Cops confiscate fight film


Students choose not to pursue conflict with Denver police after photos are returned





COLORADO — Two high school student reporters in Denver got a close-up look at the strong arm of the law in late November when a police officer confiscated the film they were using to take photographs in the school parking lot.

The reporters, Dustin Jacobs and Nick Gaylord, who work for the South High School student newspaper, The Gargoyle, started snapping pictures at the scene of a police investigation into an earlier fight at the school.

A police report said that during the fight, members of a gang drew a gun on several students and beat another so badly he was spitting up blood.

“We were just going for a picture with a bunch of cops in it for our paper,” said Gaylord.

After the two started snapping pictures, police asked for the film. When they refused, the students say the police officer took the camera and started using up the film by taking pictures. The officer then offered to develop the photos.

When Jacobs and Gaylord declined, the officer took the film out of the camera. Following the incident, Mark Silverstein, legal director for the ACLU of Colorado, said the students chose not to legally pursue the matter. They also got their developed photos back from police.

South High Principal Shawn Batterberry, who has had previous censorship battles with the student newspaper, has publicly supported the officer’s action.

“[The students] just started taking pictures without knowing what was going on,” Batterberry said. “That was pretty poor judgment on their part.”

After the incident, the students contacted the ACLU, and also received widespread support from the community and the local news media.


reports, Winter 1998-99