We are seeing too many stories about people being arrested for standing in a public place and taking photos or video of police, but this story out of Austin goes farther than any I have seen before.
Antonio Buehler saw two police officers handling a drunk woman a little rougher than he thought they should have been so he pulled out his cell phone and started snapping photos. The police didn’t care for that. One accused him of interfereing with an investigation:
Austin police officer Pat Oborski shoved Buehler against his truck before handcuffing him. He later claimed in his arrest report that Buehler had spit in his face.
Buehler was charged with resisting arrest and felony harassment on a public servant, the latter punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
After spending 16 hours in jail, Buehler began seeking witnesses to the incident.
“We started posting flyers around the gas station,” Buehler said in an interview withPhotography is Not a Crime Sunday afternoon.
“I went on Facebook and on Twitter and I put something up on Craig’s List.”
After reaching out, this video surfaced. It was take across the street by another witness who captured it with their cell phone:
Buehler then filed an internal affairs complaint against Oborski in late January thinking that the cell phone video – coupled with dash video and audio from the patrol car, the footage from the gas station surveillance camera and audio from a recorder Oborski was wearing on his uniform – would prove that he was unlawfully arrested.
Buehler did tell the cops to stop manhandling the woman, but that isn’t grounds for arrest. Nor is taking photos of a police action in public.
If you think you might ever be in the same situation, and if you have a cell phone with a camera, you might, print out this paper explaining your rights as a photographer. Understand what you can and can’t do and you can avoid breaking the law.