Parx News – Reprinted With Permission

The following posts are reprinted via permission of Andy Parx.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

COULD YOU REPEAT THAT FOR THE WEST COAST?

COULD YOU REPEAT THAT FOR THE WEST COAST?: We’d sure would have liked to be a fly on the wall at Hawai`i Island Police Department (HIPD) headquarters when officer James Waiamau got his chewing out, most likely not for what appears to be the actual beating and arrestof Damon Tucker- yeah, we’re making a week of it and you’ll see why- but for being so stupid as to pick a guy who has a fair-sized megaphone… a guy you’d think Waiamau would or should have known (although many think he and they knew exactly whom they were harassing).Presumably, with the state-wide publicity and the official HIPD release saying it “recognizes the media and the public have every right to photograph police activity in a public place from a safe distance,” you’d pretty much think that the cost of defending, much less settling, Tucker’s probable lawsuit would have everyone on their best behavior, especially if a “photographing in public” incident comes up again.

Moreover you’d think that when they found out that they had a problem with the report number on Tucker’s “Obstructing a Government Operation” summons that he received upon leaving the cell block, the officer they sent to give him the corrected paperwork would have some semblance of an idea of what to do and not to do if someone was there with a video camera.

But there it is- a video, shot by Big Island Video News’ (BIVN) David Corrigan in which Officer K. Veincent orders Tucker to tell Corrigan to stop video taping.

Tucker was there for an interview with BIVN and apparently had agreed to meet up with Veincent there too… at the “scene of the crime.” About five minutes into the piece a red late model Dodge Charger with a blue roof light pulls up and Tucker leans into the passenger window.

He then turns around, looks into the camera and says “He doesn’t want you video taping- he doesn’t see the reason why.”

The first part is insane enough- police are presumed to have the “persuasive power” so an illegal request comes under harassment and misconduct. But the fact that Veincent presumes that the videographer has to have a reason to continue makes you wonder who the heck is in charge down at HIPD headquarters.

As to the rest of the interview- which was attended by Barbara Lively the legislative assistant to Hawai`i County Councilman Fred Blas- Tucker, visibly shaken during and after the meeting with Veincent, shows clearly where the beating and arrest took place as he goes through a “walking tour” of the chronology of the incident.

Then at the end of the piece, he can be seen fighting back tears and saying “as you can see I’m clearly across the street… The fight happened right over here (pointing) so I’m way far away from where the fighting was.”

Judging by the official statement, somebody at HIPD clearly recognizes, if not what the right thing to do when an officer comes across someone taping their activities from a “safe distance” is, then at least what it’s going to cost the county.

But Veincent quote possibly just put another “zero” at the right of the figure that Tucker will ultimately receive by continuing the harassment and intimidation.

We’ve been pretty critical of our own Kaua`i Police Department and some of the clearly knuckle-headed, bad policy and bad publicity actions over the years. But they’ve got a ways to go in the goon department to catch up with their brethren at the other end of the state.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

THE BEAT AND THE BEATEN

THE BEAT AND THE BEATEN: The “alleged” beating of Damon Tucker“allegedly” by a Hawai`i Island Police (HIPD) officer- the quotation marks because neither of those two “facts” seem to be in much dispute now- began to seep into the mainstream corporate media yesterday and today with the two articles taking two decidedly different views of the incident.>The headlines alone presaged the coverage with Hawai`i News Now (HNN)- the name for the combined TV news programs on KGMB, KHNL and KFVE- reporting “Big Island blogger claims police brutality” and the Big Island’s much reviled Hawai`i Tribune-Herald merely noting that “Man alleges police assault.”

While the HNN coverage stresses that Tucker’s blog “inform(s) Big Island residents and promotes Hawaii” and that he was taking photographs while covering an event, the HTH piece gets 634 words into the piece to merely note that Tucker “operates an Internet blog about the Big Island” and makes no connection between his presence at the scene and his work.

The HTH piece does identify the arresting officer- whom Tucker identified as the officer who allegedly beat him- as James Waiamau.

Both stories include a statement from Hawaii County Assistant Police Chief Henry Tavares refusing to make any “additional statement” other than to note that Tucker was arrested for obstructing government operations and, more importantly, that “(t)he Hawaii Police Department recognizes that the media and the public have every right to photograph police activity in a public place from a safe distance.”

Tucker, by the way, claims he was across the street from the police action at the time he was taking the pictures.

While it should be noted that anyone can take photos of police from a safe distance in a public place, the issue that seems to have captivated the blogs is the twofold question of whether Tucker, in covering an event is, in fact a “reporter” and does it matter if he is when it comes to his right to photograph the police from a “safe distance”?

And, are bloggers who report on things as reporters… and, assuming the answer is yes, does than make the blogger who reports a journalist?

While there are professional journalist organizations no serious journalists suggest that there should be any official credentialing restriction of who is and isn’t a journalist. Not only is it a question of what the requirements would be and who would set them but the first amendment pretty much guarantees the freedom from government interference in reporting.

The fact is that the act of reporting makes a reporter- something that more and more reporters’ “shield laws” recognize, including ours in Hawai`i. And while some may quibble over whether someone who simply sits in their underwear and pontificates is reporting anything, Tucker, by going to an event, taking photos and writing it up for public consumption is certainly a reporter, even though he himself had at times seemed torn as to whether to call himself one.

Professional journalist Tiffany Edwards Hunt at her Big Island Chronicle site says it isn’t as much whether Tucker was reporting as it was whether he was acting as a reporter should in a situation like that. She wrote that:

Damon’s greatest mistake in this story is not identifying himself as soon as the police officer told him to stop taking pictures.

At that point he should have said, “my name is Damon Tucker and I maintain a blog. Where can I stand to continue taking photographs?” (He didn’t identify himself until after he was hand-cuffed.)

Damon will likely monetarily gain from this, and hopefully us media professionals can asset some kind of protocol for journalists and residents who act like journalists. But it is definitely time for police and prosecutors to get more sophisticated about dealing with the public.

Slamming people to the ground when you don’t want them taking photographs?! Come on. The County of Hawaii will have to pay dearly for that sort of heavy handedness.

And Damon are you ready to refer to yourself as a media professional yet?

Hunt’s queries may get to the crux of the matter- that one can be a reporter without being a journalist, especially in an age of the “new media” where “citizen journalists” abound.

The fact is that while many professional journalists point to the “responsibilities” that go with the “rights” conferred on journalists it’s a matter of debate what those responsibilities are and whether in fact there are any at all.

Surely Julian Assange of Wikileaks would argue there are few if any responsibilities. That’s why many professionals argue he is not a journalist.

But in the case of Tucker and others who engage in the act of reporting the question is what kind of responsibilities do they have if they are denied the special privileges that journalists are afforded by government officials, especially police.

Hunt argues that Tucker should have identified himself. But would that have made a difference? She also noted that:

I too agree that we the public have a right to take photographs. But we also need to speak up and assert that right when an officer tries to fell us to stop taking photos. We are to ask where police want us to stand in order to not hinder their operations.

If police were sophisticated they would have their officers trained on dealing with the media or media posers who post footage on their blogs, Facebook or YouTube. Next time the police officer will detect the photographer / picture taker to the “staging area” and call in the PIO… That’s how it is done elsewhere.

Well, maybe, in a perfect world but the problem is that there is a history of disrespect for “bloggers” and even reporters and journalists who aren’t employed by the “right” media on the Big Island. Apparently, as on Kaua`i, the HIPD does not even issue “press passes” any more which, as we noted yesterday, are- or were- used to allow reporters behind police lines.

And if they did they probably wouldn’t issue one to Tucker.

In addition, if “news” happens to “break out” unexpectedly and a reporter engaged in covering another event is standing there with a camera- as apparently happened Friday- should they have to stop and chance missing “the shot” to ask where to go to take a picture of it, especially if they are a safe distance from the disturbance?

The fact is that we would not capitulate to the protocol that Hunt described due to the potential for abuse on the part of the police. Because it is the police who are requesting a privilege in asking that someone voluntarily suspend their right to take photographs of police (in a public place from a safe distance). With the history of abuse of that privilege, both here and across the mainland, it makes that request one that can’t be ethically granted by a journalist, reporter or anyone else.

It appears this story has legs. And, as Larry Geller at Disappeared News wrote Sunday, related stories are being repeated across the county with increasing frequency lately.

One more note- among the comments on Hunt’s stories is a discussion of the fact that there are video cameras all over the town of Pahoa- where the incident took place- due to the police’s “weed and seed” program there.

Unless and until the rights of not just reporters but all citizens are respected by authorities, credentialing journalists and burdening them with rules of engagement will have to wait for a mutual respect that, we predict, will be a long time coming.

Monday, August 8, 2011

(PNN) TUCKER SAY HE WAS FILMING A FIGHT FROM ACROSS THE STREET WHEN BEATEN, ARRESTED BY COPS

(PNN) — Aug 8 — Damon Tucker, the reporter/blogger who says he was severely beaten by Hawai`i Island police Friday night. says he was across the street taking picture of an altercation between two women when he was “blindsided and taken down” and then arrested by a Hawai`i Police Department (HPD) officer.In an email response to PNN inquiries Tucker said that “I was taking pictures of folks leaving a concert a fight broke out (sic)… people were breaking things up… cops moved in and I was across the street taking pictures of it all.

Tucker says that he had left the venue where he was covering a “Red Eye Blind” concert in Pahoa when “(o)ne cop came over to tell me to put the camera down… so I complied… he left… 15-20 seconds later I started filming again and I got blindsided and taken down.”

He said it was a younger officer who originally asked him to stop filming and a much bigger and veteran one who “roughed me up”- the latter being the same officer who arrested, booked and processed him at the police station,

Tucker, who is well known in Pahoa, says he was wearing a shirt with his name on it in the form of his twitter address and tried to identify himself to the officer whom he says accosted and arrested him.

“I tried to tell the officer who I was… he would have none of it” Tucker said in the email. “(W)hen we were at the station he asked if I had an official ‘Reporters Badge’ or something to that effect and I said no… I run local blogs and I’m a well known blogger throughout all of Hawaii.”

There is no state or national “certification” for who is or isn’t a reporter or journalist although some local police departments do issue “press passes,” usually solely in order to allow reporters inside police lines, but not to confer any first amendment “freedom of the press” rights, which are federally protected and not “conferred” by police.

Tucker says he started filming because a fight had broken out outside the club.

“Two girls were fighting,” he wrote, and “from what I have now heard… one girl got hit with a bottle. I was leaving the club and heard the commotion and turned around and started to film from my iPhone, at least one of the girls I saw at the station.”

Apparently Tucker was not in close proximity to the police action and was within his constitutional rights to film from a public sidewalk whether he was a “reporter” or not.

He described what happened after he was beaten.

“I was in cuffs outside the club for about 30 minutes while the cops continued to diffuse the more dangerous situation. After that situation was diffused they brought me down to the police station… where the younger officer had to look in a book to find something to charge me with. At about 45 minutes into the booking… I asked if I could use the bathroom… officer said sure… empty your pockets… and then through(sic) me into a jail cell with no cot or anything for nearly 45 minutes. I was then released on my own PR (sic) given the summons I posted on my blog and left with the assistance of an officer on duty who dropped me off close enough to my house so that I could have a cigarette on the way home and not startle everyone in the neighborhood or shame folks by me being brought home by a police officer at 2:00 in the morning.”

In addition to the gruesome picture that Tucker posted on his blog, Reporter Tiffany Edward Hunt also took pictures of Tucker and posted them at her “Big Island Chronicle.” site.

She also posted an “Open letter to Police Chief Harry Kubojiri” on Saturday asking for “a statement regarding Damon Tucker’s account of police brutality for taking photos in Pahoa last night,” which she says was emailed to the chief, a spokeswoman for the police department and the mayor’s office.

On Sunday Tucker posted pictures of what he said were the bloody, dirt-caked clothing he was wearing during the incident.

The email to PNN was also sent to a national clearinghouse web site called “Photography Isn’t A Crime,” which documents incidents of harassment by police and others of both reporters and citizens for legally taking picture in public places. The web site says its purpose is to “educate everyone about the rights and responsibilities of photographers.”

This is not Tucker’s first run-in with police while covering news and taking photos. On Christmas Eve, 2008 Tucker was investigating complaints of violations of the American with Disabilities Act at Pahoa Post Office when a HPD officer threatened him and forced him to delete pictures Tucker had taken of the parking lot and the officer.

Tucker has said he will be seeking legal counsel today and filing a lawsuit.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

(PNN) COPS BEAT, ARREST REPORTER FOR TAKING PHOTOS OUTSIDE CONCERT IN PAHOA

(PNN) COPS BEAT, ARREST REPORTER FOR TAKING PHOTOS OUTSIDE CONCERT IN PAHOA(PNN) — Aug 7 — Big Island reporter and blogger Damon Tucker was severely beaten by police and arrested for “hindering a government operation” Friday night while taking pictures from a public sidewalk outside a concert he was covering in Pahoa.

According to a post on his popular Damon Tucker’s Blog “the police have now confiscated my camera and cell phone as well as roughing me up and locking me up in a police detention holding cell for taking video and pictures of them in action from the sidewalk in front of Pahoa Village Cafe.”

Seven pictures posted yesterday, taken by Tucker’s wife upon his return from the emergency room, show apparent multiple deep abrasions scraps and bruises on all of his extremities and torso.Tucker says his right shoulder is damaged, he is limping on his left leg and is in severe pain.

He says that he took the pictures on his cell phone which was confiscated by police as “evidence,” as was his camera which he was not using.

Tucker wrote that he will “be filing a lawsuit against the Hawaii County Police department soon for a few things.”

In his Friday night post Tucker wrote that:

People are allowed to take pictures and videos of police officers w/out getting roughed up. I’m battered, bruised and bloody from an officer slamming on the sidewalk… Thankfully I have eyewitnesses that will come forward to say what happened.

My wife took pictures shortly after I was released from jail tonight…

I just want my cell phone back and camera back…. I was rolling video when the officer took me down and they took my cell phone and camera from me for “Evidence”.

This is not Tucker’s first run-in with police while covering news and taking photos. On Christmas Eve, 2008 Tucker was investigating complaints of violations of the American with Disabilities Act at Pahoa Post Office when a HPD officer threatened him and forced him to delete pictures Tucker had taken of the parking lot and the officer.

Tucker declined further comment for now saying he is weighing his options and will post again about the incident on his blog. He is due to appear in court on September 8.

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