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A First-Hand Look at the Ethics of the Marion County Sheriff's OfficePolitical Perspective by Jerry Freeman Salem-News.com
The rights of media are sometimes little more than an annoyance to law enforcement.
(SALEM) - "Congress shall make no law --- prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..."
Americans have precious civil rights that our ancestors literally fought and died to secure. One of the most basic rights, protected by the first amendment, is free press. As a news photographer in Marion County, Oregon, I believe my rights have been violated repeatedly. This is about just one single event.
Posted below is the code of ethics that all Oregon police trainee’s sign, before they enter training at the State of Oregon: Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST). Note the highlighted segments as they relate directly to this report.
Now let me tell you why this is relevant. It begins with a motor vehicle fatality a few weeks ago that claimed the life of a young man. (see: Marion County Man Strikes Power Pole, Dies in Crash)
Jacob Abbas had left a party on Talbot Road SE in Jefferson in a borrowed car, reportedly to visit an ATM. He returned, but crashed and died right by the party he had left. Sad, upset, drunken people, and some who weren't drunk, gathered around the scene and milled about with nervous energy, grief and disbelief. Their anger was somewhat understandable, but not the behavior I would soon encounter.
Though it was jarring, I didn't give much thought to the negative encounter I had with Sgt. Todd Moquin, a law enforcement official who violated my civil rights on that night, the 14th of March. You see, bad behavior is standard procedure for police in these parts too often. I did start thinking about my encounter with Moquin when I got a call later that same day from the Marion Co. Sheriff’s Office PIO (Public Information Officer), Don Thomson... who alerted me that the sergeant was entering preemptive complaints about me, in the wake of his behavior.
That still didn’t get my back hairs standing up, but they stood straight up later that same day, when I received an unsolicited phone call from a citizen who was very "disturbed" by what he witnessed Sgt. Moquin doing to me. This man, a Salemite like you and I, asked to not be identified, but spoke freely about the behavior he witnessed. He is a single father.
I’m not going to tell his story; I’ll let him do that in the second video you will find below, but I will fill in a couple of blank spots from the video that I shot on scene that early morning.
In my video b-roll above, you will see a few clips that I recorded before approaching the deputies on scene. You will notice that one shot has a group of deputies standing with a group of civilians, one of whom became extremely verbally abusive and threatening to me.
I did what law enforcement has told me to do, in the past. I checked in with them so they knew that I was there.
When I approached this group, Sgt. Moquin came at me in a very aggressive manner, yelling for me to get back. I of course stood my ground, and told him he could not keep me back here and allow others to assemble up there.
That’s when the video picks it up and he tells me not to bother them because they had just lost their friend. Remember, I was approaching the deputies to check in, not the civilians.
At that time I turned 90 degrees to move away from those folks and the deputy started threatening me with arrest, and then, I believe, he assaults me by shining his flashlight directly into my lens.
You power up a video camera in the dark, look thru the viewfinder, and have someone shine a large maglight in the lens, it hurts your eye, and it took several minutes for the spot in my eye to subside enough for me to do my job. You will also notice at one point I try to calm the situation and ask the sergeant to speak with me in private, he refused.
As a local news photographer who supplies video to Salem-News.com and the Portland television stations for a living, my presence on any scene that I can make it to, is mandatory, if for no other reason than to credit and/or keep an eye on the behavior of the people you employ to perform these unpleasant tasks with your tax dollars.
It is my job, just like the fire personnel, or the PP&L employee that were on scene. I think that is what they are scared of... that you, the viewer, might see this kind of arrogant billy club style so many of them try to employ when dealing with us, the public. (I’ve seen this very deputy treat suspects under arrest better than he treated me).
Any deputy that tells you that I don’t belong, is trying to work with no public oversight, and that is never good.
The first amendment grants all of us the right to assemble. Mine was denied, and I think it is obvious that his intent was to stop me from getting a picture, and not any safety or crime scene considerations. He has already tried to rationalize this to me, but I never held any threat to his crime scene, just his ability to behave anyway HE sees fit!
However keep an eye out for the sheriff’s department to tell us all we cannot know what they know. I overhear them saying how dumb we all are on a regular basis. The truth is that local cops are violating our federal rights and they are precious.
I have worked with, and around many good people doing that job, but even one officer, or deputy behaving the way Sgt. Moquin did on this day, is far too many, and it happens all the time.
The simple truth is that people want to know when their fellow citizens are killed on local roads. The public learns to be more observant and drive more safely when these tragedies are reported. It reminds us that we are all vulnerable and must live safely. There are emotions at crime and fatal crash scenes, but they should not dominate the process.
Sheriff Jason Myers has his email prominently displayed on the dept. website, along with this statement...
Message for our Communities
I think this means he wants to hear from you, after viewing his deputy sergeant’s behavior. I know we at Salem-News.com want to hear from you on this or any issue you have an opinion on.
He also will want your vote when he comes up for his first election, with standards like this, does he deserve it?
I would remind you of the ethical standard your last sheriff displayed when he was caught cheating on his wife in a grave yard, in a department issued vehicle, by one of his own deputies.
Watch these people closely, they have your safety, and your Civil Rights in their hands.
Do you trust them with that huge responsibility?
Edited by Tim King
Jerry Freeman is part of a new generation of dedicated news photographers who entered the Internet news industry as a second career. He shares in common with many people who fulfilled their life dream of becoming a visual journalist. Joining the Navy at an early age, and the Oregon Army Guard a few years later, Jerry has a wide range of life experiences. He describes himself as “a truck driver with a new found passion to bear witness to the world’s events.”
Teaming up with Salem-News.com he embarked on a new career as a video news photographer and reporter. Jerry's quick exhibition of natural talent and ability to shoot breaking news led to his becoming a published member of the Salem-News.com team.
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