Photo by wmliu
One of the Daily Kos site’s diarists, Androsko, posted about a recent incident he and a friend experienced while taking photos outside of the Hess Refinery in Port Reading, New Jersey. While they were there to shoot a comedy sketch, the local police smelled terrorism.
A police officer pulled up and told them – surprise! – they weren’t allowed to take photos and they’d have to delete them. Why? As Androkso writes:
He responded that there were town ordinances that were mandated by the state and the Department of Homeland Security. I then asked for the specific ordinance or law, saying that I had read a lot of stories about police and photography in public places. He failed to provide me with anything specific, citing Homeland Security “stuff”.
The officer asked for their driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers, while insisting they weren’t being reported, just that he had to enter their information in the system. The photos were not deleted in the end and they parted amicably. And the harassment goes on….
A commenter points out that the canon of laws is so vast that cops can’t be expected to remember them all, further adding:
So they sometimes operate the way most of us do, sorta figuring if it seems like it might be illegal, it probably is. … Whether or not any laws got passed, it seeped into the collective consciousness, and a lot of folks have vague impressions that ‘you’re not supposed to scope out such places’. Your cop obviously had that vagueness floating around in the back of his mind.
I get that rationale; police officers are human and they can’t be expected to have an encyclopedic knowledge of law. But they need to have a better-than-average one – and more importantly, if you’re stopping someone to tell them they’re breaking a law, you damn well better know which one. (And if you don’t, radio into the station, read up on laws that pertain to your district, bone up for god sakes!) This type of thing is going on all the time, and no matter how wrong, how egregious, how unlawful, it doesn’t seem to matter.
Read Androsko’s whole post here.