NOTE: Apocalyptic weather notwithstanding, Team 'Slinger remains committed to exposing gross acts of grab-ass involving TV news cameras - if for no other reason to bring shame to that overpaid choad Kenny Rogers...
Dateline: Charlotte. A couple of TV News photogs from competing stations respond to the scene of a fatal accident, eventually finding a perch on a nearby embankment. Very soon two officers with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department began ordering WBTV photographer Travis Washington to stop shooting. Washington, a credentialed news-gatherer on public property dared to question "WHY?" - a brazen move that brought about the full fury of one particular female officer. Demanding he stop recording, Officer Midol tried to wrestle the camera from Washington's hand, thus causing the delicate tool to drop unceremoniously to the ground. "You're not showing proper respect to people in the accident", admonished the constable before cuffing and stuffing the paid station employee in the back of her police cruiser. There Washington sat for about an hour, before being released without charges. He then sought treatment for a minor back injury related to the confrontation. The camera itself sustained about $1,000 in damage and WBTV plans to ask police to pay for those repairs.
To which we here at the Lenslinger Institute ask "WHAT THE F*DGE?" Police officers ARE in charge of emergency scenes; it's quite common (if not particularly legal) for them to corral photographers behind imaginary lines only they can see. In the Queen City however, law enforcers are also cinematographers, civil rights attorneys, judges and juries. When they attained this lofty status is still unclear, but we assume it happened to them shortly before city officials deemed them Omnipotent Overlords of the Fourth Estate. That looks damn spiffy on a business card, but it ain't worth the taxpayer provided paper it's printed on. And why did Channel 3's cameraman get manhandled while Channel 9's lenser was left alone enough to videotape the whole damn thing? And what's with this trend of shoving a pesky photog in the back of a cop car, only to release him (or her) 120 minutes later with no charges. If I pulled shit like that, I rightly be called a kidnapper, yet some Testicle with a basic law enforcement course under his (or her) gunbelt is free to rewrite the constitution on the spot. WTF?
Washington is on vacation this week. His station, Channel 3, is weighing their lack of options while the Charlotte -Mecklenburg Police Department launches an internal investigation. Channel 9 - which apparently has video of the whole enchilada - is sitting on their tape for the time being. I respect that, I guess; they could make great ratings hay of running that puppy on a loop throughout their every newscast. Still, a little sunshine's powerful disinfectant and releasing said outrage sure would make it easier on armchair pundits like the ones at Schmuck Alert Central. Speaking of which, we're surprisingly law and order around here. I know LOTS of cops and even more news photogs. With a few glaring exceptions, their all folks I'd have over for a bar-b-cue. At breaking news scenes, the attending press is about as thrilled to be there as the cops - who would no doubt prefer parking in clusters just off the interstate. That's cool - I just wish the men and women in blue would educate their junior colleagues a abit better, for far too often it's the rookie cop that loses his effin' mind when lenses gather on the edge of calamity. Seems they should cover the basic rights of the press at the Academy. Hell, I'd be willing to go hold a seminar, provided they' wouldn't go all Abu Ghraib on my tired ass.