Officer Thomas Malloy, Badge #8641, Serial #22934/Photo by David Sommars
Photographer David Sommars and two friends went to the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday night to take photos of the amazing industrial landscape. As they walked on the sidewalk with their tripods, they noticed they were being followed by a black SUV. Being as the driver was shifty and suspicious, the photographers were more worried that they were being cased for their gear.
But, as it turned out, the driver was Officer Weiss from the LAPD, who had called the three men into the station. When a police cruiser showed up, Sommars asked the officer what law they were breaking, but Officer Malloy declined to offer any information. He just told them it was illegal to audio record him and if they didn’t stop taking photos of him they would be arrested.
His boss, Officer Chacoh, also on the scene, was unfortunately just as ill-informed and tight-lipped. He said they had to go to a different city to take pictures. He was not willing, or capable, of citing a law they were breaking; he was only able to repeat that if that they continued to take photos they would be taken in.
As Sommars points out, the photos they were taking from public sidewalks were essentially not any more detailed than what you’d find on Google Maps. The police can’t come up with a valid law because there isn’t one, and their harassment of photographers on public streets is illegal. “I’m actually getting very used to being “Lied” to by police officers,” Sommars writes on his blog. “This is not a good thing, and it’s not legal. But hey, they have guns and we don’t, so deal with it.”
UPDATE: Sommars called the number on the card he was given by the officers and was told he could be put in federal prison for 10-15 years for photographing refineries. Wow! If that’s really a law on the books and someone can point us to it, please do.
UPDATE #2: Sommars received a communication from a special investigator on May 26 that the Office of the Inspector General has launched an internal investigation into the officers involved in this incident.
Read Sommars’ full account, along with photos, here.
To voice your concerns regarding this incident, contact the following:
Los Angeles Police Station - Harbor Area
2175 S John S. Gibson Blvd, San Pedro, CA
Phone (310) 726-7700
Fax (310) 726-7739
Office of the Inspector General Los Angeles Police Dept.
Phone (213) 202-5866.
Fax (213) 482-1247
Janice Hahn – District 15 City Council Member
City Hall Office (213)-473-7015
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 435
Los Angeles, CA 90012