Target: Deputy Chief James Tolbert, Detroit Police Department
Goal: Condemn the Detroit Police Department for their arrest of a photographer from the Detroit Free Press, and demand disciplinary action against the officers responsible.
Detroit Free Press Journalist Mandi Wright was en route to cover a story when, according to news organization RT, she “came across eight police officers arresting a suspect.” Wright subsequently began filming; after she identified herself as a member of the Detroit Free Press, she was apprehended for “interfering with an arrest.” Wright told sources that her iPhone was confiscated and she was locked up with the same man whose arrest she was documenting. RT further reports that Wright was held in police custody for over five hours.
Having a free press means leaving reporters and photographers free to do their jobs. Deputy James Tolbert has issued a statement calling Wright’s arrest an “embarrassment” and reminding officers that they are “not authorized to impede an individual from filming.” Let’s see Deputy Tolbert put his money where his mouth is and discipline the officers responsible for Wright’s arrest. Authorities must not be exempt from public criticism, and our free press must feel safe to document and report upon the actions of authorities. Tell Deputy Chief James Tolbert that you stand with a free press and against the overzealous prosecution of journalists.
Dear Deputy Chief James Tolbert,
You’ve stated that the arrest of the Detroit Free Press journalist by Detroit Police was an “embarrassment.” It’s more than that, however: it’s a violation of our rights. We, as citizens, have the right to a free press and a right to free expression. By accusing news photographer Mandi Wright of “impeding an arrest”, your officers have effectively impeded our democratic right to free expression. Which is the worse crime?
Reporters and journalists must feel confident that they can accurately and effectively document what they see in order to issue a fair and balanced report to the public. This is impossible if they are subjected to police intimidation, which is what the arrest of Mandi Wright amounts to. It’s good that your department is conducting an investigation into Wright’s arrest, but an investigation is not enough. The officers responsible for violating Wright’s civil rights must be disciplined. You must make an example out of them in order to show that the Detroit Police Department does not tolerate the obstruction of free speech and journalistic integrity. Stand with the Detroit Free Press and speak against the unjust arrest of Mandi Wright.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Patricia Drury via Flickr