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Judge denies police union’s motion to take down RJ video

Updated October 2, 2023 - 7:57 pm

A judge denied a police union’s demand to require the Las Vegas Review-Journal to remove or modify a video of corrections officers that was posted with a story about excessive overtime and mistakes at the Henderson jail.

District Judge Mark Denton said Monday that he was “not persuaded” to issue a temporary restraining order because the union did not prove that the newspaper causes irreparable harm and injury by keeping up the video of officers without blurring their faces.

“We appreciate Judge Denton’s thoughtfulness in upholding the law and the Review-Journal’s constitutional right to publish news of importance to the public,” Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook said after the hearing.

Denton will decide later whether to grant an injunction to require the newspaper to remove the video, which the union claims put officers’ safety at risk by showing their faces.

Benjamin Lipman, the newspaper’s chief legal officer, said he was grateful for the judge’s ruling.

“We also firmly believe and are confident the law completely supports our arguments that under any circumstances an injunction prohibiting our publication of these materials would violate the First Amendment,” Lipman said.

The lawsuit, filed last week by the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers, claims that the Review-Journal broke a state law that says images of officers in the possession of a law enforcement agency are confidential.

Lipman said the statute only applies to government organizations.

City starts investigation of leak

After the hearing, NAPSO executive director Andrew Regenbaum said the city has launched an investigation into who gave the newspaper the video.

He also expressed dismay at the judge’s decision, saying the union should not have to wait for harm to come to an officer to determine whether it is irreparable.

“It’s a sad day when an argument is couched as one of freedom of speech and transparency in journalism — which I support — instead of blurring out faces, which wouldn’t change a thing in your article,” he told a reporter. “The faces don’t matter, except to these officers.”

Henderson city officials sent the Review-Journal redacted video to use instead, but the newspaper has declined to alter or replace its published work as the video is important to its story about potential wrongdoing by taxpayer-paid officials.

On Monday, the city filed a motion to join the union in its lawsuit against the newspaper.

David Cuillier, director of the Brechner Freedom of Information Project at the University of Florida, said the union’s efforts directly impede the process of good journalism.

“This is more important than just one story,” he said. “Once we start letting the government control what American citizens see, then it’s a slippery slope.”

The Review-Journal argued in court records that officers routinely participate in community events, such as “Coffee with a Cop” or “National Night Out” and that the department regularly releases images of its officers, including to the media, and names them.

Las Vegas attorney William Schuller, who represents the union, said in court Monday that the difference is officers gave permission for those photos to be taken.

Attorney Matthew Cate, arguing on behalf of the Review-Journal, told the judge that the union wants Denton to dictate what the newspaper can and can’t publish.

“Issuance of such an order is irreparable harm,” Cate said. “Not just to the press, but it’s irreparable harm to the public that relies on the press to obtain information.”

The hearing on the union’s request for an injunction is scheduled for Oct. 16.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on X. Erickson is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing.

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