SDX Foundation Funds National Police, Journalist Training

Oct 1, 2013 Advocacy

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (October 1, 2013) – The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation (SDX) is providing a $12,500 grant that will enable the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) to collaborate with the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) on a national training program for police and journalists. 

The goal of the program is to foster greater understanding and awareness of the right to take photographs and record video in public without being interfered with, harassed or  arrested.

The program sprouted out of a need for improved relations between journalists and police officers on a daily basis but especially at  crime scenes  and disasters. Since 9/11, there has been a heightened awareness of anyone taking pictures or recording events in public, and the increase of cell phone cameras has only exacerbated those tensions.

As a result, many in law enforcement have the false belief they can order people to stop taking pictures or recording in public. Interference and in some cases arrests have led to a number of court cases, some six-figure settlements, new policies and procedures, and serious disciplinary actions against the officers involved.

In 2014, program trainer Mickey H. Osterreicher will travel to five geographically-diverse cities to conduct the training. Osterreicher, general counsel for the NPPA, handles these issues on a daily basis. And his experience as a uniformed reserve deputy with the Erie County Sheriff’s Department since 1976 and a former photojournalist for almost 40 years gives him a unique perspective on this growing problem. 

“I am very grateful for this very generous grant and show of support from SPX,” Osterreicher said. “I greatly look forward to expanding our program in cooperation with SPJ,” he added. 

Osterreicher has provided training for police in several cities as well as helped develop guidelines and policies for a number of departments, including the Miami Beach and D.C. Metro Police Departments. 

"Mickey has been educating law enforcement agencies one by one for the last few years. This approach will broaden that education and, we hope, make the daily life of all journalists easier," said NPPA president Mike Borland.

The program will have separate workshops for journalists and police  followed by a panel discussion including a journalist, police official and local First Amendment lawyer. Topics addressed during the workshop will include First and Fourth Amendment rights, search and seizure, exigent circumstances, federal civil rights lawsuits against police agencies and analysis on the most recent cases and court rulings. 

Osterreicher also will discuss the “coextensive” right of both the press and the public to photograph and record as well as provide practical advice regarding the best ways to handle these situations. “When journalists and cops better understand each other’s roles, rights and responsibilities we will all be able to do our jobs better," Borland added.

Founded in 1961, the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) public foundation that is dedicated to ensuring that those who carry on the tradition of a free press are prepared for the challenge. Its goal is to support the educational programs of the Society of Professional Journalists and to serve the professional needs of journalists and students pursuing careers in journalism. For more information about the SDX Foundation, please visit www.spj.org/sdx.asp.

Founded in 1946, NPPA is the voice of visual journalists advocating for the rights  of  photojournalists, videographers, students, editors, multimedia journalists and representatives of businesses that serve the  visual journalism community. . The organization is dedicated to the advancement of visual journalism – its creation, practice, training, editing and distribution – in all news media and  vigorously promotes the constitutional rights of journalists as well as freedom of the press in all its forms, especially as it relates to visual journalism. For more information about the NPPA, please visit https://nppa.org/.