TV news crew wins privacy suit appeal over taping of police raid
MISSOURI–A television reporter and cameraman who accompanied police during a search for illegal weapons in a private home did not violate the residents’ constitutional privacy rights, a 2-1 majority of a U.S. Court of Appeals panel in St. Paul (8th Cir.) ruled in mid- August, upholding a federal District Court’s decision.
A television crew for Multi-Media KSDK in St. Louis, reporting a story about police efforts to control illegal weapons, rode along with St. Louis police officers who executed a search warrant at Sandra Parker’s home. As police entered the home, the KSDK crew followed and videotaped the raid, which was later broadcast on KSDK’s news programs.
Parker sued both the police and KSDK under the federal civil rights law. The federal District Court in St. Louis granted summary judgment for KSDK, which was affirmed by the panel majority, which held that Parker failed to show that the journalists had acted in concert with the police.
The panel ruled that KSDK acted independently of the police in deciding to enter the house and videotape the raid. Also, KSDK was not exercising a right or privilege created by the state, the panel found.
The dissenting judge argued that the reporters were acting jointly with the police, and could be liable under the federal civil rights law.
The appellate panel overturned the District Court’s ruling that the police violated Parker’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy. It ruled that allowing a television crew to enter a house during a search is not a clearly-established violation of the Fourth Amendment, and that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. (Parker v. Boyer; Media Counsel: Mary Ann Wymore, St. Louis)