There’s no question, most police officers understand and respect the role of the media in a free society. And there’s no question that most police officers understand and respect the fact that the media can shoot pictures and gather news on public property. But every now and then, a cop who doesn’t understand the limitations of his own badge gets it wrong. In the case of a Newark NJ “special officer” Sunday, he justified the detention of a WCBS-TV photog by saying: “I can do whatever I want.” Wrong.
Jim Quodomine’s camera continued to roll as the cop grabbed the camera, then put the photog in a chokehold. Quodomine was on public property, covering a peaceful protest. Several bystanders snapped photos, and it appears reporter Christine Sloan picked up Quodomine’s camera and shot some video of her photog’s detention. A Newark city councilwoman watched the scene, convinced the cop to release the photog (after an hour in the back of a patrol car) and filed a complaint with the Mayor.
From viewing the video, it’s impossible to glean what provoked the “special” officer into his “put the camera away” rage. (In this case, “special” apparently means that he is trained by the city but only works crowd control, traffic details and other low-impact police chores.)
On Monday, the city of Newark suspended Special Officer Brian Shariff without pay. Mayor Cory Booker said he was “disgusted” and “disturbed” by the incident. One wonders what this cop got away with when no cameras were around.
It takes an extraordinary act of dumbassery to turn a member of the news media into a sympathetic figure. Way to go, Shariff. Your future as a rent-a-cop is all but ensured. Or maybe the Burmese state police have an opening.