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Investigations, outrage after Detroit Police arrest news photographer

steve carmody

Detroit and national news media are in an uproar after learning a news photographer was arrested for filming police last week.

Detroit Free Press photographer Mandi Wright was filming police making an arrest on her iPhone last Thursday.

Here's the video:

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A plainclothes officer approached her, ordering her to stop filming. When Wright refused--after identifying herself as a reporter--the officer took her phone.

After some kind of altercation, police arrested Wright and held her for more than six hours—at times, in the same space as the man she had filmed being arrested (he was arrested on felony firearms charges).

Wright was later released without charges. Deputy Chief James Tolbert tells the Free Press that police are investigating “the whole incident, from start to end. What we did, what she did, the whole nine.”

“It’s pretty high on the outrageous scale,” says Hershel Fink, the Free Press’s legal counsel.

Fink says anyone has a constitutional right to film police acting in public, and the department needs to set the record straight publicly. “I expect them to declare, clearly, that she [Wright] has done nothing wrong, return any and all booking information about her, and advise their own department that citizens have a right to do this.”

“But so far that hasn’t happened,” notes Fink, who says police did privately apologize to Wright and Free Press officials. “I think because perhaps now Internal Affairs is involved.”

Internal Affairs is reportedly looking into several aspects of the incident, including why Wright’s iPhone was returned without its SIM card. They’re also investigating whether Wright was left alone at any point with the arrested man, which police officials acknowledge “could be a serious breach of department policy.”

Detroit Police could not be reached for further comment Tuesday.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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