UTAH — A Brigham Young University broadcast journalism student said he was just doing his job when he was arrested for trespassing and interfering with a public servant.
On Nov. 17, Clif Kelly, a photographer for the university’s daily NewsNet television broadcast, was arrested after filming another student being cited for jaywalking on Campus Drive, near the student union.
The charges were dropped today after the university received calls in support of Kelly from the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Civil Liberties Union.
After Kelly began filming the incident, he said Officer Carl Whiting told him he had to leave. When Kelly argued he had a right to film the incident as a student and a member of student media, Whiting agreed with him but told him he had to cross the street to film, Kelly said.
“I told him, ‘You do your job and I’ll do mine,’” Kelly said. “He physically assaulted me, grabbed my camera and told me if I didn’t leave that he was going to have me arrested.”
Kelly said he was arrested and taken to university police headquarters where he received a citation for interfering with a public servant and trespassing before being released. Kelly said the police kept his camera and videotape, and returned them to Kelly three hours later after making a copy of the tape to investigate the officer’s conduct.
The Utah Headliners chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists issued a statement Thursday condemning Kelly’s arrest. The statement read, “This is yet another instance where a student journalist doing his job has not been afforded the First Amendment protections given professional journalists.”
“We believe strongly that it’s no matter that he’s a student or a professional,” said Bruce Cadwallader, chairman of the legal defense fund for the Society of Professional Journalists and a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch. “We believe that the officer may have acted inappropriately.”
Kelly said the citation had included a summons to appear in 4th District Court on Dec. 20.
University spokeswoman Carri Jenkins told the Provo Daily Herald that Kelly had not identified himself as a journalist or a student prior to being arrested and that since the university owns Campus Drive, the officers had the right to consider Kelly a trespasser.
Jenkins also told the Herald, “It should be remembered that NewsNet is a university operation, a student lab, not an independent newspaper.”
But Kelly said, “I did identify myself as a reporter a number of times. I gave the police my press pass before he arrested me.”
Kelly argued that Campus Drive is public property for university students. He also said he disagrees with the citation that he interfered with a public servant. “If he’s a BYU police officer that makes him a private servant,” Kelly said.
“I pay to go here,” Kelly said he told the police. “I have an ID, I have a press pass, this camera is BYU’s, I’m a reporter [and] you guys are way overstepping your bounds,” Kelly said he continued.
Cadwallader said that once the university received the calls of support for Kelly, they are now “bending over backwards” to rectify the situation.
“There was a statement made by the university that the student was going to be having a learning experience,” Cadwallader said. “[But] we think the officers need to be better trained.”