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Apr-16-2013 01:30printcommentsVideo

A First-Hand Look at the Ethics of the Marion County Sheriff's Office

The rights of media are sometimes little more than an annoyance to law enforcement.

Sgt. Todd Moquin
Sgt. Todd Moquin with the Marion County Sheriff's Office

(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.

    CRIMINAL JUSTICE CODE OF ETHICS

    AS A CRIMINAL JUSTICE OFFICER, my fundamental duty is to serve humankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect all persons against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all people to liberty, equality and justice.

    I WILL keep my private life unsullied as an example to all; maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn, or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my department. Whatever I see or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me in my official capacity, will be kept ever secret unless revelation is necessary in the performance of my duty.

    I WILL never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions. Without compromise and with relentlessness, I will uphold the laws affecting the duties of my profession courteously and appropriately without fear or favor,

    Click to see the original DPSST document

    malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence, and never accepting gratuities.

    I RECOGNIZE my position as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it, as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of The Criminal Justice System. I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God1 to my chosen profession.

    ________________I swear before God to the above.

    ________________I affirm to the above.

    Signature________________ DPSST Number________________Date________________

    Print Name

    1 Reference to religious affirmation may be omitted where objected to by the officer.

    DPSST Revised 09-24-2012

    CRIMINAL JUSTICE CODE OF ETHICS

    F-11

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.

On following the law...

Former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and
Tim King in Kabul, Afghanistan - 2006.

My first thought is that we should be well past this point in Marion County, but we are not. I've been dealing with aggressive police while working in news for well over 20 years and it never gets easier. Law enforcement is often inclined to overstep its bounds in order to curtail our right to access, and it is a profound problem here. Intimidation of media is a cornerstone of government with too much power, and too little regard for the most basic rights. In places like Sri Lanka and Burma, and Mexico and Afghanistan, where I have worked as a reporter, media killings, arbitrary detainment, torture... they are commonplace. But not here, yet we see a form of those same behaviors each time we are denied our public right to access. For those who do not know, the media, like the rest of the public, has a right to stand on public property and take pictures and record events. It is a fact. When police are allowing drunk civilians better access than the press, we have a real problem on our hands. In cities where I have worked like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Portland, Paris and even Baghdad, police accept our presence because they know that news is part of life. It is the job of police to explain this to others and ensure that we are able to perform our roles without threats of violence or arrest.
- Salem-News.com News Editor Tim King

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

Thank you for visiting our website. I'd like to make sure each visitor understands the core function of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Jason Myers, Marion County, Oregon

They are:

1) To keep our community safe;

2) To continue to work collaboratively with our community and public safety partners;

3) To continue to seek and retain professional and competent staff; and

4) To be fiscally responsible.

I believe that it takes more than just enforcing laws to create a sense of safety in our communities. Community safety includes establishing and maintaining relationships with neighborhoods, businesses, non-profit agencies and public safety partners, all working together toward a safer Marion County.

Be Safe,

Sheriff Jason Myers jmyers@co.marion.or.us

Former Sheriff Russ Isham

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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Vic November 5, 2013 5:30 pm (Pacific time)

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not one to praise law enforcement personnel, but Russ Ishham was an awesome Sheriff...It is too bad that a personal issue forced him out. We all lost on that deal. Big time.


Dexter April 19, 2013 1:53 pm (Pacific time)

They have kind of contradicted themselves on their "CRIMINAL JUSTICE CODE OF ETHICS" . If only they were held responsible if they ever broke the rules on any of that little speech, that they have to take before they become a Police officer , or Sherif .

"maintain courageous ... ("calm !?")... in the face of danger, scorn, or ridicule; ...("develop self-restraint ?!").
"I will be exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my department. Whatever I see or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me in my official capacity ....("still does not stop them, or their families of abusing criminal random "personal" background checks") ....will be kept ever secret unless revelation is necessary in the performance of my duty.

I WILL never act officiously or permit ...("personal feelings" ..try telling that to the people they pull over after a car chase ...anger management anyone !?) ...prejudices, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions.
Without compromise and with relentlessness, I will uphold the laws affecting the duties of my profession courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will …("never employing unnecessary force or violence?!")...and never accepting gratuities.

I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God1 to my chosen profession."

Stop taking the steroids, and seriously get some anger management counseling ..then the world will be a better, safer place to be in. No other country in the world that has armed Police force, reacts or behaves in such a itchy trigger , aggressive , unstable angry way as the American Police force does. Maybe it's too much caffeine ?


Michael Wayne April 17, 2013 12:39 am (Pacific time)

You guys at Salem-News.com have real guts and I thank you for not taking the easy way out of this, there is no way it was fun or easy to construct this report, but bravo, the police need to see for themselves how it appears to the public, most are good people but they are vastly undereducated as to what American Civil Rights and Constitutional Law really mean. Of course Mr. Freeman is obviously building a legal case, I assume so, and that is another way to shock the old time cops into reality, that pocketbook by the way belongs to the Oregon taxpayers, they should not put so much as risk just to be able to over-control a news photographer.


Silence Dogood April 16, 2013 5:14 pm (Pacific time)

http://www.ca1.uscourts.gov/pdf.opinions/10-1764P-01A.pdf

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS

Quote:
(August 26, 201)

The First Amendment issue here is, as the parties frame it, fairly narrow: is there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public? Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative. It is firmly established that the First Amendment's aegis extends further than the text's proscription on laws "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," and encompasses a range of conduct related to the gathering and dissemination of information. As the Supreme Court has observed, "the First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw." First Nat'l Bank v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 783 (1978); see also Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557, 564 (1969) ("It is . . .well established that the Constitution protects the right to receive information and ideas."). An important corollary to this interest in protecting the stock of public information is that "[t]here is an undoubted right to gather news 'from any source by means within the law.'" Houchins v. KQED, Inc., 438 U.S. 1, 11 (1978) (quoting Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 681-82 (1972)). The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles.

(sic)

In line with these principles, we have previously recognized that the videotaping of public officials is an exercise of First Amendment liberties. In Iacobucci v. Boulter, 193 F.3d 14 (1st Cir. 1999), a local journalist brought a § 1983 claim arising from his arrest in the course of filming officials in the hallway outside a public meeting of a historic district commission. The commissioners had objected to the plaintiff's filming. Id. at 18. When the plaintiff refused to desist, a police officer on the scene arrested him for disorderly conduct. Id. The charges were later dismissed. Id. Although the plaintiff's subsequent § 1983 suit against the arresting police officer was grounded largely in the Fourth Amendment and did not include a First Amendment claim, we explicitly noted, in rejecting the officer's appeal from a denial of qualified immunity, that because the plaintiff's journalistic activities "were peaceful, not performed in derogation of any law, and done in the exercise of his First Amendment rights, [the officer] lacked the authority to stop them." Id. at 25 (emphasis added).

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.