Customs Officer Threatens Photographer

Do the usual laws not apply to Customs and Border Protection officers? There’s one in Tampa who thinks so. When Jay Nolan, a Tampa Tribune photojournalist, arrived at the scene of a three-car crash today and took photos, he was detained for 15 minutes and his phone was confiscated. David Tipton, the Customs and Border officer involved in the crash, wanted Nolan to assure him the photos wouldn’t appear in the newspaper. When Nolan was unable to do that, he wasn’t pleased. As Nolan explains in the Tampa Tribune:

“He told me, ‘You don’t understand. We’re not local law enforcement here. We’re the federal government. We’ll take your gear right now,'” Nolan said. “He gave me two choices: either give my assurance or be placed under arrest.”

Nolan was detained for 15 minutes, and he smartly replaced his flash drive with a blank one and retained his photos. According to the article, Gary McClelland, the agency’s port director, later apologized to Nolan and explained the situation away by saying customs and border patrol “don’t permit photographs because of the nature of their jobs, but the agency doesn’t want to hinder the media.”

OK, I get there is a security issue with these agents working the border. But couldn’t you say the same thing then applies to all people who work with gangs and violent offenders (police officers, prison guards, judges, social workers…)? It seems like a very strange policy to “not permit” someone to take photos of you (when you’re in an accident in public, no less), because really, how do you enforce something like that without illegally throwing your weight around? Oh yeah, like Tipton did.

Article from the Tampa Tribune

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2 Responses to “Customs Officer Threatens Photographer”


  1. 1 anon December 9, 2009 at 2:12 am

    In many instances, newspaper photogs will not shoot police drug team members as to not possibly blow their cover

    However, this is done as a courtesy and out of respect – not because someone doesn’t want their picture in the paper at an accident scene.

    Good job on switching cards and staying calm and respectful Jay Nolan throughout this process.

    I would have given them a bad card and told them where to put it…….


  1. 1 Customs Officer Threatens Photographer « | The Click Trackback on December 8, 2009 at 6:52 am

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