Posts Tagged 'security guards'

Chicago to Give Security Guards More Power?

In what has to be the king of bad ideas, Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago said a proposal to give private security guards the authority to write tickets might just be a good thing for the city.

The Chicago Tribune reports that two South Side alderman proposed the idea to allow the private armed security guards that patrol their districts to have ticket-writing authority  for minor infractions, like loitering, graffiti and parking violations. They reason that that will free up the real cops to focus on violent crime.

“It’s not a bad idea,” Daley said. “The more police you have out there … I like the concept … it will help us.” Does Daley really understand the proposal? They are not proposing more police on the street. They’re proposing to give non-police more police-like authority.

In a city known the world over for its colossal corruption problem, giving what amounts to hourly contractors the authority to ticket whomever they see fit is rife with problems. Questions that immediately pop to mind…. Who are the security guards accountable to? Will they have additional training in law enforcement? What happens when the guy they’re trying to ticket for tagging pulls a gun?

It seems like, counter to the plan, you will see an uptick in violence and unrest coming from altercations with inexperienced guards and petty criminals, along with wrongful citations and claims against the city.

Thankfully the police union denounced the idea, and let’s hope the proposal doesn’t go far.  In the Chicago Sun-Times, the Fraternal Order of Police’s Greg Bella said,  “When you put somebody out there who does not know the job, it makes double work for us.”

While I am no fan of cops writing citations, I would much prefer to get one from them over a clueless power-tripping security guard with no real background in law enforcement. Can you imagine if these guys had that power?

Article from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times

US Bank Tower: The Aftermath

Photo by NoHoDamon

Our story is gaining steam, picked up by LAist, LA Observed, BlogDowntown, LA MetBlogs and Franklin Avenue, among others.

There has been a hearty back and forth about this issue, and that’s good. It’s getting attention for photographers’ rights, and bottom line, that’s what we’re after.

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, with photographers and regular folks alike chiming in about their similar experiences and outrage. But, of course, there are always those who will disagree with the mission and the method.

So, to address a few of the common complaints:

1. We didn’t pick the US Bank Tower out of the clear blue. It, along with a few other skyscrapers in downtown LA, have a history of aggressive, unwarranted harassment of photographers.

2. To those who say we didn’t accomplish anything: Universal Protective Services is actually taking this incident seriously, and one of the photographers involved is having a dialogue with executives there about their policy. There’s a good chance they’ll educate their staff better, and that’s a positive result.

002_35Photo by discarted

3. There is no federal, state or city law, code or provision that dictates that one can only photograph here or there or wherever. Some buildings have plaques or markers to signify where their private property begins. Beyond those markers, sidewalks and streets are public property. Photography is perfectly legal on public property. You do not have to ask for permission to practice your craft or your hobby, and you do not need a permit to shoot handheld in public. If your building or refinery or port is visible from a public sidewalk, deal with it. Download Bert Krages’ handy info sheet here.

4. The Patriot Act, enacted by a bully administration after a time of great tragedy (and the perfect example of Naomi Klein’s shock doctrine theory), is used to justify abuses of power and the stripping of many of our basic rights. But neither the Patriot Act or the Homeland Security Act say anything about restricting photography. It is possible terrorists are casing American sights to do harm to them, but one or two – or even six – schlubs with a camera do not really pose a threat to your building. There needs to be some case-by-case logic and thought involved in security guard and police enforcement of these blanket policies.

5. Perhaps some uncivil things were said. In the heat of the moment that happens. Overall this was a relatively pleasant encounter. (There’s been worse and…er, worser.) We realize these guys are just doing their job, but in your own profession, don’t you like to be armed with knowledge about what you’re doing and what your employers are telling you to do? These guards need to be trained better so they can react appropriately in situations like this.

017_201 Photo by discarted

6. Security Guards have no legal authority to enforce any laws whatsoever. They are citizens just like us, that’s it. They can not detain you, arrest you, harass you, threaten you, demand to see your ID, or do anything to you for that matter. They seek out the job, fill out an application and then are hired. Their job is to observe and report.

7. Did we go to the US Bank Tower looking for trouble?

No, we went there to shoot photos of the skyscrapers. Did we go prepared in case we were harassed and threatened by US Bank Tower security guards? Yes.

We knew it was very likely that we would be harassed and threatened, and we were right, because within a minute of arriving, the US Bank Tower guards were in our face. Unfortunately, our videographer showed up a little late and didn’t get the entire confrontation on tape. (Or the previous encounter that took place one a block away at another property managed by Maguire Properties.)

018_193Photo by discarted

8. Why didn’t we call the cops if we knew what we were doing was legal?

Well, we did – twice! Both times we called Officer Johnson at Central Station in downtown Los Angeles, and during both calls we were told that what we were doing was completely legal. We also asked the US Bank Tower guards during both encounters if they would speak with Officer Johnson, however, the security guards REFUSED TO SPEAK WITH A REAL COP – both times!

On top of that, David Sommars can be seen in the above photo, as well as in the video, talking to Officer Johnson. When he tells the US Bank Tower guard this, the guard responds by saying, “I don’t care because you don’t matter to me.”

US Bank Tower Guards Harass Photographers Photo by discarted

9. Why did we continue talking with the US Bank Tower guards and not ask to speak to their supervisors?

We did. When we asked Carlos, the nicer security guard out of the bunch, to speak with his supervisor, guess what? We were told that the most belligerent guard out of all of them was the swing shift supervisor.

So, to recap: The supervisor (above, with open jacket) was the guard that reached for one of our cameras, called us idiots, didn’t cared if he was fired because he had two degrees and refused to speak with law enforcement about the legality of what we were doing.

When we asked to talk to the executives above this guard, we were told they were not in – it was Sunday. (They were probably on their way back to Washington to ask for some more bailout money so they can continue paying these guys.)

024_13 Photo by discarted

10. To reiterate: We were on public property and we weren’t doing anything wrong. Know how we know? Because we weren’t charged or arrested for trespassing, nor were we ever told that we would be arrested for trespassing – just for taking photos … FROM A PUBLIC SIDEWALK!

“Wasting Breath” with US Bank Tower’s Security Team

As we previously posted, a group of NPRO members set out this past Sunday to photograph Los Angeles’s lovely downtown. This area is notorious for its excessively vigilant security personnel, and we wanted to see if we could exercise our constitutional rights and shoot the array of skyscrapers freely and openly. It turns out we couldn’t.

As we began photographing the US Bank Tower at 633 W. 5th Street, managed by Maguire Properties, we were approached almost immediately by a Universal Protective Services (UPS) security guard, and soon there were six (6!). We were told they would call the police and we would be arrested, that no pictures were allowed from their “private sidewalk,” that they actually owned the sidewalk,  and that we were idiots and jerks who should quit asking questions.

The kicker is that, when Angelo of Hollywood politely explained photographers’ rights to one of the UPS guards, he responded that that was just “differing points of view.” Yeah … except that one viewpoint is about the law, and one is not.

Please Voice Your Concerns:

US Bank Tower
633 W 5th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 615-6300

US Bank Tower Guards Harass and Call Photographers Idiots

On January 18, NPRO members went to the US Bank Tower in Downtown Los Angeles to protest against their security staff’s illegal treatment of photographers when photographing the property from a public sidewalk.

Over the next couple of days, more video and photos will be posted, showing what happened, along with contact info for the building’s management staff.

In the the meantime, here is the building’s address and phone number. Please contact them after listening to the audio and reading the transcript to voice your concerns.

US Bank Tower
633 W 5th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 615-6300

Below is a transcript of what happened between NPRO members and the US Bank Tower’s security staff on January 18, 2009.


US BANK SECURITY GUARD: Excuse me sir, you’re not allowed to take any pictures.

NOHO DAMON: We’re both on a public sidewalk here.

US BANK SECURITY GUARD: No actually this sidewalk is private.

NOHO DAMON: No, no, no, no…(inaudible)


NOHO DAMON: This is a public sidewalk.


NOHO DAMON: You guys own the street?

US BANK SECURITY GUARD: That’s the public, this is private.

NOHO DAMON: You’re telling me you own the street, you’re telling me you own the sidewalk.


NOHO DAMON: You’re telling me that.


NOHO DAMON: Would you be willing to discuss that with a cop?


NOHO DAMON: That you own the sidewalk?


Continue reading ‘US Bank Tower Guards Harass and Call Photographers Idiots’

Harassed, Threatened, and Berated by Andrews International’s Security Guards

Andrews International Security Guard Vasquez #782 Assaults Photographer Photo by discarted

NOTE: This guard did not have anything to do with the incident described below.

I was recently harassed by Andrews International security for photographing them in public at the Hollywood/Highland Metro station. Street photography is completely legal, and anybody, including minors and police, can be photographed in public at any time.

Here is the letter that I sent to Roger Andrews, executive vice president of Andrews International. I have not received any kind of response — or even an acknowledgement from them.

The email was also sent to Councilmen Tom LaBonge and Eric Garcetti (whose districts Hollywood falls in), and neither one of them did anything. Councilman LaBonge did personally call me and promised to call back the following week, which he didn’t.

Mr. Andrews,

I am writing you in regard to an incident that occurred on May 3, 2008 between myself and some of your officers. I am a documentary as well as a street photographer, and yesterday I was berated, touched(technically assault) and threatened with arrest and detainment by some your officers, particularly security guard Ferguson #4730, after legally photographing them in public. Obviously, your officers have not been educated about the law in regards to street photography and the rights of photographers; this is the second occurrence like this that has happened between your officers and myself.

After photographing your officers, they were completely belligerent, stating that they 
were private security officers and I was required to answer their questions, which is not true. Ferguson #4730 also tried to take my photograph, which I agreed to, but he couldn’t find a camera so he followed me around and eventually stopped me, forcing me to look up at one of the security cameras. This entire series of events is laughable because it appeared in his mind that laws that allow the city to photograph me at any time in public do not apply to Ferguson #4730 and the rest of your officers. On top of that, after having my photo taken, Ferguson #4730 then asked me if I was in the military and I said, “No, I don’t believe in the military.” He then exploded and said, “I fucking built this land you’re standing on! Get outta here!”

After that, I walked around for a few minutes thinking about what happened and decided to go back to get the officers’ badge numbers. Once Ferguson #4730 realized what I was doing, he immediately covered up his badge with his hand and started yelling, “Oh no, you ain’t getting that!” To which I stated, “You are legally required by law to give me your badge number.” That is when Ferguson #4730 along with the other officers threatened me with arrest and tried to detain me. However, I am quite aware of the law, because I am on the street practically everyday taking photographs and told them they couldn’t detain me. Ferguson #4730 would not relent and used his entire body to block me from leaving; that is when he touched me, which is assault. One of the other officers stepped in and told him to stop and took him aside to speak with him. I did not leave, told them to call the police, and waited for BID Patrol to arrive. I was questioned but not arrested because I did not do anything illegal.

While the BID Patrol security guards gave me a very nice lecture on humanity, they didn’t seem to care about the way Ferguson #4730 and the other officers reacted in an unlawful, belligerent, and inhumane manner towards me.

I am requesting that all video footage of the area in front of the Hollywood/Highland Metro stop in Los Angeles, CA, between 6PM and 7:30PM on May 3, 2008 be retained for viewing, as well as kept for evidence. I will be speaking to a lawyer this week as well exploring my other options via the city and Los Angeles Metro.

Ferguson’s unlawful behavior, along with the other officers, and more importantly, their lack of knowledge for the law is unacceptable.

BID Patrol also asked me if I was an attorney, to which I said, “No, but I don’t have to be an attorney to know the law. Since you’re not an attorney either that must mean you don’t know the law as well…which is the reason why this all happened in the first place.”

Voice Your Concerns and Write:

Roger Andrews:

Antonio Villaraigosa:

Tom LaBonge:

Eric Garcetti:

Rich Morallo, Metro Citizens Advisory Council: (213) 922-233

Captain Dan Finkelstein, MTA chief of transit police: (213) 922-2707/922-2700

Rick Jager/Marc Littman, MTA media relations: (213) 922-2707/922-2700

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