Student Photographer's Arrest: Snapshot of Systemic Police Abuse
By Linn Washington, Jr.
I don’t know Temple University photojournalism major Ian Van Kuyk, despite his enrollment in Temple’s Journalism Department, where I teach.
I do know that dynamics embedded in the recent arrest of Van Kuyk by Philadelphia police--an arrest now generating news coverage nationwide--provide yet another snapshot of the systemic abuses I’ve reported and researched during three decades spent examining and documenting the lawlessness of supposed law enforcers.
I also know that police attacking civilians for lawfully photographing public spaces, police routinely employing unlawful excessive force and prosecutors too frequently turning a blind eye to such police misconduct are all nationwide problems.
These systemic abuses by police and prosecutors corrode public confidence in the justice system and cost taxpayers millions of dollars spent on settling lawsuits alleging illegalities by police. Historically, these problems receive short-shrift from most elected officials.
Just a few days before the alleged abuse of Van Kuyk, an artist filed a federal lawsuit against a Philadelphia policeman for roughing her up when arresting her for apparently creating lawful outdoor artwork less than two miles from the Van Kuyk incident.
In January 2012, the City of Philadelphia settled another lawsuit filed against that same artist, with the arresting officer agreeing to pay a woman $30,000. She alleged that the officer had “violently manhandled” her – breaking her nose and spraining her wrist during a sidewalk encounter.
Evidence now indicates a police-prosecutor angle in the Florida fatal shooting of teen Trayvon Martin by 28-year-old George Zimmerman.
The evidence is clear that Sanford, FL Police performed a procedurally deficient forensic investigation of that incident.
And evidence indicates that department officials and prosecutors rejected a Sanford Police detective’s request to arrest Zimmerman for manslaughter – a management decision that appears to demonstrate less concern for victim Martin than for shooter Zimmerman, whom the evidence shows ignored police orders to not confront Martin, only to have him then claim he shot Martin in self-defense.
That incident producing the arrest of Van Kuyk and outrage from the general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association about gross violations of this young photojournalist’s First Amendment rights occurred on the warm evening of March 14, 2012.
Of course as always there are two sides: in this case the account advanced by arresting officers and accounts from Van Kuyk, his girlfriend (also arrested that night) and a few of their neighbors who witnessed the events.
The only points of agreement between the two versions are that police were questioning one of Van Kuyk’s neighbors outside the South Philadelphia apartment where Van Kuyk lived, and that the budding photojournalist began photographing that encounter...
For the rest of this article by LINN WASHINGTON, JR. in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1114