Videojournalist sues over 2011 arrest

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According to Balin, the videotape contained footage from several news stories that day, which Datz was unable to sell to networks because by the time he got the tape back, the footage was no longer timely.

At the request of then-Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota later dropped the charges against Datz. Dormer said that the police department would conduct an internal investigation and would review its police policy concerning involvement with the press.

Suffolk Police Deputy Chief Chris Bergold publicly apologized for the incident and detailed plans to bring in media experts to train police officers.

Datz’s complaint cites several instances where he and other journalists had been unconstitutionally told to leave crime scenes by Suffolk Police officers. “There’s been a history over the last several years of obstructing with journalists and members of the public who seek to videotape police activity which takes place in public view,” Balin said.

Balin noted that Sycamore Avenue remained open to traffic during the investigation, and other bystanders watching the crime scene were not told to leave. At no point, Balin said, did Datz interfere with police activity.

Amol Sinha, director of Suffolk’s NYCLU chapter, said his organization takes on cases where constitutional rights have been violated. “It’s a pretty standard First Amendment right to be able to film in public,” he said, “and that includes police activity. He was on a public street.”

Datz’s suit seeks unspecified monetary damages. The complaint noted that he had to seek treatment at Stony Brook University Medical Center for injuries sustained during his arrest, and he was unable to work for a week. To this day, Datz still cannot use certain equipment as a result of the shoulder injury suffered, which forces him to turn down certain assignments. Datz has been a professional video journalist for about eight years.
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