Exponent Student Newspaper Sues Purdue University for Surveillance Video Footage

Roughly seven months after Purdue University police allegedly “pushed to the ground, verbally abused and threatened” a student photographer for The Purdue Exponent, the paper is suing the school to obtain video footage of the incident. It is the first time the student newspaper has filed a lawsuit against the university in its 125-year history.

As I previously posted, this past January, Exponent photo editor Hiraku ‘Michael’ Takeda was taking photos at the scene of a campus shooting when he said “several police officers confronted him, pointing a stun-gun at him. They then forced him to the ground and confiscated the two cameras he had.” According to the Exponent and Student Press Law Center, police then took Takeda to the station, holding and questioning him for two hours. He said during that time one officer told him “he hoped Takeda would be charged and kicked out of school, adding that Takeda would probably be ‘working at McDonald’s’ in a year.” Soon after, SPLC executive director Frank LoMonte intervened to help Takeda get his cameras back — given that their original seizure was illegal.

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Yet soon after the incident, as The Indianapolis Star confirms, an internal police investigation “found Takeda’s ‘detention was not unwarranted,’ that Takeda did not heed officers’ verbal commands, attempted to flee and that there was ‘insufficient evidence to confirm or refute’ the allegations.”

According to the Exponent, the point of the lawsuit is to help clear up those perceived insufficiencies, letting the public decide for themselves if officers were overly — perhaps even illegally — zealous in their initial takedown of Takeda.

The problem: The university is not allowing the related surveillance video to be released, “stating the material was protected under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act, which allows public agencies ‘the discretion to exempt investigatory records of law enforcement agencies.'” Hmm. As the Exponent reports, “The lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana [on behalf of the paper] says the university erroneously labeled the video recordings as evidence of the crime scene and failed to release those recordings as required by Indiana’s public records access laws.”

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Exponent publisher and general manager Pat Kuhnle tells the SPLC: “I can understand why Purdue does not want the release of this video, because the average person will find it disturbingWe would certainly want to show the video on our website so people can make their own judgments about what they see.”

Related

Purdue Student Newspaper Steps Up, Provides Quality Campus Shooting Coverage

Purdue Student Photographer ‘Slammed to the Ground’ & Held By Police

Purdue Police: We Did Not Harass, Unlawfully Detain or Violate Rights of Student Journalist

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