"When Pedro Rivera, an on-call photographer for Hartford, CT's WFSB-TV, used his drone to photograph the scene of a fatal car crash, he probably did not expect to be detained by the local police and be forced to ground his drone and leave the area. What he certainly did not expect was being suspended by his employer without pay for a week after the head of the department's major crimes division contacted WFSB-TV, requesting that disciplinary be taken against him.
Rivera has now filed a federal lawsuit against Hartford's police department for violating his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The lawsuit seeks more than just damages it asks the court to declare that Rivera did not break any laws by operating the drone.
Shortly after the incident, Hartford police told the media that it was concerned with 'the safety of the officers and the privacy of the victim.' But, as Rivera told the Professional Society of Drone Journalists, 'If privacy is a concern ... it was not with me. It was with all the local news stations that were on the sidewalks with 'long lenses' and had shots so tight, that you could see inside the crash vehicle.' The photo he has provided and the GPS coordinates that are embedded in its EXIF data show what his drone was capable of photographing 150 feet from the accident site.
As Rivera succinctly describes it, 'What happened to me falls in the category of the war on cameras by the police. Whenever the police are videotaped, they try to detain people and confiscate the camera.' It's time to add one more marker to the War on Cameras Map'."