Police chief backtracks on press camera seizure
Published Wednesday, April 8, 2009 12:05PM PDT
Vancouver's police chief has apologized for seizing a newspaper photographer's camera at the scene of a police-involved shooting on Sunday.
In the incident, a six-year veteran of the VPD became stuck between a stolen truck and other vehicles, and fired a single shot which hit the driver. The man, who is well known to police, is expected to recover.
Province Newspaper photographer Jason Payne was trying to take pictures of the shooting when an officer objected, saying his camera was "evidence" and ordered him to hand it over.
"I put the camera on the ground [and] put my foot on it, and said 'You're not getting my camera.' They pretty much persisted to the point of being arrested," said Payne.
In a statement, Chief Jim Chu said there was confusion as to whether Payne was a legitimate news photographer, but admitted officers held onto the camera about an hour longer than was proper.
He stressed that the officers involved were acting in good faith.
"They were acting in the heat of the moment in a confusing and dynamic situation," he said.
"Their intent was to secure and preserve as much evidence as possible to assist in the investigation."
The Province's editor-in-chief, Wayne Moriarty, says although Payne's camera was returned promptly -- and with images intact -- the police action was over the top.
"The cops don't like the fact that when they are out in the street... doing their jobs, they're being scrutinized by more media than ever," he said.
Chu also said all VPD staff have been given a refresher bulletin on seizing digital evidence at a crime scene.
The bulletin states officers can't take away cameras from the public or the media, saying they can only seize equipment when there is an arrest or search warrant.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has filed a formal complaint with the police board about the incident.