A local news photographer said his camera was taken from him by a Prince Georges County police officer, who then deleted some photos at an accident scene this weekend.
“The Sentinel newspapers have a rich tradition of community involvement and we hope the Prince Georges Police Department will respect our role in our community,” said Sentinel newspaper publisher Lynn Kapiloff.
“I go to homicide scenes, fatal accidents,” said Jim Davis, a photographer for the Prince George’s Sentinel. “No one has come up to me asking to see my pictures.”
Davis said he was reviewing pictures he had just taken at the scene of a five-vehicle crash Sunday, which police said was a double-fatal collision, on Edmonston Road just north of Cherrywood Lane in Greenbelt when a U.S. Park police officer approached him and asked to see his pictures. The officer said Davis needed to wait there until detectives arrived. When Davis asked why, the officer said he needed to see if he took pictures of license plates numbers. Davis said he was a reporter and showed the officer his press pass, which seemed to satisfy the officer.
A second officer, this one from Prince George’s County, approached Davis as he was walking back to his car and asked to see his pictures. When Davis asked why, the officer repeated that he needed to look at the pictures. Davis never received a reason, after repeating his question a few times.
“First of all it wasn’t his crime scene, and second of all, ‘What were you doing there?’” Davis said.
Then the unidentified officer grabbed Davis’ camera – according to the photographer and deleted some of the photographs.
Davis said then a WJLA-TV photographer walked up and Davis told him what happened.
He asked the officer several times for his name, but Davis said he never got a full name.
Spokesperson Jennifer Donelan said she could not answer questions about an ongoing investigation.
“We’re not going to be able to give details until the investigation is over,” said Donelan, spokesperson for Prince George’s County Police.
She said four witnesses observed all or part of the interaction between Davis and the officer.
“After a verbal complaint was made via phone to our District VI station, a cursory investigation revealed that all four of those individuals had differing accounts,” Donelan said in a statement.
“As of 4 pm today, our Bureau of Patrol has not received a formal written statement of complaint from the photographer. If, and, when that occurs, it is standard operating procedure to investigate any complaint against an officer.
(UPDATE: Davis turned in his complaint to the police Thursday. A photographer at the scene for a local television station who witnessed part of the exchange said the officer's actions were "totally uncalled for.")
“We are also asking anyone who has video evidence of the interaction to please contact our agency,” she added.