LAPD Unlawfully Detains Photographer

The above video was recorded on February 21, 2010 in Hollywood, CA. As you will see from the footage, the officer’s behavior is deeply disturbing and should cause alarm within the Los Angeles Police Department.

And despite what the officer claims in the video, it is completely legal to photograph and videotape anybody, including police officers, when an expectation of privacy does not exist. It is the public’s right to photograph and record police activity that occurs on our streets and in our neighborhoods, and we should not be subjected to verbal assaults, illegal detainment, or threatened with an unlawful arrest if we choose to do so.

This encounter could have been a non-issue.

To voice your concerns regarding this officer’s behavior, contact the following individuals and offices:

Internal Affairs – Los Angeles Police Department
304 South Broadway, Suite 215
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Office: 213-485-1486
Fax: 213-473-6420

Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles
Email: mayor@lacity.org

Eric Garcetti, City Council President
5500 Hollywood Blvd., 4th Floor
Hollywood, CA 90028
Phone: 323-957-4500
Email: councilmember.garcetti@lacity.org

Tom LaBonge, Councilmember, District 4
Hollywood Field Office
6501 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Phone: (323) 957-6415
Email: councilmember.labonge@lacity.org

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34 Responses to “LAPD Unlawfully Detains Photographer”


  1. 1 Damon June 1, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    He actually called you fruitcake?!
    How did this guy get past the psychiatric testing to be a cop. He seems to be more than a little out of control.

  2. 2 Mike Gogulski June 2, 2010 at 5:23 am

    A sure case of post-traumatic roid rage, there.

  3. 3 Bryan Villarin June 2, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Utterly depressing, especially calling you a fruitcake.

  4. 4 William Wheatley June 2, 2010 at 9:08 am

    I emailed the mayor and council president. This behavior is unacceptable.

  5. 5 Jack June 2, 2010 at 9:09 am

    You are a complete parasite loser. Get real. I hope you find yourself in a position of needing police help someday and you actually learn something. You’re sole purpose there was to aggravate and irritate. Spineless parasite. I’m not a cop or have ever been in the armed forces, and people like you make me glad that I have never been. You are the reason good people don’t want to become politicians. Insert camera where the sun don’t shine fool.

    • 6 Chris June 2, 2010 at 12:15 pm

      Cause cops don’t harass people for fun right? :rolleyes:

      You’ve obviously never walked or been near a ghetto.

  6. 7 Bryan Villarin June 2, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Congrats – you’re on LAist.

    See “Video: LAPD Officer Loses it after Photographer Snaps Photo of Him

  7. 8 Erik G. June 2, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Any chance that this Hollywood bicycle cop (see the patch on his shoulder) Espanoza is the same one who kicked the Critical Mass cyclist shown in this video?:

  8. 9 Hank June 2, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    It’s not against the law to call someone a fruitcake.

    • 10 babydiscarted June 2, 2010 at 1:50 pm

      True — but is it appropriate for a law enforcement officer (or anyone really) to scream anti-gay slurs at someone with no provocation? A person who has that much rage and such unresolved issues about his military service strikes me as not a good candidate for upholding the peace.

      • 11 JGiven June 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm

        No question that it is highly inappropriate for the police officer to have used any disparaging label in this context, but I don’t believe that the term “fruitcake” was intended as an anti-gay slur. I think the more commonly accepted usage is that the described person is not sane, as in “nutty as a fruitcake,” which used to be in much more common usage than it is today.

        More importantly, one would hope that all police officers would have a better understanding of the law regarding the taking of photographs in a public place.

  9. 12 Hank June 2, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    At least he didn’t get arrested or have the cops come to his house like this guy:

    http://cnn.com/video/?/video/crime/2010/05/25/am.costello.recording.cops.cnn

  10. 13 andy bird June 3, 2010 at 12:14 am

    the cop was clearly having a bad day but after he had had a chat with his mate and calmed down he was fairly reasonable. I think I would have given him the benefit of the doubt and not shown this to the net. You were not arrested or given too much grief and you were clearly out to provoke. I agree with your aims but i think i would have let this one slide.

  11. 14 martin June 3, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Agree that the officer has some unresolved issues and responded inappropriately. Can also completely understand why you were making him nervous. You clearly set out to provoke a reaction, and from this man’s perspective it’s not too difficult to suppose that he might deserve a little more respect and cooperation from you. Really, only loosers here–the officer for loosing it, and you because, well, you’re kind of trolling the streets like a born looser.

  12. 15 agt3 June 3, 2010 at 11:18 am

    This has reached the point of an LAPD internal investigation according to the LA TIMES where links to both videos are featured in a blog posted in the newspaper today.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/06/lapd-opens-investigation-into-confrontation-between-officer-and-photographer.html

    • 16 KJ June 3, 2010 at 1:43 pm

      But the blog post doesn’t even get it right – the police officer wasn’t aware of the videotaping – he was only frazzled about the photo-taking.

      I do love how ignorance perpetuates itself when someone knows they are in the wrong, and continues along that path…. I wonder if the cop hides his face every time he goes to an ATM in uniform, crosses under a security camera in a parking garage, or many other situations…. sheesh.

  13. 17 Gary Crabbe / Enlightened Images June 5, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I think this is a case of both wrong. The cop for not knowing the law and responding badly, and on the other side for provoking the encounter. In general, you don’t ignore a cops order, even if it’s for the wrong reason.

    If the cop said move along because you’re making him nervous, that’s a fair statement, ‘cuz there are jackasses out there that would possibly harm a cop, just because he’s an authority figure. Saying it’s because of not wanting the photo taken is the wrong part. ]

    I’d simply hand him a copy of the Photographers Rights PDF that is always with me in my camera bag, and politely invite him to read it. Then if he has any concerns after that, I’ll be happy to discuss…

    http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

    There’s always a higher road, and neither of you were on it.

    • 18 Paul June 5, 2010 at 3:14 pm

      The camera guy did nothing wrong. He was polite with cop the whole time even though he was taking verbal abuse. As much as I understand the dangers of being a cop, it doesn’t give him the right to do what he did. If a cop ever feels in danger based on this exact circumstance, then asking the person to stand back so many feet is completely reasonable. Just because he is a cop doesn’t mean you have obey them when they are OBVIOUSLY in the wrong. Taking video/pictures of such incidents is EXACTLY what will keep police from abusing their powers like this cop was doing.

    • 19 discarted June 6, 2010 at 1:16 pm

      Gary-

      Would love to know how that goes for you if something like this ever happens to you. Please update us in the future. We’ll be very curious to know if the officer even looks at or accepts your Krages printout.

      “In general, you don’t ignore a cops order, even if it’s for the wrong reason.”

      That’s unfortunate.

      • 20 Gary Crabbe / Enlightened Images June 6, 2010 at 2:01 pm

        I said, “in general” meaning usually, not always. But it is up to each person to decide a reasonable course of action.

        Something similar did happen, though I don’t talk about it much. Yeah, I did pull it out. There were three security personnel (who called the cops) and one cop. Two other cops joined in; the cops all conferred with the paper in their hand while I made small chit chat talk with the security guards. Cops eventually came back and told security I could continue doing what I was doing. Everyone including me, was just doing their jobs, and afterwards, everyone continued on with their day.

        I usually take a more passive diffuser-type approach. My choice. I approach (as a professional) that hey, we’re both just trying to do our jobs, and I don’t want to interfere with yours, but I still want to do mine.

        In your case, I would have simply said, sure I’ll move away, I don’t want to make you nervous. I’ll just photograph from over there.

        If he then objects, (as he did) I would have said, Hey, I’m just as passionate about this country and my civil rights as you are, and by the way, Thank you for fighting for and defending our freedoms. One of those freedoms you fought for was my freedom to take pictures as allowed by law and my civil liberties. Please, go finish what you were doing, and then when you’re done, if you want to discuss it further, I’ll be happy to stick around.

        If worse came to worse, I would have said that I’m sure neither one of us wants to get involved in a civil suit, and before this goes any further, I’d like to please and politely request you just take 60 seconds to read this one page.

        After doing this for twenty years, I just find polite and respectful goes a long way, but there will always be one or two bad apples were reason simply doesn’t work. In those cases, my choice might be to say F-it and walk away, while someone else may chose to get their gear smashed, arrested, tossed in jail, post bail, go to court, hire lawyers, stand trial, get dismissed, file a civil lawsuit against a boneheaded cop and an entire police department, and two years later watch a lawyer walk away with most of any recovery. I’m just not that kind of person or photographer.

        Cheers, and enjoying the discussion,

        Gary.

  14. 21 eyebex June 5, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    did you just happen to have a video camera on as you were walking by?

    • 22 discarted June 6, 2010 at 12:46 pm

      No, I did not just happen to have a video camera.

      The Vievu camera(s) are always attached to my bag strap (they aren’t hidden and clearly visible) and recording whenever I shoot street. Once I leave the house the camera(s) are turned on and forgotten about. They can record up to 8 hours.

      Check out Vievu.com to get an idea of what they are.

  15. 23 jürgen June 5, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Well, eyebex has exactly pointed it out:

    As much as I like people to film inappropriate behaviour of policemen to give evidence – this one is inappropriate in itself. Starting a videocamera just before entering the scene shows to me: He was out to for something (at least if not being a regular fieldrecorder looking out for strange sounds all the time – like me). The first question by the officer was: “Do you know her?” which explicitly shows his concern for the woman in the car. If I was controlled by the police the least thing I’d like to happen is a stranger taking photographs of me.

    Sorry dude, but this “incident” looked staged to me. Find a policeman who doesn’t want a picture taken of him or the checked one. Knowing how to politely bring him to the reaction you want to see. Setting up your camera to be as loud as possible (if it was a digital one). Leaving out a few minutes in the video. I don’t buy it. At all.

    And by doing this you have dishonored all those brave civilians who report by video proof real incidents done by really unlawful officers.

    Shame on you!

    • 24 discarted June 6, 2010 at 1:06 pm

      Sorry Jurgen, but the Vievu camera(s) are always recording whenever I shoot street photography and they can record up to four hours each. So I did not, like you falsely claimed, “start a videocamera just before entering the scene.” It was already on for quite some time.

      And it’s a film camera so the shutter makes a loud noise. And the noise is especially loud because the flim camera is literally 6 inches from the Vievu camera that is strap to my bag resting on my upper chest.

      The following remark clearly shows that you know nothing about me, my work, or what I do and it clearly shows that you would rather try to put yourself on some holy and apparently more acceptable pedestal.

      “He was out to for something (at least if not being a regular fieldrecorder looking out for strange sounds all the time – like me).”

      As a regular field recorder looking out for strange sounds all the time, one would think you would be more inclined to identify with and understand the passionate photographer’s attempts to capture the strange world around him. However, that’s not the case and you would rather just point your figure and judge.

      Shame on you as well (hand tapping self-righteous counter top)

      • 25 jürgen June 6, 2010 at 8:19 pm

        Sorry discarted,

        if I misjudged you that way. I just saw the video in fact knowing nothing about your work and judged what i saw. And it looked to me like you wanted it happen. If I am wrong: Please accept my apologies. I just wouldn’t take pics of policemen at work as long as they are not doing something wrong that looks worth to be documented. Änd maybe the laws are different so we use to act differnetly in the US and Germany. We have something like “a right of pictures taken of you” so a friend of mine in fact lost his case in court because he had photographed a stranger. That was quite costly so I’m very careful when taking pics of strangers.

        I take the shame – it was not too smart to accuse you without knowing more facts. And indeed I had better taken a look at your pics at discarted.

        Good work, that.

        Sorry – and best wishes,

        Jürgen

  16. 26 andy bird June 6, 2010 at 2:01 am

    I have been thinking about this since seeing the vid a few days ago. I think there is a very real danger if this sort of photo-baiting continues then it may well trigger legislation which does make it illegal to photograph gov officials inc cops. I think we can all agree that this is not what we want.

    • 27 discarted June 6, 2010 at 1:10 pm

      That is a reasonable statement to make and it has been thought over, but it won’t happen. And there was no baiting here.

      If the officer behaved like the other two officers on scene who weren’t concerned with the photographer doing something that he is legally allowed to do then this video wouldn’t even exist. The photographer should have never been engaged by the officer in the first place.

  17. 28 Nick Roux June 13, 2010 at 7:57 am

    It seems the cop freaked out only because his was caught hitting on another citizen, likely not one he’s married to.

  18. 29 MP June 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    LOL FRUIT CAKE ITS SO TRUE LEAVE THEM ALONE

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