member of the press. He was ordered to leave an area that other people, including children, were allowed to remain.

Datz says he moved back a block from the scene and continued to videotape. His video, which was posted on YouTube, shows the cop racing up to him in his patrol car, jumping out and ordering him to put the camera down.

The last thing heard on the video is the officer saying, “You’re under arrest.”

Datz was then handcuffed and taken away. His video was taken “for evidence.” Datz was fingerprinted and his mugshot was taken before he was released with an order to appear for arraignmenton an obstruction of governmental administration charge. His tape was also returned.

Tony Ryan, who owns Stringer News Service, said his company is considering a lawsuit.

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