Miami Police Handcuff Photographer, Take Camera and Phone for Attempting to Take Pictures at Accident Scene

Miami Police Handcuff Photographer, Take Camera and Phone for Attempting to Take Pictures at Accident Scene

On May 25, a Miami photographer was handcuffed and had his equipment seized when he attempted to take photos of an accident scene. 

The photographer, Jacob Katel, was driving to Miami Beach, when he came across a motorcycle crash. Katel then parked his car and got out to photograph the scene (Katel has been a freelance media photographer for a decade). Within seconds of exiting his car, Katel says an officer began approaching and yelling at him and after a brief conversation, handcuffed him and took his phone and camera. 

Katel says he complied with the officers and was polite throughout the interactions. He further says that when he originally arrived, an officer told him he could photograph from the sidewalk, but soon after that, he was approached by a second officer who handcuffed him and ignored him when he explained that he was a professional photographer and had been given permission to be there. Katel says he even offered to leave the scene at that point, but was instead detained and questioned, before being eventually released, though police kept his phone and camera as "evidence," which he only got back days later. 

As described by Katel, the incident violates both Miami Police Department policy and the First Amendment. He has filed complaints with both Internal Affairs and the Civilian Investigative Panel. In his complaint, he says he wanted to show the police helping:

If the officers intend to have a good standing in the community, they should be proud for the public to see them at work. And if they are doing nothing wrong, they should be OK with a reasonable curiosity toward their activities.

Lead image via Pixabay.

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61 Comments

EL PIC's picture

Expect a lot more of this in coming years ..
The abusing by police on individual rights for what they call society greater need started with the turn on the century and a couple of Supreme Court Rulings. They were very low attention getters at the time in Clinton administration.
But they are picking up steam now and headed to a clash with people.

Spy Black's picture

Americans are having a real hard time accepting the reality that they no longer live in a democracy.

Steve Pellegrino's picture

We don't live in a democracy, we live in a republic.

Spy Black's picture

Not even that, just a corporate imperialist dictatorship disguised as a democracy. Or is that disguised as a republic?

republic
/rɪˈpʌblɪk/
noun
a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.

Looks suspiciously synonymous to a 'representative democracy'.

Representative democracy (also indirect democracy, representative government or psephocracy) is a type of democracy founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy.[2] Nearly all modern Western-style democracies are types of representative democracies; for example, the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, France is a unitary state, and the United States is a federal republic.[3]

Complex stuff, I know...

With all the hate that cops get these days, it's no wonder they're on edge.

"If the photographer intends to have a good standing in the community, maybe they shouldn't slam on their brakes at the site of blood and break out the camera to profit off someone's misery." What happened, Britni Spears didn't come out of her house that day so you needed away to profit off someone? Wish I could've been there to take a pic of them getting arrested so I could sell the pics to the news. Karma.

David, David, David... so let me see if I understand your position. You don’t like what someone is doing even though it’s legal so you make an excuse to arrest or detain them. Is this law and order? Is this American due process? Are these the principles of a society that espouses freedom and liberty.

I can understand in your little hate filled mind that people that you don’t like or are rude or distasteful should be mistreated, but I hold myself and my country to a higher standard.

Nobody said being American was going to be easy. Sometimes the bad guys are given their rights. In this case I am talking about you and the fact that Fstoppers gave your idiot ideas the freedom to be heard.

Uh moron, those same American principals you dig so much also give me the right to voice my opinion. You want to hold something higher, let's add laws that make paparazzi a stalking law, let's make it a law that if someone sells you photograph without a release form you can get sued rather than them suing you for posting a pic they took of you with a long lens from out of sight. You know, like if some idiot is filming me injured on a road.

David, please do not look at any newspapers, tv news, magazines or web. You might see the product of what photojournalists do day in and day out.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Photojournalism does not equal photographing people in situations where they rather keep private...Oh wait, for some, that is exactly that.

And David does have a point regarding paparazzi and the absolute dumb law that lets you photograph people without their permission and then use it to make money.

The law is not always right.

I do not know what happened at this specific situation and cannot tell if the cop was right or the photographer. What I can say is that the infringement of privacy is way out of control.

"Photojournalism does not equal photographing people in situations where they rather keep private...Oh wait, for some, that is exactly that."

You might want to read up on the law regarding photography in public places.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photography_and_the_law

The law does not state you cannot "photograph people without their permission" in a public place.

Also throwing around the derogatory term "paparazzi" for anyone with a camera and complaining about 'dumb law" doesn't entitle police officers to arrest and confiscate property of a photographer who is entitled to take pictures in public. I looked at Jacob's website and his bio and he is far from being a "paparazzi'.

"the law is not always right"

Sorry but you will just have to deal with it.

Motti Bembaron's picture

As I don't know what happened there so I can not comment on what the police did or did not.

However, I would agree that police forces in the US are becoming increasingly aggressive towards the public.

If all things are equal, the cop did not have the right to arrest him and take his equipment. A "just move along" would have been sufficient. However, we have one side of the story.

My argument is that privacy should be respected regardless if you are in public place and especially when you are in a compromised position like in this case, an accident.

"Sorry, but you will just have to deal with it."
If there were laws to protect people in their most vulnerable this would not have happened.

It seems most have no problem using other's misery for their own gain profit and it seems most here agree. well....

""A "just move along" would have been sufficient."

- No, it would not be sufficient if Mr. Katel was in public property and was not interfering with rescue efforts to tell him to "just move along". He has every right to take pictures in public.

"If there were laws to protect people in their most vulnerable this would not have happened. It seems most have no problem using other's misery for their own gain profit and it seems most here agree. well..."

"My argument is that privacy should be respected regardless if you are in public place and especially when you are in a compromised position like in this case, an accident."

- Quick yes or no question, Motti: have you ever opened up a newspaper/magazine, or watched a live broadcast of a horrific man made or natural disaster, or opened up a webpage and seen any photo/video of "people in their most vulnerable" moment?

If you say yes to any of these then you are part of the "problem" you are complaining about.

Get off your high horse. The world doesn't work the way you may want it to so get over it.

Motti Bembaron's picture

I don't watch the news very often, I read it. Bringing news of disasters to the world public is nothing like that. The news is not about 'A' person but about the unfortunate events that affect a population.

And yes, I am very much interested when that happens. Did you see the latest reports and photographs of Mexicans being held in the US? Well, the networks published the photos with their faces are blurred, that's because of privacy concerns and it's the right thing to do.

Photographing an accident might be the same, not sure of the details but the point is that people are so eager to score points on their social media that they forgot basic human decency.

By the way, laws in Canada are a bit different and for the better. Good chance that if you stopped aside to photograph an accident, especially on the highway, you will be ordered to "move along" really quickly. Putting others at risk because you want to score a scoop does not sit well with police.

They might be a bit more polite if you stopped to help though :-)

That sounds great. While you're busy working on that legislation (assuming you actually care enough about your ideals to do something about them), I'll just kindly point out that until those laws actually exist, they can't be broken. Surely that subtly is lost on you, but it does raise concern when somebody who's entire job it is to enforce the law doesn't actually know the law. Especially when they're allowed to use weaponry in a way that the general public is not.

The reason that no one is championing such laws is because they know a) it’s a double edged sword that could possibly affect commerce or private property surveillance and 2) its unconstitutional. And by the way I never said I liked what they are doing; ironically by getting upset about it you give them more power. Ignore them and they disappear into obscurity. And with that note I will end my comments so that maybe you can do the same.

It's already double edged. How many were responsible for chasing Princess Diana and how many were there after the wreck to take pics and film. If I can photograph / stalk a celebrity can I also follow your wife, daughter, mom around blasting her in the face with a flash? Can I interfere with cops and then start streaming when they start to arrest me for entering a potential crime scene and refusing to leave? The problem is laws haven't been adjusted to the everyone is a nosy douche bag with a camera these days, everyone is trying to sue someone using their phone, everyone thinks it's cool to interfere with police and try and make them look evil, everyone wants to carve their name or graffiti a national park for those cool Instagram pic likes. Most of these laws have been around since you had to pay or develop your own film. Now everyone is a stalker, paparazzi and ambulance chaser.

While the untimely death of Princess Diana is a tragedy it is one that was caused by drunk driving. "British and French police investigations put the blame largely on driver (Henri) Paul for being impaired by alcohol and later driving recklessly."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Paul

- "If I can photograph / stalk a celebrity can I also follow your wife, daughter, mom around blasting her in the face with a flash?"

Despite your hyperbolic reasoning the law is: if you are in public place you do not have any "reasonable expectation of privacy."

- Can I interfere with cops and then start streaming when they start to arrest me for entering a potential crime scene and refusing to leave?

If you enter a cordoned "potential crime scene" then you are liable for arrest. That was not the case for Mr. Katel who was in a public space.

- "The problem is laws haven't been adjusted to the everyone is a nosy douche bag with a camera these days,"

Deal with it. There are way more surveillance cameras constantly capturing you at all times.

"everyone thinks it's cool to interfere with police and try and make them look evil, "

- not sure what you have against lawful photography in public but your problems seem to be much deeper than this.

- Now everyone is a stalker, paparazzi and ambulance chaser.

- Quick yes or no question, David: have you ever opened up a newspaper/magazine, or watched a live broadcast of a horrific man made or natural disaster, or opened up a webpage and seen any photo/video of "people in their most vulnerable" moment?

If you say yes to any of these then you are part of the "problem" you are complaining about.

Once again, David: "please do not look at any newspapers, tv news, magazines or web. You might see the product of what photojournalists do day in and day out."

You mean the newspapers that are firing their photographers and giving out iphones to reporters? Yeah I don't look at those but apparently news organizations don't think you have to be pro to take a pic of blood in the street.

David, at the risk of further embarrassing yourself on these forums please turn off your computer along with your tv and cancel any subscription to any newspaper and magazine. Please draw your curtains and hide in your studio.

Are you still talking? Don't you have actual pics to take or do you just troll forums with dumb comments?

another stale argument when you have nothing better to say. the consensus, cosplay dave, is that you are the one making "dumb comments". stick to the safety and security of your studio.

did you turn off your computer/tv/radio yet?

Steve Pellegrino's picture

David - being a photojournalist is a hard job. It has some rewards, but it has tragedies as well. I have photographed presidents, presidential candidates, and other politicians as they've campaigned. Standing literally shoulder to shoulder with newsmakers is an amazing experience.

But there is another side to this. I've photographed grieving parents when they've arrived at a crime scene where their child was killed. I've photographed Michael Brown's mother when she was in shock over the death of her son. Unfortunately, there are times when the job of a photojournalist is to photograph people on the worst day of their lives. It's news. It's what people have the right to know and see. It may not be what you like about photography, but it is a reality. We can't rely on just a law enforcement officer's account of the situation.

I live less than 10 minutes from where Michael Brown was shot. I spent weeks photographing the tragedy that took over my community. I know the officers who were involved with the case. Protests happening where my kids used to play, where my wife and I used to spend our nights out. But that's life. It's not always unicorns and rainbows. We need to document what is happening. That is what we do. Turn away if it offends you, but it's not going to end and the first amendment isn't going to change.

Steve, I think you are wasting your time with cosplay dave. He really needs to get out of his studio and hit the local library to brush up on the law. Photojournalists play a vital role in informing the public. Apparently Dave only wants unicorns and rainbows in the paper/tv/web as he lives in fantasyland.

By making your observations you prove the issue; we all are compelled these days to be heard, have the final say, assert our rights or be damned, prove that we are smartest, go viral. You can’t let go the argument ( or me for that fact). It’s your world view or none. No respect for the other guy. I know what this person was doing was cop baiting and victim exploiting; but you advocated arrest and possible violence against him even though he was lawful. That’s why all your other good points are less valid. Your intent and therefore your impartiality are compromised.

These days, everyone has a camera. Including police. There are many times the pictures taken by bystanders trying to "profit off of someone's misery" show a different story than the official police report. Also your insurance company and lawyers can use the photos of you laying in the middle of the road in case there is a lawsuit, as sometimes the police footage is "damaged" and unavailable.

In LA if there is an incident and the LAPD releases the footage right away, it shows them in a good light. If they are "reviewing" it for evidence or they would "like to but can't for legal reasons release it" then it may show there was no gun and the guy had his hands up. Then it's good to have third party photos.

I will never forget this story where an innocent man was spared up to 7 years in prison thanks to a surveillance camera in his house that contradicted a cop.

https://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/officer-charged-with-lying...

https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/mta-engineer-175g-nyc-false-arrest-...

Eric Mazzone's picture

Then YOU would have been arrested.

Then you could've photographed me and made some money as I made money from filming him making money from filming some poor sap injured because some motorist was probably taking a selfie while driving and didn't see their motorcycle.

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