7 thoughts on “There’s a fine line…

  1. Rob I’m sorry but the guy in Seattle was not stopped by police, those were just security guards with no legal authority backing them, they do not have the right to stop and question people when they are not police in the first place.

    I agree that you should always be polite but I have also seen many police go way overboard. As I’m friends with some people in law enforcement they have explained to me why. Since 9-11 they’re training has focused heavily on every person is suspect and every person is a threat to them. The paranoia in the training has really got ridiculous. The only way we will keep our first amendment rights and not end up in a police state is if we stand up for them. I will not hand my camera over unless they got a warrant because in America I don’t have to; the Bill of Rights gives me protections from such behavior from our law enforcement.

    1. My apologies Bec if these were just security guards (and I’ve noticed that typically the “hired security” are usually the ones who overstep their authority). For the record though, I thought I saw a Sheriff badge on one of them, and he referred to the person as an “LA Sheriff on the YouTube video title as well as within the text of his YouTube video. And the Sheriff department is not a security guard. Sheriff offices are county-based legal authorities where as police officers are usually city-based authorities. Generally Sheriff offices defer to city authorities except in cases where things cross city boundaries, like Metro lines.

      However, regardless of whether it’s official law enforcement or a “hired gun”, my policy is that you always catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. If all your pleasantries do not allay any overzealous folks though, by all means, stand up for your rights and use the reference card, and your notepad to take names and numbers. Then you have all you need to file a complaint and do what this guy did on YouTube. And here’s where the pleasantries can certainly aid you in court: “Officer, I was pleasant, courteous, and respectful, yet the security officer continued to harrass me beyond the means onf any reasonable action and I would ask the court to consider the following evidence.”

      As Benjamin Franklin is noted for writing: “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”

  2. I agree with the previous comments. I’ve only had one instance where I was confronted while taking photos. I work on an old Army base, turned into a college campus, with lots of abandoned buildings still that copper scavengers have ransacked over the years. One morning I was taking some photos near one of the old buildings before work and two campus police officers approached me. Once I stood up from my crouch and they could see I was semi professionally dressed with a camera in hand they noticeably relaxed. I was still asked for ID and we chatted a few minutes and they were on their way. The cool thing is as they were leaving I mentioned that I’ll let them know if I’m going to be in the area photographing again and that I stay out of the buildings one of them told me that I can stop by the office and sign a liability waiver and they’ll give me all the access so I can go in and chronicle the military artwork on the walls. I doubt they would have let me in on that if I had been disrespectful towards them.

    A lot of the things I’ve read on the internet where the photographer has been harassed, especially the guy in Seattle who photographed the guys working on an ATM machine, deserved a little of what they got. Being aggressive back is only going to make it far worse then it probably could have been. Jason diffused his run ins perfectly and I will take his advice about having cards handy and to just show them what I’ve been doing…hell some of them may have an interest in photography themselves and maybe point you in the direction of other places to check out in the area.

    Thanks Jason…another well written thought provoking article.
    .-= Rob´s last blog ..Day 347 of 365 =-.

  3. Yes, your attitude is deffinately correct. That said, I was stopped in London taking photos of Trafalgar Square by a police man. He insisted I stop, even though there were thousands of tourists taking photos with their compact cameras, it was because I had a big white lens on I suppose (I wish Canon wouldn’t do that)…. good article Jason.
    .-= Kevin Mullins´s last blog ..Kings Road London Wedding Photography =-.

  4. Jason, I believe your approach is the correct one. In most cases the officers are just doing there jobs by asking what you are up to. By giving polite answers you are defusing any leverage an officer might think he has. IMHO.

  5. I had one incident that stood out in my mind. An event on the square here in town. I went down to get a few candid parade shots, and while walking the square a police officer approached me. Two other photographers were standing right next to me, but the officer came to me. I had the Canon 70-200mm L series on my camera.

    I was asked to come with the officer, and he told me I had to talk to the “official” photographer for the parade. I asked, “What about the 2 people standing next to me with DSLRs?” The answer. They didn’t have a “professional” lens.

    In the end I was allowed to shoot. Had to read a sheet telling me how to be a courteous photographer. Don’t jump in front of people, don’t block people, etc. Unfortunately, the several thousand people on the square with video cameras and “non-professional” cameras didn’t read the sheet, and kept walking right into the parade to photograph someone while blocking everyone else and the parade……

    Ah, the sense of it all……….
    .-= Rich C´s last blog ..Topaz vs HDR =-.

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