The City Council Wednesday requested a report from the Los Angeles Police Department on officers’ detention of journalists during March demonstrations in Echo Park and the department’s broader conduct toward journalists.
“The right of a free press to cover demonstrations, political protest and police activity is essential to a functioning democracy and must be preserved,” stated the motion, which was introduced by Councilmen Mike Bonin and Kevin de Leon.
Bonin cited the detentions of journalists, including the Los Angeles Times’ James Queally and Spectrum News 1’s Kate Cagle, after they identified themselves and showed press credentials while reporting on the demonstrations at Echo Park Lake on March 25.
“Queally and Cagle were released within hours, but reporters with independent outlets, like Jonathan Peltz and Kate Gallagher, were held for a longer period,” Bonin added.
Peltz and Gallagher were reporting for Knock L.A. and were detained at the same demonstration, along with 182 protesters.
“In the days following (the detentions), reporters have complained that the Los Angeles Police Department tried to confine them to a ‘press pen’ far from the demonstrations they were assigned to cover, that the LAPD has slowed or ceased issuing press credentials, and that LAPD has unclear policies or standards for how members of independent media can be credentialed,” the motion stated.
The motion, which passed with 14 yes votes and one council member absent, requested a report from the LAPD on its detention of journalists at Echo Park Lake, as well as an incident in which Lexis-Olivier Ray, a photographer for the website L.A. Taco, was summoned by the City Attorney’s Office for a hearing despite not being arrested while covering a celebration of the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the World Series in October.
The report will include the number of journalists who have been detained, the duration of the detainment and the officers’ reasoning. The council also asked the LAPD to publicly release information about arrests of or physical interactions with members of the news media.
The motion requested that the LAPD report on issues involving credentials, including:
- the department’s procedures for recognizing press credentials;
- its criteria for issuing credentials;
- any technical challenges the department faces and the average amount of time to issue credentials;
- information about training conducted to ensure that officers quickly and correctly identify members of the media; and
- the enforcement and discipline for officers who don’t follow protocol.
Lastly, the motion requested the department to report back on crowd control tactics involving journalists, including its procedures to allow reporters freedom of movement at demonstrations, procedures to ensure that members of the media are exempt from mobility restrictions and curfews and training that officers have to ensure their awareness of journalists’ rights to freedom of movement.
On April 21, the ACLU of Southern California warned the LAPD and other agencies in the region that it will closely monitor how law enforcement treats journalists at protests.
That warning came a day after a coalition of journalism groups sent a letter to Los Angeles law enforcement agencies and government leaders demanding that media be given appropriate access to cover public protests and not be arrested while working in areas where dispersal orders have been issued.