TV reporter arrested, barred from city meeting on uninsured police cars

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ST. LOUIS - The city of Kinloch, Mo., held a special meeting Thursday after an investigation claiming police were using uninsured and unregistered police cars.

Instead of being allowed into the public meeting, however, the KTVI crew was barred from entering for having a camera, and police arrested reporter Chris Hayes, who explained what happened.

We were following up on our investigation by attending a public meeting in which city leaders gathered to discuss the issues we raised.  A Kinloch Police Captain allowed citizens to enter the public meeting but told me we could not bring a camera inside.

I told him, “I’ve never heard of a closed public meeting.”

The captain said, “You won’t be coming in sir.”  He motioned to other citizens behind me, “You two wanna come in?  Come on.”

I said, “It’s a public meeting.”

The Captain answered, “No recordings.  No video.”

Kinloch is a small municipality off Interstate 70, bordered by Ferguson on one side and Lambert Airport on the other.

kinloch

In an investigation that aired Wednesday, KTVI ran VINs on police cars and found one registered to a rural Missouri man.  Another came back to a cab company.  Kinloch city officials said they couldn’t afford to buy insurance for their cars or the city.

This issue was slated to be discussed at the City Hall meeting, where a sign reads “no audio or video recording of any kind is allowed in this building without prior written approval.”

Hayes said he initially received permission from officials to record the meeting, but was then told he couldn't enter.

An officer initially told me “yes,” it’s a public meeting, but the Captain later said “No.”

Captain: “Either you come into the meeting without your camera or you don’t come in.”

Hayes: “It’s a public meeting.”

Captain:  “I’m not going to tell you again.”

Hayes: “Can you show me the Statute?”

Captain: “I’m not going to tell you again.”

Hayes: “I’m not going to tell you again.”

Captain: “You really wanna play this up?”

Hayes:  “We’re allowed in there.”

Captain:  “I’m telling you you’re not coming in here with a camera.  Now do you really want to play it up?”

Hayes: “Is it a public meeting?”

handcuffed

Police cuffed me and shackled my leg to a holding bench.

Hayes was charged with disorderly conduct and failure to comply, and released on bail with a September court date.

34242 Collage

Meanwhile, another KTVI employee attended the meeting without a camera.  City leaders talked about dissolving the police department but decided to fight through their financial struggles and continue policing without registering or insuring their squad cars.

Citizens were inside with cameras, including one man who told the station, “The press, you know they are public.  They cover news and I think that they should be able to have that.  They ain’t going in there with no weapons and no guns.  Are they scared to take cameras because they might tell the truth?”

Hayes wrote:

Missouri Statute is clear that cameras are allowed in a public meeting.  When an officer initially gave “permission” to enter with a camera, that wasn’t something that I was required to obtain from the officer.  I had hoped to avoid a confrontation by letting officers know I was there to cover the public meeting and that I’d be walking in soon with a photographer.  They all said “of course, it’s public.”  I had the prior conversation so that they would not think I was simply ignoring their sign.  It’s also important to remember we’ve covered public meetings in Kinloch before and never been barred from taking cameras inside, despite that sign.