We’ll admit we’ve done more than our fair share of criticizing members of the media, especially those from South Louisiana. What some may deem as mean-spirited is merely an attempt on our part to encourage them to better uphold the journalistic standards set by their legendary predecessors, standards the American people deserve.
That’s why we feel obligated to laud an intrepid local reporter and his recent brave actions to stand up for his right — and the right of countless other journalists — to freely contribute to the decline of his profession without unlawful persecution from police.
WBRZ reporter and Twitter superhero Brett Buffington is courageously suing the Baton Rouge police officer who arrested him last year for taking photos of a crime scene.
In a suit filed Tuesday in Baton Rouge federal court, Buffington dauntlessly charges Officer Clifton Crouch “humiliated and intimidated” him on May 29 by strip-searching him and forcing him to watch a prison rape video after Crouch arrested the reporter and booked him on charges of interfering with an officer and intimidating a public official. Unafraid of how such a suit might negatively affect his nascent media career, Buffington is seeking damages for alleged violations of his First Amendment rights, as well as unreasonable seizure, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and defamation.
Wishing an officer well for the rest of his career shouldn’t result in being placed in a taxpayer-funded, X-rated re-education camp, even for a mouthy little twerp.
Buffington, who was never prosecuted by the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office on the misdemeanor and felony charges levied by Crouch, maintains he and WBRZ producer Trey Schmaltz just happened to be driving through the Garden District toward Schmaltz’s home about 2:30 a.m. when they saw a number of police officers near the intersection of Oleander and Eugene streets, which was not marked by police barricades or any other signs of a crime scene, according to the suit.
After Buffington and Schmaltz reportedly identified themselves as WBRZ reporters and crossed the street in order to comply with Crouch’s request they move away from the scene, the suit contends the reporter used his iPhone without a flash to snap a photo of the scene. This action allegedly spurred Crouch to handcuff Schmaltz — not Buffington — and place him in the back of a police cruiser. When Buffington took a flashless photo of this action, Crouch grabbed Buffington by the back of his shirt and shoved him into the back of the car, as well, the suit maintains.
While in the police vehicle, Buffington took another photo of the street sign to document the location. When the phone’s flash went off, the suit states, Crouch grabbed the phone and handcuffed the young newsman who, last spring, led the WBRZ 10 p.m. newscast with a live shot outside of Ruffino’s Restaurant to tell Baton Rouge what former LSU football player La’el Collins and the Buffalo Bills coaching staff were eating inside.
Buffington contends he heard Crouch bragging to his colleagues that he “had Channel 2 in the back seat” before Crouch removed the pair’s handcuffs, issued them each a misdemeanor summons, and told them they were free to leave. Before leaving, however, the daring reporter allegedly saluted his badged taunter in a “calm tone” with a pleasant “I hope you enjoy the rest of your career.”
As a member of the press, he has the right to help drive the nail into his industry’s coffin without the police arresting him for swinging the hammer.
Apparently not appreciative of Buffington’s well-wishing, Crouch reportedly threatened to fire a Taser at Buffington, told him “You just talked yourself into a felony,” and again handcuffed Buffington before placing him back into the police vehicle. The suit says Buffington was released on bail after 10 hours of detention, but not before he was taken into a room and forced to watch a prison rape video, “suggesting he may be raped while he was in custody.”
Wishing an officer well for the rest of his career shouldn’t result in being placed in a taxpayer-funded, X-rated re-education camp, even for a mouthy little twerp. A reporter has the constitutional right to deliver crime porn to the community without being bullied by law enforcement and being forced to watch actual gay prison porn.
The First Amendment protects Buffington’s right to freely contribute to the demise of journalism with sensationalistic reporting of marginally important stories. As a member of the press, he has the right to help drive the nail into his industry’s coffin without the police arresting him for swinging the hammer.
Cops, on the other hand, do not have the right to help Buffington in his endeavor to make Edward R. Murrow spin in his nicotine-soaked grave by trying to intimidate and humiliate members of the working press into not doing their jobs. If they want to hassle and rough up members of the media who are simply trying to cover a story, they should join Donald Trump’s security team.