Intimidation and Harassment Under Color of Authority?
Newspapers across the country look for stories that will bring them news, but Carrie Peyton Dahlberg, an editor
for the North Coast Journal, may have gotten more than
she bargained for.
She was threatened with arrest for taking pictures of Eureka Police Department Officers conducting an investigation in a public place—the Humboldt County library. This happened after identifying herself as a journalist.
When she asked for the officer’s names, they refused to identify themselves and Ms. Peyton Dahlberg was again told she’d be arrested. They eventually did identify themselves– but only reluctantly after her husband, an attorney, showed up and she pursued the matter looking at badges and demanding their names as public officers.
The Humboldt Herald reported:
“In the North Coast Journal this week, editor in chief Carrie Peyton Dahlberg describes her treatment when she attempted to observe and document police activity in the main library’s parking lot. It’s important reading for anyone who lives, works, or shops in Eureka.
“If the police act like this to someone who has already identified themselves as an employee of a local newsweekly, what do they do to regular folk?”
You can read Carrie Peyton Dahlberg’s brief article, “Good Cops Aren’t Afraid of Cameras” to find out what transpired.
Some of the many, many comments readers posted after reading the story:
“If memory serves me a citizen had their camera out and was taking photos at the time Martin Cotton was being arrested and beaten by the Mission. The police confiscated the camera and threatened the citizen with arrest. The video could have made short work of the cover up that followed. Citizens need to know, in fact be assured, that they have the right to use their cameras. Thank you Carrie Peyton Dahlberg.”
“Thank you for this reporting Carrie. I know that speaking out with your name attached in a small town requires some chutzpah. Just remember that suppression of your 1st Amendment rights under color of authority is a felony and proceed. Have a peaceful day, and enjoy it, Bill.”
“Perhaps the cops were rude and/or perhaps this lady was getting in the way and had an entitlement attitude.”
“The NCJ article goes to great lengths to make clear how all involved behaved. You are free to not believe the article, and to believe instead that a newsweekly’s editor in her 50s went out of her way to disrupt police activity, just because she felt like it. You are even free to believe that the newsweekly’s editor had an ‘entitlement attitude.’ You’re fairly revealing of your values, however, when you declare an American reporter’s Constitutionally-protected attempt to document public police activity might involve an ‘entitlement attitude.’ I confess I myself have an ‘entitlement attitude’ to my first amendment rights. That’s because, like all Americans, I’m entitled to them.”
“If the behavior you describe occurred, the police officers should lose their jobs. Period. ‘Not OK’ doesn’t begin to cover it.”
“1 out of every 3 cops chooses the profession because they want the power the position beholds.”
“Outta sight! Sounds like you are a perfect mix of unbiased outsider (or newbie) and objective reporter. You’ve kept track of all those pesky facts, in an orderly and measured manner. You know, cops like to present a confident image, and with the increasing militarization of police and fire units in the post 911 Homeland Security arena, the people often find themselves policed by overbearing thugs. I laud your real reporting here, and welcome more of it.”
“Sad to say, the question that came to my mind on reading this was not “I wonder if this really happened.” The question that came to my mind was, ‘Will Murl promote Goodale immediately, or wait a bit?’ Murl’s been chief for a long time now, is the Eureka City Council any closer to hiring a new chief to replace him?”
“This is the same officer who came to my home in response to a burglary, and was completely indifferent to the crime I was reporting. To my requests for more police presence in my neighborhood, which had endured about 6 burglaries in recent days, he mumbled some bull-shit no-response. I pay your salary, jackass!”
“I know you’re relatively new to Humboldt but, anyone who has lived in Arcata for any amount of time knows the name Drake Goodale.”
“Firing this officer is not enough. He should do time. An example must be made. Remove Murl Harpham IMMEDIATELY.”
“Know your rights – or you may end up being abused by those sworn to serve and protect.”
“He used to be such a nice guy and a good cop and then about 10 years ago it’s like a switch was flipped. I’m not sure he should be working with the public any longer. The good news is that he is not discriminatory in his dislike for everyone, he seems to truly just be rude and nasty to everyone equally.”
“Drake is a good cop and anyone who has lived here a long time like myself (20yrs) knows him. He used to be an Arcata cop for 15 years. Sometimes they can’t have people around getting in the way when they are trying to solve a case, apprehend a suspect. Why do you care about a few bags of pot anyways? Sorry you feel dissed, but I have always felt it better to stay away from police work, its none of your business. If you are so interested maybe you should become one yourself. Damn reporters.”
“The cynical self that I am has known for years that the good, law abiding citizen usually gets the bad end of the stick. We are usually too polite to retort in a disrespectful or forceful manner, to maybe even intimidate a cop now and then. Instead we take the abuse thinking that maybe we did something wrong, kicking ourselves repeatedly in our behind for days after because deep down we know we should have reacted differently. So, yes, well written and kudos to the way you behaved.”
“I understand that threatening with arrest was a little harsh, but doesn’t everyone have the right to say they don’t want their pictures taken? Isn’t it a personal right to refuse that? And they were obviously in the middle of an investigation and were being distracted by this woman. I can understand how that would be a little frustrating and irritating. There are better ways they could have asked her to stand back, but she should also respect their wishes.”
“And now you know how the rest of us feel. I am a little sorry to say that many of us have had similar experiences.”
“So far, I’ve never been asked to stop photographing accident or arrest scenes; for the most part, I take the photos from a good distance, to make sure I’m not in anyone’s way. After the arrest has been made or the victims of a crash/vandal have been taken to the hospital or go home, I will ask one of the cops further away from the scene what went on. I wouldn’t claim… that Carrie was in the way here, but I definitely utilize the zoom function of a camera most when near a police/fire/ambulance scene.”
“I’ve seen videos of police encounters of late where the person with the camera was being a jerk and trying to provoke an incident. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. But police officers are different. They are government officials with a great deal of power and authority. They are legally able to inflict serious bodily harm or death to citizens under some circumstances. It is important that their actions be transparent and observable to all in order to keep their power in check and both them and us safe.”
“Sometimes lookie-loos are part of the team of those being arrested. Sometimes the sweet lady is carrying a gun. Saying you are a reporter could not protect you if this scene went bad. The cops are not always the good guys; he should have given you his name and asked you nicely to stay back. Agreed. But did it occur to you that the person involved could have been far more dangerous than the cops, and that the situation was more dangerous than you realized?”
“No glee here. I wish all cops were as honest and professional as the guys on Adam-12. But I was working at Fifth and F when the Cheri Moore shooting took place at Fifth and G. When I left for lunch, a colleague with a radio scanner told me she’d agreed to come down for a sandwich or a candy bar or cigarette or something similar. When I came back, she was dead.”
“A person has a legal right to take photographs in a public place while standing on public property. No permission required. If a cop is refocusing his attention on a law abiding citizen, then the cop needs a refresher in the laws he’s sworn to uphold.”
Whatever happened to “To Protect and to Serve?”
Whatever happened to plain basic common sense?