A photojournalist won a settlement in his lawsuit against D.C. police, who he says violated his civil rights by arresting him as he covered a Black Lives Matter protest in August.
After his arrest, photojournalist and documentarian Kian Kelley-Chung told News4 his cameras and cellphone were seized while he was covering a protest in the Adams Morgan neighborhood Aug. 13.
Police were accused of “kettling” — a mass arrest technique banned in the District.
Kelley-Chung, a freelancer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, is a member of the National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA).
“The press is the eyes and the ears of the public,” NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher said.
Kelley-Chung was jailed for 18 hours. The charges were dropped, but police kept his cameras and phone.
After months trying to get them back, NPPA attorneys joined forces with First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund, filing a lawsuit accusing D.C. police of violating Kelley-Chung’s civil rights and the Journalist Privacy Protection Act of 1980.
The District settled for an undisclosed sum described as substantial by the NPPA.
“We’ve been involved in quite a number of these cases where the settlements have been, again, significant, and unfortunately, it’s the taxpayer that’s paying for it,” Osterreicher said.
“I’m thankful to have had the support from the NPPA and my attorneys at Davis Wright Tremaine,” Kelley-Chung said in a statement. “Without their help, my equipment may still be in police custody to this day.”
“I believe that accountability is key to ensuring a brighter tomorrow,” he added. “There is a lot of power in a camera to hold officers accountable, and I hope everyone remembers that.”
“It shouldn’t always be our job to point out when the police do something wrong,” he said in the statement. “They should make it a point to prevent wrongdoings from happening in the first place.”
D.C. police declined to comment on the settlement.