Can the Ferguson, MO, police restrict access to news helicopters?
Absolutely not. That is the only answer that can be given to Ferguson Police Department’s suggestion that they might once again curtail media access by limiting the airspace for news helicopters over Ferguson. Now we know that’s just what just happened in the days after the protests (and militaristic police mobilization) after the shooting of Michael Brown.
While any police department has the right to regulate access under certain public safety conditions, the wholesale ban of helicopter access is completely inappropriate. It is unheard of to suggest such overbroad restrictions on the press, and therefore the public, access to an event. From train wrecks to fires, from car accidents to hostage situations — the press, as the surrogate for the public — has the right to view the entirety of the circumstances.