Photojournalist Mannie Garcia recently won a $45,000 settlement in a lawsuit brought forth over an incident in which he was arrested in 2011.
Garcia says he was physically detained, put in a chokehold, and thrown to the ground by Montgomery County (Maryland) Police Officers Christopher Malouf and Kevin Baxter while photographing them on a public street in Wheaton, Maryland. He was charged with disorderly conduct, a charge on which he was later acquitted, but in the meantime, his White House credentials were suspended due to the charge. With support of the National Press Photographers Association, Garcia filed a civil rights lawsuit in 2012, alleging violation of First and Fourth Amendment rights and a pattern of conduct by the Montgomery County Police involving unlawful arrest of citizens recording their activities. Said Garcia:
I think this lawsuit has given attention to the fact that police departments need to pay attention in regards to individuals’ rights.
Garcia said that for him, the most important part was not the monetary settlement, but the confirmation of citizens' rights to record police in public arenas. Nonetheless, NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher noted:
It is unfortunate that another law enforcement agency had to learn the hard way to respect the Constitution at taxpayers' expense.
While I'm certainly thankful that Garcia saw justice, I have to agree with Osterreicher's sentiment, particularly when talking about something as fundamental as the First Amendment.