Police Officer Threatens to Arrest 12-Year-Old Journalist

An Arizona police officer has come under fire after he threatened to arrest a young journalist after telling her: "I don’t want to hear about any of that freedom of the press stuff."

Hilde Kate Lysiak is a 12-year-old journalist with the Orange Street News who has a remarkable record for her age, having broken a murder story and many other high-profile stories herself. On February 18th, Lysiak received a tip and was biking down a local road when Patagonia Marshal Joseph Patterson stopped and asked her for identification.

Accoding to Lysiak, she identified herself as a member of the press and gave her name and phone number, at which point, Patterson responded: "I don’t want to hear about any of that freedom of the press stuff. I’m going to have you arrested and thrown in juvey."

When Lysiak asked why and mentioned that he had passed several people without stopping or questioning them and without his lights on, Patterson repeated the threat and said he could arrest her for "disobeying his command," which he then changed to riding on the wrong side of the road. He finally said it was because a mountain lion had been spotted in the area.

Lysiak then began filming Patterson (shown above) and asking why he threatened to arrest her, at which point he claimed that it was against the law to put his "face on the Internet" and that he did not give her permission to do so. Of course, the First Amendment allows anyone, journalist or not, to record the police in public areas so long as they are not interfering with them, which Lysiak clearly was not. The officer then continued to admonish her for a minute before driving off.

The town of Patagonia has said: "The matter has been carefully reviewed and we have taken action we believe to be appropriate for the situation. We do not publicly disclose personnel actions including discipline and will have no further comment on this matter.”

Lead image by fsHH, used under Creative Commons.

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15 Comments

Rob Davis's picture

Needs to be easier to fire bad cops. This is just the first time (presumably) this cop has been caught abusing his authority.

William Howell's picture

See, I knew anyone can be a journalist!

Michael Kormos's picture

Just like anyone can be a photographer!

William Howell's picture

True dat, but I respect the wannabe photographer.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Looks like the cop was outsmarted by a 12 year old...

She has a press pass.

Police who violate the Constitution. Sad.

Ian Oliver's picture

Being a cop is tough and being a good cop requires a considerable bit character, integrity and self discipline. Cops wield considerable power and must be disciplined in how they use that power.

There are mistakes that cops make that are correctable and then there are issues of character that should disqualify someone from wielding the power of being a cop. This guy seems to be in the latter category and needs to find a different career.

12 year old isn't a 'journalist' period.

Alex Cooke's picture

Why? She’s accomplished more than many journalists triple her age. And even so, journalist or not, he violated her Constitutional rights. Period.

stevepellegrino's picture

That's the bigger issue. Journalists aren't a special class of people with a separate set of rights the rest of the world doesn't have. While journalists may get access to closed events, in public they are just citizens with the same rights as the public.

This cop needs to apologize for lying. If he thinks he needs to give consent for his face to be published on the internet then he needs First Amendment training.

Jeff Walsh's picture

WTF...can you point us to the law or rules that state the legal age someone can be a journalist?

Robert Nurse's picture

But, "Lawful orders" have to be, well, lawful. If a cop says you can't do something that you legally can, the only thing enforcing his view at that moment is intimidation.

I’m surprised that officer didn’t recognize that the 12 year old fit the journalist profile. A person that acts like a child, likes to tell slanted stories. How could he have missed that.