Photographer alleges he was roughed up by WRPS officers
Published Wednesday, September 5, 2012 6:04PM EDT
Tom Schaffner, a freelance photographer, alleges he was thrown to the ground, pinned and detained, all for shooting video at an accident scene.
However, the Waterloo Regional Police Service says Schaffner was arrested after being repeatedly warned not to obstruct a crash scene.
The incident allegedly happened following a minor car crash at Victoria Street and Dunham Avenue in Kitchener on Saturday night.
Schaffner, who occasionally provides images to the media, says he was just doing his job, taking video of the scene from a public sidewalk when he was arrested.
“The one officer said ‘Don’t video, get out of here.’ I turned around and walked back a bit from him because he was really aggressive. I walked back and I was still videoing. He said ‘Get out of here, stop videoing.’ He said it three times in fact.”
As he backed up, Schaffner says he continued taping and told the officer he was on a public sidewalk capturing a public incident.
“They came after me, grabbed me, turned be around, cuffed me, pushed me onto the sidewalk. Both of them got on my back. I don’t know how long they were there. I couldn’t breathe.
Schaffner says when he was allowed to get to his feet, he told the officers he was a freelance photographer and didn’t think he’d done anything wrong.
But WRPS Insp. Kevin Thaler says “The information that I have is that he was milling in and about the collision scene as ambulance was treating a patient, and emergency services asked him repeatedly to remove himself from the scene, which he declined to do.”
Schaffner denies that EMS crews asked him to back off, and the head of emergency services says he only heard about the incident Wednesday and they are investigating.
According to Schaffner, the officers then insisted the images he had captured had to be deleted. While initially objecting, he later agreed.
“I said I’ll do it and he said no, that’s not going to work. He grabbed the camera from me.” He says the officers then removed his handcuffs and told him he could go.
His camera was returned about 45 minutes later, and he claims all the images on it, including personal photos, had been deleted.
Thaler denies that accusation, saying “It is my information that no images were removed from his camera by police.”
Police met with him Tuesday afternoon, and Thaler says, “He’s been informed of the formal complaints process should he wish to engage that.”
Schaffner says he is in the process of filing a complaint and has contacted a lawyer for legal advice.