Posts Tagged 'photographing police'

Accident Scene Photog Could Be Charged

Brian Blackden photographs crime and fire scenes in and around Concord, NH working for the 1st Responder newspaper and web site and as a freelancer. He even travels in a van emblazoned with “1st Responder News” and wears safety gear. But yesterday, at a fatal traffic accident, he came upon some officers who didn’t appreciate him taking photos while in a fire coat and helmet. So a state trooper confiscated his camera and now they are considering charging him with impersonating an emergency responder.

“You apparently have a member of the general public dressing as a firefighter to gain entry into areas they normally wouldn’t have access to, for their financial benefit,” [State Police Lt. Scott] Sweet said.

Blackden … said he has never posed as a firefighter or EMT. His fire helmet, he noted, says “photographer.” Blackden said he is often allowed into the thick of fire scenes in the Concord area to get up-close shots, but he said his clothing has nothing to do with it. Rather, it’s because of “a good rapport and working relationship with the different departments,” he said.

Regarding his confiscated camera, police said they are holding onto it until they can determine what exactly went on at the scene — and they want to see if he took photos of the deceased victim.

This story stinks from every angle. Blackden might be a little eccentric, sure, but he had media credentials, and taking his camera amounts to an illegal search and seizure. Was there no crime scene tape? Could he not have been told to get back? And since when is it a crime to take photos of deceased accident victims? This did all happen in public. You can’t tweak and/or override the law because you’re irritated someone got too close.

Article from Concord Monitor

More Bay Area Police Wearing Cameras

Calling it an “unstoppable” trend, the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that police in the Bay Area have jumped on board the wearable camera wagon. (We’ve posted on Vievus before – they’re devices you can clip to your bag or shirt to capture your perspective for four hours.) Law enforcement have come to see the devices as protection — a way they can “show their side” in a “YouTube society,” as Officer Ronnie Lopez of the San Jose Police Department put it.

I agree. Ain’t nothing wrong with both sides having video evidence of what went down during an incident.

There are considerations though. On the suspect’s (or “person of interest”) side, can the police be trusted not to delete or alter footage? And on the officers’ side, will the use of video inhibit them or make them apprehensive about using force even when it’s necessary? (See Seattle cop punching jaywalker and all the uproar that provoked.)

As Brentwood (CA) Officer George Aguirre said:

“I’d rather you see what I did than hear accusations,” said Aguirre, who does traffic enforcement on a motorcycle and commercial vehicle enforcement in a truck. “When you do everything you’re supposed to do and someone challenges you, there’s nothing better than being able to show the video to them or my supervisors.”

Article from San Francisco Chronicle

Photographing Police – on KPCC/NPR

Today, Patt Morrison of Southern California’s NPR station (89.3 KPCC) talked about the right of citizens to videotape and record police activity – a hot-button issue lately with the Johannes Mehserle and Anthony Graber cases, among others. Guests Peter Bibring of the ACLU and Byron Warnken, law professor at the University of Baltimore, take on the topic, and Morrison even brings up the people who have been harassed taking photos of buildings in downtown LA.

Listen to the whole segment here.

Why Do Cops Hate Cameras?

Photo by JH

Photographer Jerome Vorus’s exchange with the DC police a few weeks back is getting some play in the DC media, and now Washington Post writer Annys Shin is looking into the topic of police and photography. In a “Story Lab” post she asks, “Why do police hate getting their picture taken?” It’s a good question. If you’re BART cop Johannes Mehserle, it might be because you don’t want any evidence if you just happen to break the law. (Although video didn’t help that New York City bicyclist who got pummeled by the rookie cop in Times Square.)

The DCPD have no excuse though. They’re just misinformed. And misinformation + arrogance = abuse of power.

Shin (shina AT wants to hear from you if you’ve been harassed or detained while taking photos of police, government buildings and the like in the DC metro area.

Man Sues Police for Photo Detainment

West Virgina is a hotbed of photographers rights infringements lately, huh? A man whose photos of a police cruiser using two handicapped spaces resulted in a confrontation with a state trooper is suing over it.

The Charleston Gazette reports that Michael Kidd filed a lawsuit this week against the West Virginia State Police because he “suffered embarrassment, humiliation, annoyance and inconvenience while his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure was violated.”

Ahhh, if only we could all sue for suffering annoyance.

In September, Kidd noticed the flagrant cruiser and was taking photos of it when State Trooper Jason Garnes approached. The trooper detained Kidd for 15 minutes, forcing him to stand with his hands against a wall, while he checked his ID and tried to find something on him, the lawsuit says. Trooper Garnes couldn’t find anything to detain him further, but he did warn Kidd, “I’ll be seeing you again sometime.”

As a frequent witness to the LAPD doing the same exact thing in illegal spaces, it’s not surprising. Some police officers like enforcing the law but not following it. But when will they learn an appropriate response to someone discovering their transgressions? Intimidation and harassment just backfires – like this.

Article via The Charleston Gazette

Photography Police Issue Goes to High Court

Photo by danger joel

A woman in England is finally taking on the Met police for their harassment of people who film and photograph them. Gemma Atkinson is pursuing a High Court review (equivalent to our Supreme Court in the US) over the police practice of using the Anti-Terrorism law to basically criminalize all photography.

In March,  Atkinson was filming her boyfriend being detained in a London subway station as part of a drug search when she was approached by a plainclothes officer who told her what she was doing was illegal. (“Do you realise it is an offence under the Terrorism Act to film police officers?” he said.) When she refused to hand over her cell phone – having already slipped it into her shirt pocket – the officer was relentless in trying to get it from her, ultimately calling over two female officers for help. A struggle ensued for the next 25 minutes where she was physically overpowered, handcuffed and threatened with arrest.

Finally, when the officers called the station (presumably to speak with a supervisor who told them they had no cause), they let Atkinson go – no apology, no explanation, nothing. The original officer’s only rationale during the incident was that he didn’t want the video to be all over the internet, i.e., YouTube.

Interestingly, the premise of this case is at odds with the report that police in Manchester have filmed over 900 suspects and their associates, whether they’ve committed a crime or not, all in the interest of building a database for tracking criminals and maybe-someday-future criminals. Police at times have openly followed these suspects down the street with a handheld camera. Suspects are then sent a letter informing them that the footage could appear on YouTube. Oh, the hypocrisies!

Read the article about the Gemma Atkinson incident and an interview with Gemma  at The Guardian site.

Read the BBC report about the Manchester Police here.

Thanks to pixel.eight.

Calgary Police Delete Photos

calgary police
Photo by Robert Thivierge

A photojournalist in Calgary found out the hard way that law enforcement will do whatever it takes to assert their power. Last Sunday, Robert Thivierge came upon a scene where four Calgary Police Service officers were arresting a man. He starting taking photos and was told to stop and delete his photos or – get this – he’d lose his camera for a year. 

What an outrageously asinine rule! Do these security guards live in a special fantasyland where they get to make up their own laws? Or is Canada just totally fine with trampling its citizens’ civil rights?

From Thivierge’s account:

The security guard on the left said the pictures I took didn’t belong to me, and I wasn’t allowed to have any of the images, and they’d have to be deleted.

Then, the other security guy talked to a cop, who said it was ok for me to go, with the images, saying the first security person “misspoke”.

Then, the next cop, said I couldn’t leave with an image that’s potential evidence. So, I would have to delete it, if I didn’t want to lose my camera for a year. When I said it would be illegal to delete evidence, they said it wasn’t evidence if it’s deleted. Make sense?

Thivierge says he is pursuing the matter and the police seem to be looking into it too, according to Metro News Calgary. I do hope he gets some answers. According to Thivierge, Canada does not have an ACLU equivalent or respect civil rights as we do in the US. To be sure, in this country, at worst, these officers (or whatever these guys are) are engaging in lying and stealing; at best, they’re just incompetent because they don’t know what their job parameters are.

Just remember this mantra, and repeat it to yourself if you’re ever in one of these situations: Police (or security personnel) do not have the right to take your property or delete your photos, and don’t be bullied into thinking otherwise.

Read a brief article on the Metro News Calgary site here.

See Robert Thivierge’s Flickr photostream here.

Don’t Take Photographs in Kent – Or Else

Photo by Alex Turner

It’s well known the English police have no mercy when it comes to photography. The craziest stories always seem to be coming out of there. And this one is no different.

Photographer Alex Turner was arrested last week in Kent after taking some photos of a fish restaurant. The grounds were “prevention of terrorism” under Section 44, the catch-all anti-terrorism law English police like to use to do whatever they damn well please. But really the officer was just annoyed he took a photo of her, and she claimed that was an unlawful obstruction.

As he tell it on his blog: Two men who claimed they worked for the town council stopped Turner while he was taking photos and requested his identity. When he refused, being that they didn’t fully identify themselves or explain their authority to stop him, they called police. When the officers showed up and Turner took a photo, he was handcuffed, arrested and detained in a police van.

Whilst sharing their views about the threat of terrorism officer xxxxx stated she had felt threatened by me when I took her picture. I cannot recall exactly what she said but I do recall her referring to my size and inferring she found it intimidating at the time (I am 5ft 11in and weigh about 12 stone).

Are these officers really that dumb? Because they come off like real lugnuts, going around arresting people taking photos on busy streets and actually bringing up terrorism. Terrorists are blowing up buildings in Jakarta; they’re not taking photos of Mick’s Plaice in Kent.

In his blog on the Guardian site, Henry Porter writes on the incident and the “The war on street photography,” saying “Clearly something has to be done about the police attitude to photography and filming.” It’s heartening that major media outlets recognize things are out of control. But still. It just doesn’t end.

The  Kent Police released a statement to The Register and basically just recapped the incident, noting that the officers felt Turner was suspicious. However, an investigation is underway.

Turner ends his complaint to the Kent police department with this, which I think sums it all up nicely for those people who side with the government in such matters. And there are always those people who just don’t see there’s a much bigger picture here than one man being arrested in one town.

I know a fair few people may say serves you right for a number of reasons. My reponse to that is it will serve you right when you wake up one day and realise you don’t live in a free country anymore. I’ve been stopped nearly a dozen time under section 44. Up until now I’ve always provided my details. Today I decided not to. Seems that when I choose to exercise my rights I get arrested, cuffed and detained for doing so. Yossarian would appreciate the logic in that.

Read Turner’s full account in his blog.

%d bloggers like this: