U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Police union sues Las Vegas Review-Journal over jail video

Incident Details


A portion of the lawsuit filed by a Nevada police union against the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Sept. 27, 2023, which sought an injunction requiring the newspaper to take down published footage from inside the Henderson Detention Center.

September 27, 2023

A Nevada police union filed a lawsuit against the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Sept. 27, 2023, seeking an injunction requiring the newspaper to unpublish or censor footage and photos from inside the Henderson Detention Center, according to court documents reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

The Review-Journal published a story on Sept. 20 about millions of dollars paid in overtime and mistakes made by overworked corrections officers. Two days later, the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers — a union representing Henderson officers, among others — sent a letter to the Review-Journal and Henderson city officials demanding that pictures and video obtained and published by the newspaper be edited to blur the officers’ faces, according to court filings. The union also called on the city to investigate the source of the leaked footage.

“Frankly, it is quite distressing that both the newspaper and City have not already taken the steps outlined above,” NAPSO Executive Director Andrew Regenbaum wrote. “The officers who protect Henderson, indeed all peace officers throughout Nevada, should not have to worry that their safety and privacy would wantonly be jeopardized by the dissemination and cavalier use of their personal identities for ‘sensational’ motives.”

The newspaper declined to alter or replace its published work, defending its reporting as being in the public interest. NAPSO filed its lawsuit a few days later, asserting that the Review-Journal broke a state law dictating that images of officers in the possession of a law enforcement agency are confidential and “may be released” if the officer authorizes it or if the officer has been arrested.

Benjamin Lipman, the newspaper’s chief legal officer, told the outlet that the lawsuit is baseless. “The statute that the union is suing under does not put any restrictions on the public, and if it were to apply to the public, it would violate the protections provided by the First Amendment,” Lipman said.

On Oct. 2, District Judge Mark Denton ruled against issuing a temporary restraining order, finding that the union had not proven that its members face irreparable harm or injury.

Two weeks later, Denton denied NAPSO’s request for an injunction that would have required the Review-Journal to take down or alter its video or photos. Executive Editor Glenn Cook commended the Oct. 16 decision in a statement to the newspaper, saying, “Today’s ruling was affirmation that press freedoms are enshrined in the First Amendment for an important reason: The government and public employees can’t tell the media what to publish and not publish.”

After joining NAPSO as a plaintiff in early October, the City of Henderson settled its claims against the Review-Journal on Dec. 13, agreeing to pay the newspaper $20,000 in legal fees.

On Dec. 21, Denton denied the newspaper’s motion to dismiss the case under the state’s anti-SLAPP law, which argued that the case was filed in an attempt to chill the Review-Journal’s First Amendment rights.

William Schuller, an attorney representing the union, told the Tracker that they are no longer seeking an injunction and are only pursuing a decision from the court on whether the law enforcement confidentiality statute applies to third parties, such as the Review-Journal.

“Either the media has an absolute right to publish anything it wants at any time in any manner with no restraints or it doesn’t,” Schuller said. “And our position, obviously, is that it doesn’t.”

The Review-Journal appealed Denton’s ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court on Feb. 8, 2024. Attorney Lipman told the Tracker that if upheld, Denton’s decision could create a large loophole in the state’s anti-SLAPP law, but he is hopeful that the Supreme Court will reverse the denial.

“I think our arguments are very strong and with that I have high hopes that we will prevail,” Lipman said. “It’s a shame that all of this time and money is being wasted on a case that is simply seeking to shut down the ability of the press and the public to discuss issues of public concern.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].