Student put on probation, community service for taking photos

Brian Romanelli, a freshman communications major, received a rude welcome in his second semester at Temple – more than a semester of disciplinary probation and 20 hours of community service.

Romanelli was not drinking or being rowdy, though. He was taking pictures.
The photos were for a class, Photography for Filmmakers.

On March 17 around 5 p.m., Romanelli was sitting on the grass lawn between Broad Street and the Johnson and Hardwick residence halls. He saw a man exposing himself to Temple students walking on Broad Street past J&H. Soon after, two Temple Police officers arrived at the scene.

Romanelli got up from where he was sitting, and walked around the fence separating the sidewalk and the grass, stopping about 10 to 15 feet away to take pictures of the arrest.

He said one of the officers grabbed his arm, pushed him away and said “Get the f–k out of here.”

Romanelli moved back to the other side of the fence and took a few more pictures. Once handcuffs were on the man who exposed himself, Romanelli walked back to the gate, which was about 50 feet away from the police, and took more pictures of the arrest.
The same officer waved him away again, he said.

After the man was in a police van, the two police officers walked over to him.
“You don’t like to listen, do you?” Romanelli said the officer asked him.

Romanelli said the other officer grabbed him by his arm and pulled his wallet from his back pocket.

The police then checked Romanelli’s name to see if he had any outstanding warrants.
“I’m pretty sure I’m allowed to take pictures,’” Romanelli said.

He said the officer who first approached him said “not when the police tell you you can’t,’” Romanelli said.

“He said I was interfering with a police investigation,” he added.

After the officers took down his information, they left, Romanelli said.

“See you at [University Disciplinary Council],” an officer said.

The only witnesses called by the panel were the two officers, Romanelli said.
He called a friend to testify on his behalf.

The panel was made up of three faculty members and two undergraduate students, Ja’Nice Proctor and Chanelle Desir. The chair of the panel was Keith Gumery, an English professor.

The panel unanimously agreed Romanelli was at fault for failing to properly identify himself or to comply with the instructions or directions of a person acting in duly authorized university capacity and gave him disciplinary probation until the end of the Fall 2009 semester and 20 hours of community service, which they recommended he complete with Campus Safety.

Brian Foley, coordinator of the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, said recommendations are “random” to some extent but can be based on the offense the student has committed.

“Sometimes we deal with certain violations that deal with someone not cooperating with police. We might refer them to Campus Safety,” Foley said.

The panel members are volunteers who go through a period of training, he said. The training includes the various violations of the student code of conduct and different kinds of sanctions, among other things.

Foley said there is an appeals process, which varies with the sanction.

Stephen Zook can be reached at


  1. It’s hard to see any reason that this news photography was forbidden. Police may instinctively dislike cameras because in other cases, they documented official abuse and got cops in trouble. But the public needs to know how its government functions, unless there is a good reason for secrecy. If we don’t have that right, we are in trouble.

    It looks like police abused their power in this case, and the disciplinary committee did as well.

  2. If Brian did do something wrong, he didn’t do anything to warrant such a harsh punishment – a mere warning would have sufficed.

    This should be repealed with a public apology to Brian.

    And the officer that used the curse word should be reprimanded.

  3. While googling my own name, I came upon this article. It appears that not every Brian Foley has enough character to address what is really wrong and see that his “community standards” are bogus to the hilt.

    At least there’s some honor in a Brian. In this case it’s Romanelli.

    If the facts of the case are as described, there is a serious-abuse-of-power issue within the Temple Police, and if the “Standards” people won’t address it, some intense student pressure should.

    It’s fitting that on another page of the Temple News Online there is a banner that reads, “Temple Can do Better – What do you think?”

    What do I think? I think you’re right – Temple can do better.

  4. Clearly Brian was not obstructing justice or the police officers from making their arrest. The determination by the panel was wrong in my opinion and the punishment way too harsh. I agree that students should not interfer in police investigations however, if the student was only taking pictures and was not in the way then there should never have been charges.

  5. this is wrong. this kid does not deserve this punishment. if this event took place on the street, out in public, he has full right to take pictures. in my opinion he did nothing wrong. how can you be charged with not properly identifying yourself? this doesn’t make sense.

  6. This is ridiculous. Taking pictures on the street is not a crime. The news media takes pictures all the time, and they are not treated this way. This student is not some terriorist taking questionable photos of buildings or the subway system. His freedom was violated. Will the UDC and TU Police start wiretapping or reading emails next? Based on this story, this treatment of a student by the TU Police and the UDC is a disgrace. They should be ashamed, apologize, and rescind the community service order.

  7. This is the second article I’ve read today in which Keith Gumery and his Panel of students and faculty memebers have completely dicked an innocent student out of a fair hearing. One would think that a student judicial panel would be put in place to advoacate for students facing unfair and circumstancial charges.

    God forbid I ever get “caught” snapping photos in public. I would hope Keith Gumery is on vacation on the day of my “Fair” UDC hearing.


  8. What a disgrace. I would certainly hope the student litigates against Temple University for abuse of power and most importantly assault. There was no reason for the so called “officer” to touch the student. It does not appear that the student was interfering with the so called “investigation” in any way.

    What is more likely is that the “officers” tempers were flared due to the arrest they had to make and decided to take out their aggression on the student.

    The so called “officers” need to be disciplined. If it was me I would have broke the officers arm and suffered the consequences.

    I wont even address the office pushing him and having to use profanity.


  9. The only thing wrong that happened was the Police officer grabbing the student and the student being punished for journalism. Cops should NOT be allowed to touch anyone like that just because they’re mad. It’s unnecessary and was total abuse of power of part of Temple Police. He was doing nothing illegal.

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