By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director
As protests broke out across the country as a result of recent police shootings and the Dallas police murders, officers again found themselves on the edge in their efforts to control protests in the streets of cities like Rochester, Baton Rouge, Atlanta and elsewhere.
In Rochester, two reporters were detained and handcuffed by officers over the weekend while they were reporting live via Facebook from a public sidewalk. Their arrests followed the recording of a woman who was part of the protest. The woman was arrested. The journalists, Carlet Cleare and Justin Carter, both from WHAM Television, were also led away by police. The pair were the only African Americans who were part of a larger group of reporters in the area.
The Rochester PD quickly recognized their error and released the two. And the police chief and the mayor issued a public apology. But the incident is another example of what we’ve seen elsewhere during other protests, like those in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD.
Stress, fear and highly-charged emotion can run rampant during times like these. And the direct attacks on police, like we saw in Dallas, no doubt heighten officer’s sensitivities and concern for their own safety. RTDNA understands that and appreciates the very difficult jobs these officers face daily. It goes without saying their work becomes even more tension-filled when officers themselves are concerned about potentially life-threatening attacks.
Both public safety agencies and journalists have important jobs to do and each must be allowed to do them so long as each other’s rights are respected in the process. At RTDNA, we urge continued dialogue between police and the news media so errors like this one in Rochester don’t occur elsewhere and journalists can report on the events freely and without fear of reprisal. The First Amendment right to do so is a freedom that everyone must defend.