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Journalists press NYPD on media access issues

NEW YORK (AP) – A coalition of media organizations and journalist groups sent a letter to the New York Police Department on Wednesday saying it has to take more steps to resolve reporter access issues.

The letter, the second in recent months, said there continued to be times when officers had interfered with reporters on the job, even after police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told officers in November that they could be disciplined if they disrupted media access.

“A number of press entities feel that more needs to be done if we are to resolve these issues in an amicable manner,” the media letter said.

The NYPD issued a letter in response outlining the steps that have been taken to train officers on media access issues. The letter also gave details on some investigations into various complaints, saying that the NYPD had reprimanded an officer and a sergeant involved in two incidents that media outlets complained about; that another incident had been investigated and no reprimand issued, and that in regard to an incident following the Thanksgiving Day parade, the officers involved could not be identified. The NYPD letter did not give specifics on what the complaints were.

The signatories on the media letter included representatives of The Associated Press; The New York Times; WCBS-TV; the National Press Photographers Association; the Daily News; Thomson Reuters; WABC-TV; NBC Universal and WNBC-TV; the New York Press Photographers Association; Dow Jones; Bloomberg News; the New York Press Club, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The letter makes several requests, including written responses from the NYPD on each of the incidents the media outlets have complained about. It also asks for an update on whether any training on press relations has been given to officers and whether there have been disciplinary actions for any officers involved in preventing journalists from doing their jobs.

“While these requests may appear overly burdensome, we believe they are necessary for the significant improvement of police-press relations,” the letter said.

It added, “Please do not underestimate our resolve in working to rectify these concerns.”

The NYPD letter was sent by Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, who said that 1,600 officers who graduated in December had been given training on media guidelines and that other recruits would get it as well. Browne said other officers had been trained on the guidelines and more are scheduled to get the in-service training.

In November, media outlets sent letters to city officials protesting their treatment during the NYPD clear-out of the Occupy Wall Street encampment in lower Manhattan. The letters said police used force and arrested some journalists as they tried to do their jobs. Some journalists reported being forced so far from the encampment that they couldn’t observe what happened.

A few days after the letter was sent, Kelly ordered officers not to unreasonably interfere with media access during news coverage and warned that officers who ignored the order could be disciplined. He reminded officers that journalists are entitled to cross police and fire lines, unless it’s unsafe or a live crime scene.

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