A New York City police officer handcuffed a photojournalist before deleting his footage Wednesday, forcing the photographer to view the NYPD in a new light.
“I’ve always been very pro-cop, never been anti-cop,” Shimon Gifter said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a CrimeThursday night.
“But if they can do this to a guy who is known to the community and to the cops as being very pro-cop, I would love to see what they would do a guy who is anti-NYPD.”
Gifter, who is based in Brooklyn and shoots for Jewish websites, said he was going about his day when he heard officers calling for back up to an area not far from him.
He quickly arrived on the scene expecting to find chaos, but everything was under control with several cops standing on the corner conversing and one suspect handcuffed in a police van.
So he started talking to people in the neighborhood, trying to figure out what had happened, discovering there was some type of altercation but several suspects had run off.
Meanwhile, four young men came upon the scene and were detained by police, although he didn’t believe they were involved in what had taken place.
But he started shooting video of police talking to them just in case. He was standing about 100 feet away.
“A cop walked up to me and told me not to film them because they are juveniles and I said OK,” he said.
“I usually don’t put stuff out there of juveniles unless they shot or stabbed somebody.”
So Gifter continued recording other parts of the scene, including the man in the police van as well as a police car driving the wrong way down the street.
Then out of nowhere, a sergeant from the 70th Precinct grabbed him from behind, snatched his camera and handcuffed him, forcing him to face a wall while he began scrolling through the camera, deleting all the clips he had recorded.
“He said, ‘you’re under arrest, didn’t the officers tell you to stop filming?’
“I said, yeah, but so what, it’s not illegal and I wasn’t filming the juveniles anyway.'”
Gifter kept trying to look back at what they were doing but the cop kept ordering him to turn away.
However, several witnesses were observing the situation, including when the cop dropped the camera, appearing to have done it on purpose.
After about ten minutes, they removed the handcuffs, returned him camera and sent him on his way.
It wasn’t until later that he realized they probably didn’t want him video recording them making a stop-and-frisk stop, a controversial policy in which a New York judge recently ruled a portion of it unconstitutional.
“I didn’t even know about the ruling, I knew there was some debate.”
He said the stop didn’t appear to be very interesting at the time. It was just some cops jotting down information from the youths.
Gifter, 38, has contacted the precinct’s internal affairs division and was assured the incident would be investigated, but he is not buying it.
“I think they’re lying. I don’t think they’re investigating at all,” he said.
“They didn’t ask for any of the names of the witnesses or anything.”
He said he has at least four witnesses but there were at least 75 people in the area when it took place.