Rights of journalists not clear to police

Photo after the fatal shooting on Purdue University's campus. Police and SWAT teams outside of the Electrical Engineering building on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. (Photo courtesy of: Nick Steiner)
Photo after the fatal shooting on Purdue University's campus. Police and SWAT teams outside of the Electrical Engineering building on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. (Photo courtesy of: Nick Steiner)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (EXPONENT) – In the midst of Tuesday’s shooting, an Exponent employee was detained by the police while trying to fulfill his journalistic duties.

Exponent photo editor Michael Takeda, a junior in the College of Technology, was slammed to the ground by the Purdue Police after being found in the Electrical Engineering Building taking photos. The area had not been closed off to the public at the time.

The officers confiscated Takeda’s camera and photos, detained and questioned his whereabouts within the building, which was then on lockdown after being held by the police for roughly three hours.

“I understand the severity of this event, and I respect that. But as a working journalist, I wish I had my rights not violated (and my rights) enforced,” Takeda said.

Takeda was released from the police. However, it was only after Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, prodded the University that Takeda’s belongings were bequeathed to him.

“They were very cooperative, and they recognized right away that this was a serious situation that required their immediate attention,” LoMonte said.

LoMonte said, though the University was helpful in releasing Takeda’s belongings, it was just the police’s instinct to retrieve his belongings, despite the possible infringement of a federal law.

“Honestly I think almost nobody knows that is the law, not even lawyers,” LoMonte laughed.

Citing the Privacy Protection Act created in 1980 after an incident at the Stanford University newspaper, the act was enacted by Congress as a way to protect the rights of journalists.

“[It] specifically says that the police cannot confiscate or search where journalists keep their unpublished work product unless they first go in front of a judge and give the journalist the chance to argue his side,” LoMonte said.

Though the law exists as a way to protect journalists, it doesn’t completely exonerate journalists. LoMonte said if the work is needed by the police to save lives, the journalist must give up this work.

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