Suffolk DA drops charges against cameraman

An image taken from a video shot by

An image taken from a video shot by photojournalist Philip Datz, who was filming police activity in Bohemia on July 29, 2011. Photo Credit: Stringer News Photo / Phil Datz

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Suffolk prosecutors formally dropped charges Tuesday against the photojournalist arrested last month while filming a crime scene, the district attorney's office said.

Phil Datz, 34, of Valley Stream, was charged with obstruction of governmental administration after a Suffolk County police sergeant ordered him to leave the aftermath of a police chase in Bohemia on July 29.

Bob Clifford, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said prosecutors told a judge that Datz's actions didn't meet the definition of the crime.

Datz, who works for Stringer News Service, said he was gratified the case is over.

Datz's attorney, Corey Stoughton of the New York Civil Liberties Union, sent a letter to Police Commissioner Richard Dormer "to request a meeting with you to discuss the Suffolk County Police Department's pattern of failing to respect the rights of the media and of bystanders to witness and record police activity in public places."

A police spokesman said the department hasn't received the letter yet, "but we'd be happy to set up a meeting."

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Stoughton said the police department's policies tell officers that members of the media and the public are allowed to be present behind police lines and to record what they see.

"The policies are not terrible," she said. "I think it's very clear to me that the Suffolk Police Department has a training problem." Police officials said last week they'd give refresher training to officers.

Datz said he was at another Suffolk crime scene on Saturday and the officer told him and other photographers the scene was closed to the media -- but not to the public.

Stoughton said it's "premature" to think about a civil action against the police.

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