Washington, D.C., January 5, 2023—The Phoenix Police Department should conduct a thorough investigation into the November detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Dion Rabouin and ensure that members of the press are able to work without fear of harassment, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On November 23, a police officer detained and handcuffed Rabouin while he was interviewing people on a sidewalk near a bank, according to a January 5 report by the local broadcaster ABC15.
Rabouin told the outlet that he identified himself as a member of the press when the officer approached. The officer threatened to arrest Rabouin for trespassing, blocked him from leaving the scene, and then handcuffed him and placed him in a police vehicle, according to that ABC15 report, quoting Rabouin and a letter by Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Matt Murray.
The officer held Rabouin for about eight minutes before other officers arrived; about two minutes after reinforcements came to the scene, he was released without charge, that report said.
“We are deeply concerned by the Phoenix Police Department’s treatment of Wall Street Journal reporter Dion Rabouin. Detaining and handcuffing a journalist—who was gathering news in a public place—is a flagrant violation of his First Amendment rights,” said CPJ U.S. and Canada Program Coordinator Katherine Jacobsen. “The police department should conduct a thorough investigation into Rabouin’s treatment, and undertake reforms to make sure this kind of incident is not repeated.”
The Phoenix Police Department is under federal investigation to evaluate its practices, including whether it engages in discriminatory policing.
The officer wrote in a police report that he believed he had probable cause that Rabouin was trespassing. The ABC15 report states that a Phoenix official reviewed the incident report and found nothing wrong with the officer’s treatment of Rabouin, who is Black.
Rabouin recounted to ABC15 that the police officer told him, “This could get bad for you if you don’t comply and don’t do what I say,” before he grabbed Rabouin’s arms and handcuffed him.
Murray filed a letter to the police in response to the incident, and Rabouin filed a complaint, ABC15 reported.
The Phoenix Police Department did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment submitted through their online contact portal. CPJ also emailed the U.S. Department of Justice group that is investigating the police department, but did not receive any immediate response.