Millroy: Did Police Have The Right To Detain Reporter?

In the scheme of things when it comes to the general public, a policeman seizing a journalist’s camera or phone during coverage of an event probably wouldn’t seem like a big deal.

But to the journalist and his or her organization, and all of us who practise the craft, it is.

Big time.

I am travelling this road today because of an incident a couple of weeks back in which a GuelphToday journalist was detained by OPP Const. Karl Borgmann near the scene of a fatal collision.

A story by Terry Pender, a reporter with the Waterloo Region Record, indicated Richard Vivian had just started taking pictures of the scene when Borgmann walked up to him, grabbed his coat near the wrist and told Vivian he was being detained. It was about three hours after a woman, 65, died after she was struck by a vehicle. Police had closed that part of the road to traffic.

Vivian said he was standing on the sidewalk about 50 metres from the scene, and other people were there taking pictures with their phones, when Borgmann walked up to him. The reporter said he introduced himself but Borgmann then grabbed the arm of his coat near the wrist and detained him. It is also alleged the OPP officer seized the reporter’s camera and took the SD card from it.

“This is not OK. This was intimidation,” Vivian was quoted as saying. “It does not feel right.”
Michael Friscolanti, editor-in-chief of Village Media, which operates GuelphToday, said the company plans on filing formal complaints with the coroner’s office and the OPP.

The Canadian Association of Journalists is calling the detainment of Vivian and the seizure of his equipment an “egregious abuse of power” and a “blatant violation of press freedom.”
“I think it was an absolute egregious abuse of the individual’s power and a blatant violation of press freedom,” CAJ President Brent Jolly told Pender. “I just don’t understand how this got into a case of potential physical assault of somebody. It’s not just can you please step back. He put his hands on Richard and physically assaulted him.”

The OPP later released a statement that officials were aware of the incident and were “reviewing the circumstances of the interaction between the member of the media and one of the OPP investigators.”
They did return the SD card.

As I said up top, this might not seem that big a deal to those outside the new business but it is a big deal to those of us inside it.

We have to push back as hard as possible on any such infringement on our right to cover the happenings in our communities, indeed our country.

Because if you allow one instance like this to stand more will surely follow, many of a more serious nature, chipping away at the foundation of the freedom the media has always cherished in this country.
I don’t see any conspiracy by the OPP here. I think one of its members in over-zealous mode just made a mistake, overstepping his boundaries.

The OPP should accept this fact and apologize to both the reporter and the organization that employs him.

I am not suggesting the offending officer suffer any consequences for what he did but he should be informed, as should all in the service, that what he did was wrong and is something that should not be repeated.

We cannot afford to be blase about something like this. Our democracy as we know it undoubtedly will be able to withstand such individualistic assaults, but only if we stand up to all such instances as they occur.

In any country where the media isn’t free, the people aren’t either.
If you think it can’t happen here, look southward. If former President Donald Trump is returned to the White House he has pretty well spelled out how he intends to attack those in the media he regards as enemies.

That is the first step all dictators usually take.

My worry is that the people who populate the United States will not see the danger, as has been the case in so many other countries where dictators now hold sway.

There is thought in somce circles that it could not happen in the U.S. because there are too many checks and balances. But this is to disregard the fact that if Trump fills all the top jobs in government and military with those loyal to him instead of the constitution, it will all be over.

AFTER READING news stories about the sad state of a section of Highway 638 that runs out of Echo Bay, I happened to drive the road myself recently.

I readily saw what the complaints were all about.

A portion of the road was flooded, reducing traffic to one lane. It is up to individual drivers to keep eyes peeled so there is no chance of a head-on collision with oncoming traffic.

As Mayor Lynn Watson of the Township of Macdonald, Meredith and Aberdeen Additional pointed out, “It isn’t our road.” However, he says the township often gets the blame for it.

Estimates are that probably nothing will be done in the way of construction for at least a year or two.
That is ridiculous. The road is in such bad shape it should be repaired by early next summer at the latest.
After all, it is not a long stretch that will take a long time to repair. As the flooding at the moment is not a singular event, having occurred for years, I find it incredible that the Ministry of Transportation didn’t make moves to correct the situation long ago.

It should get its act together now because the stretch of road is not only an eyesore and inconvenience but a safety hazard.

3 thoughts on “Millroy: Did Police Have The Right To Detain Reporter?

  1. WRT Doug’s comments on press freedom, I agree with everything except this statement:

    “I am not suggesting the offending officer suffer any consequences for what he did but he should be informed, as should all in the service, that what he did was wrong and is something that should not be repeated.”

    The officer certainly should face consequences for their actions. At a minimum, the officer should be required to re-qualify under the Police Foundations Program. Following re-qualifiaction they should be reinstated with their force at the entry level.

    Given their actions, it’s questionable if the officer’s training in the rights of citizens was successful. Let’s make sure it is. It also raises questions about what other material wasn’t completely absorbed by this officer the first time. There’s also the consideration of deterrence, other officers need to be aware that they will face consequences for blatant disregard of constitutional freedoms.

  2. If my loved one was fatally injured I would be annoyed that ANY CAMERAS were in the area. Why do so many feel they must take pictures of a tragic event? Have a little common decency.

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