Journalist says OPP officer detained him, seized camera at scene of crash

GuelphToday reporter Richard Vivian says officer also 'grabbed' him

GUELPH – The Canadian Association of Journalists is calling the OPP’s treatment of a local reporter on Wednesday a “physical assault” and a “blatant violation of press freedom.”

Richard Vivian, a longtime reporter and currently assistant editor at GuelphToday, says an OPP officer grabbed him, seized his camera and detained him while he was taking photos at the scene of a fatal crash on the morning of Dec. 20.

Village Media, which publishes GuelphToday, has called the officer’s behaviour “a flagrant abuse of power” and stated the OPP “should immediately apologize.”

In an article on the GuelphToday website, Vivian says he arrived on the scene, at the intersection of College Avenue and the Hanlon Expressway, and took about 10 photos before an OPP officer “yelled at him to stop.”

Vivian says he wasn’t interfering with the police investigation, and there were other pedestrians using the sidewalk where he was standing at the time.

“He came over and grabbed me by the jacket, my left wrist, so he had control of my left arm,” Vivian states in the article.

“He told me that he (was) seizing my camera.”

A GuelphToday reporter claims he was detained and had his camera taken by police at the scene of a fatal collision in Guelph on Dec. 20. Image from OPP Twitter account


The article reports that even after Vivian handed over his camera, the officer did not immediately let go of his arm.

“He informed me that had I not handed him my camera, I would have been arrested, and that officially it was seized by the coroner under the coroner’s authority to seize during an investigation,” Vivian told a GuelphToday reporter.

Vivian, who declined a request for an interview with the Advertiser, says in the article he was told by the officer to stand at the rear of an OPP cruiser.

He handed over identification to the officer and after about 15 minutes, was told he could leave.

However, the OPP officer told Vivian that police, along with a representative from the coroner’s office, had decided to return his camera but keep the SD card because it is “evidence in their investigation,” the GuelphToday article states.

Coroner, OPP response

In an email to the Advertiser, Chief Coroner spokesperson Stephanie Rea declined to provide comment, citing privacy concerns related to the death investigation, but noted coroners “have the authority to seize anything” reasonably believed to be relevant to a death investigation.

She did not provide an explanation for how news reporting following a death could be connected to the coroner’s investigation.

“We understand and respect the concerns that have been brought to our attention, and will conduct a review to ensure proper processes were followed,” Rea stated.

West Region OPP media relations coordinator Derek Rogers turned down an offer from the Advertiser for an interview, noting in a Dec. 21 email, “The incident is still under review.”

Just before 7pm on Dec. 20, Wellington OPP spokesperson Josh Cunningham released a statement about the incident on social media.

“The OPP is reviewing the circumstances of the interaction,” the statement explains.

It later adds the OPP “respects the freedom of the press and values its relationships with the media, while also taking a victim-centred approach during our investigations.”

The OPP statement offers no details about the interaction and directs questions to the coroner’s office.


Vivian says he was not told when, or even if, he would get his card back and was accused by the OPP officer of “obstructing” the police investigation.

(According to a GuelphToday article, Vivian’s card was returned at 5pm on Dec. 21 and photos of the scene remain on the card).

Other people were nearby capturing images on their cell phones, but police did not accost or detain them or take their devices, Vivian noted.

“I was not obstructing what they were doing in any way,” Vivian stated in the article.

‘Egregious abuse of power’

It is a longstanding and widely accepted journalistic practice for reporters to capture images at the scene of a crime or collision.

Canadian Association of Journalists president Brent Jolly said the officer’s conduct is an “egregious abuse of power” and a “blatant violation of press freedom.”

Journalists at emergency and crime scenes, Jolly said, serve a critical role by gathering news and information and reporting to the public about what’s happening.

The spaces in which journalists are able to work without interference from authorities is tightening, Jolly said, calling the situation “ridiculous” and “dysfunctional.”

Journalists are not a hindrance or an inconvenience, he emphasized.

Vivian says in the GuelphToday article he has never been detained or had his equipment seized in more than two decades on the job.

In a Dec. 21 email statement to the Advertiser, Village Media editor in chief Michael Friscolanti said what happened to Vivian is “completely unacceptable,” noting the reporter “was on a busy sidewalk where other people were walking.

“The OPP officer had no right or reason to grab Richard, detain him or demand that he hand over his camera equipment,” Friscolanti stated.

“The officer’s behaviour was a gross violation of press freedom and a flagrant abuse of power.”

He called for an immediate apology from the OPP and the return of Vivian’s SD card.

“Village Media will be lodging formal complaints with both the OPP and the Office of Ontario’s Chief Coroner,” Friscolanti concluded.