- This is just in from a reader who wanted to share his story..I find it very important because i didn’t see all of the fight. I find this issue very important to remember so conversations can be had to encourage communication between conflicting cultures, peoples, friends, family and communities.
- “i am an ex student of hamtramck high and once one of them immature kids in those fights the story you speak of i was there and there was 11 black guys and more than 150 arabs and your footage and story shoould have showed how the police mased the eleven black guys despite they were using self defense to keep off a very huge crowd of arabs the story you wrote shouldve contained the facts that blacks were being disciminated against not arabs im not racist most of us were friends (arabs @ blacks) but not to steer of of subject and it was a great story but your evidence was weak and you had no good resources to support your strory when you write on a subject like this it is touchy even with it being so many years ago im sorry but please get facts straight”
- The report below is only my experience, and the more people who tell me their story, the more the actual facts of the day can come to light. Thank you for your responses. I want to only tell the facts.
- If anyone who reads this thinks their story would help others understand what is going on in Hamtramck, for anyone there who wants to tell their story through images, I would love to document your life through photography to help tell the story. I am a photographer who works for publications including the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN and others. It is my number one goal to report with honesty and integrity. Please visit http://www.stephenmcgeefilms.com and click through the images to see my work.
- Thank you,
- The police took my camera and erased an approx 15-20 images, none of which I believe could have been viewed as negative towards the police. I have 12 images left and 2 videos. here are some of the images and the story. This story is a work in progress and will be updated as I have time. look to the comments for how advice was given by more veteran pros. I did not write all of this to complain but to inform others about how i was treated and more so as a news piece about what happened to these kids. They are the ones I really care about.
A newspaper in Hamtramck is doing a story on this and asked me for a reaction to the police response to my story. Here is what the police said not verbatim, “The camera was left in the car and we asked whose camera it was and the journalist said it was his and the other kids said it was theirs so we took it.” Which is not what happened. The video with the arab kids ends with me leaving the car with my camera. I have the rest of the 10 minutes of footage on my computer which ends with the police driving with the camera on in the car. Read more under the video.
I am reviewing this legal form to see what my rights are. http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm
Nearing the end of the fight, some kids yell at police and later are detained. There are 10 more minutes in the video of the police ride that is not shown in this film. The camera was still recording which was not my objective as the police officer drove the kids to station. In the video at 1:03 there is a moment when the police car arrives by the kids and I take a photo while in video mode. If you click the shutter release button while recording video with the Canon 5d Mark II the video will pause while the camera records the image. A shutter will sound too. I do not have this moment when I clicked the shutter. I should have a photograph of that moment, but the police erased it. Neighbors who watched this scene that I was in said that the police had sprayed all races equally and did not subject one more than another to the mace or interrogation.
Students walking away from fight talk about the fights. Two of them didn’t want to be on camera but were ok audio taping. So I took frame grabs just for visual reference.
Hamtramck is a city within the city of Detroit and has 26 nations living in a very small area of two miles by two miles. It was a Polish majority to the point that Pope John Paul stopped by in his trip to America.
Walking around one day, I saw a fight forming and I ran with my camera to photograph. There was a large group of Arab kids walking in a very tight group, maybe 50 of them in total. I photographed that from afar (photo erased by police) and watched the police trail the group of kids away through side streets. I walked through some alleys and jumped a random fence after taking the photos shown above of the kids running. I interviewed a few black students walking away form the fight and then walked towards the police controlled intersection. I found a group of about 15 Arab (sorry for the generalization) students who had been maced. I introduced myself and told them who I had shot for in the past. The group of Arab kids were taunting the police officers before I arrived with curse words and yelling, and eventually the cops came by and sprayed us down with mace. The kids kept on saying one of my clients that I mentioned. The kids ran away when the cops came. The group split and some ran back to my position. The cops came over and sprayed the area again. I went in the car with the kids to follow the story but more to escape the crazy amount of mace in the air. The car hadn’t moved and the cops came up and got us out of the car. They took my camera immediately after I told them I was a photographer. I was told to have my hands on the trunk. We were there for what seemed like 30 minutes as the cops yelled at the kids about respect and tried to cross interrogate them. I told them that I was a freelancer they asked me who I had shot for and I told them. They then asked well if you shoot for them (citing examples of organizations i gave him) why don’t you have credentials? I told them as a freelancer I didn’t have credentials. I wasn’t carrying my NPPA card. Come to think of it I don’t think i have received that yet. The cop then told me that I need to get another day job if all i did was follow kids causing fights. I don’t think I will cite examples of whom I have worked next time I am asked in this type of situation. It was used more against me than I could have thought of.
I understand now that the choice to get into the car was not a wise one when the cops were around. Like I said, I thought it was the best choice at the time. My hands were on car on the account that I was “guilty by association”. I don’t that that is a law. I wanted to ask, “Aren’t I innocent until proven guilty by association?” But I didn’t.
On the way to pick up my camera an hour later I ran into the mayor, the former chief of police and the superintendent campaigning in the streets. I did not know who they were when I asked them for directions. I told them my story and the mayor called the police without me asking her for the release of my camera. The former chief of police asked me my thoughts on how the police handled the situation and I told him my thoughts that were not negative. Then the superintendent asked me my thoughts and I told her that we live in a broken world that needs fixing.
I biked to get my camera at the police office. When I arrived the police officer behind the desk, who was not at the original scene, tried to reprimand me. He told me my 1st amendment rights were “Canceled” when I didn’t leave the scene when the cops told me to. Well the cops didn’t tell me to. “Its like calling fire in a crowded theater”, the police officer behind the counter said.
They gave me back my camera after 20 minutes. I biked to my church to continue a film I was making for my church. Turned on my camera and the screen popped up, “No Card”. I was like, “What the junk?” The cops had taken my card. The cops gave me the camera without the memory card in the camera. I should have checked at the station. I biked back and they said they didn’t know where it was and couldn’t find the memory card even though it had been there a few minutes ago with only a few police in the building. The main police officer behind the desk that I was working with couldn’t believe that someone had taken out the card after he, who was in charge, looked at the images. He was called into the back with a whisper from the police officer who originally took my camera. I did not see whom actually whispered but I assume it because he is the one who went into the back of the station to look for the card. Many times he repeated that he had no idea how to open the memory card compartment to take out a memory card. In his words, “I have no idea how to work them things.”
About 20 minutes later they said they found it in a cops pocket who was driving home to a suburb. The officer behind the counter said it had been taken out of my camera in a mix up between shifts and that the officer with the memory card was on his way back and that he would arrive in 20 minutes. I found it quite strange that possible “supporting evidence” was in an off duty officers’ pocket on the way to his home. 1.5 hours later the police officer who originally took my camera, told me to get another day job, told me i was guilty by association, met me at my church down the road and handed me my card and said it was all his fault. I told him I forgave him. I reviewed the card to find the images of police and some of the arab kids had been erased and those images couldn’t be recovered by a software program. I am assuming that the police did not erase my 2 movies because they saw the first frame of the movie as a bad photograph.
Image cropped significantly to show a point in a scene when the cops sprayed mace on students near teachers.
- Habib taunts the police because he and the other Arab kids in this crowd felt the police were racist. Later after I was released, the neighbors said the boys taunted too much. One neighbor commented that the cops were not spraying one race more than another.
There was a fight between the black students and the arab students at the high school in Hamtramck last year that i was told was about 150 vs 150 students. In another fight over a bike, I tried to break it up by talking calmly between the two cultures and that time, love prevailed.
but for now, i am so frustrated because of the police stories not matching up about my memory card and since the images were erased without them telling me, I felt lied to. The most frustrating part is I am trying to tell stories that will change people. The more I am cut down by those who don’t want the truth to be told, the stronger the desire to fight for the provision and documentation of truth becomes in my heart.
I believe the police did what they thought was best at the time. It was very aggressive atmosphere. I did not ever lose my temper or raise my voice. I could understand why they took my camera, why my hands were on the trunk, why I was asked questions. I can not understand why they erased images and can not understand a few others things.
Personal thoughts; About my faith, I will say that it was strengthened today. God’s plans are bigger than me, bigger than my plans. The images are gone and I am safe. The way that things went down at the police station it seemed very likely that the police made a story up in front of me about where the card was. The fact remains that there are children tomorrow who feel they need to find security in their appearance and their status and that the eye for an eye judgment system is the main determining factor to fight or not to fight. I have not covered any wars and have only had my life threatened twice before. I have only been maced twice before. The scene wasn’t that crazy, it was more unexpected. It is my goal with truth and integrity to creatively achieve engaging storytelling.
Thank you to all journalists who have emailed me with advice for next time. I consider my work at the professional level, always allowing room for education to better my craft. Welcome photographers from http://pressefotografforbundet.dk/. Thank you for your interest in this story.
Journalists-Spread the truth.
frame grab of cops taking a young arab kid into the police car.
I unfortunately wrote over the card because I was on deadline for another assignment and had to use the card. I did not use much of the 16gb card but later went back and tried to recover the files and they were already written over. Everything happened really fast and it was a very tough decision but I had to use the card. Recovering the files through software did not occur to me quick enough.
from the National Press Photographers Association..
My understanding (and again, you want a lawyer to give you proper legal advice relating to your situation) If police take someone into custody, they have a right to take a camera for safekeeping. There may also be limited rights if they had probable cause to believe that it had evidence of a crime. But they do not, under any circumstances, have a right to delete images, or to demand the deletion of images. In fact, that could be viewed as destroying evidence. Destroying evidence can lead to a presumption against the party that destroyed the evidence.
In fact, you might find out if any of the kids were arrested. If so, be sure to tell their lawyers that the police deleted images which may have contained evidence that would prove or disprove wrongdoing. Having their case affected is the primary way that police officers are encouraged to stay in line.
You should also consider filing a complaint with the police department. They might not have a policy relating to handling of cameras and digital images. If they don’t, this incident is evidence that one is needed. Use your connections with the mayor and others to encourage such a policy.