(1 to 100 of 121 replies)
nadtz 9:50pm, 14 June 2007
Im just curious, this has come up for a couple of times for me recently, but I called bullsh*t on a CTA employee the other day (lets say I have a bit of history with CTA at this point) when I was told I wasnt allowed to take photographs of the train station or train as per DHS policy. When I asked her what specifically prevented this and showed her a copy of CTA Rail Service Bulletin R146-03. She couldn't tell me, I kept shooting (I wasn't shooting the train station, I was shooting the view from) and lo and behold the cops arrive a minute or 2 later.

At this point i wasnt suprised, and when the cops walked over I gave them the cta advisory and they hemmed and hawed for a bit and told me to stop shooting. Rinse and repeat. When I basically said no unless they could give me something more concrete than a vague 'department of homeland security' reference they pretty much left me alone till the train came but stayed on the platform.

Im just wondering how isolated this is? i've gotten it outside of buildings (somewhat expected), train stations etc, but have never been bothered at ohare. I've emailed CTA and the press relations department has said they have no idea what the employees are talking about (then again they said the same when I requested the rail advisory regarding photography in general). from some google results when trying to find something DHS related i can see other people have gotten the same line, but never get a response with any substance. I've shot some great stuff in NY's subways and could see myself doing the same here (no flash, as per policy) but not if Im going to have to fight with the CTA/CPD ever time.
(1 to 100 of 121 replies)
1RoyalPain 9 years ago
I am lost for words, I am thinking that some people in authority positions are not required to know or understand the policies they are employed to enforce or protect.
MARTYr Photography 9 years ago
If you get good pictures of this country without going through a huge hassle, then the terrorists have won.
kcactionphoto / Kevin Camp Photography [deleted] 9 years ago
I can understand your frustration, but aggravating authority over the matter is not going to get your case further along at all. The police can legally ask you to cease and desist in anything you are doing, unless doing so risks damage to life and limb. You can be arrested for failing to follow a legal order by a police officer, even if said order seems arbitratry and assinine. Most likely nothing would come of it and you would be released but not after being taken in and placed in holding and your equipment temporarily confiscated.

Another way to look at this is from their point of view. These guys are there to do an important job and everyone they deal with all day long seems to be intent on making it as hard as humanly possible to do it.

Just as all the blamecasting and fingerpointing went round and round after 9/11, the real root of the problem of security has never been addressed. EVERYONE WANTS TO BE SAFE, NO ONE WANTS TO BE INCONVENIENCED.

Everyone wants terrorists thwarted before they can kill and maim anyone, but if someone has to wait in line for 15 minutes then the security officers take the brunt of the "fascists" and "gestapo tactics" comments from everyone who wants to show their arse in public. They did not make the policy, but they have to enforce it and they have to deal with everyone who bitches at them about it. It's a thankless job.

One one hand they get all the crap from John Q. Public who feels discriminated against because he can't do whatever he feels like doing because of stringent security policy. And, John Q. Public is the first person to raise hell with authority when the same security policies fail to protect the public and wants heads to roll then too.

On the other hand, the security officer has to answer to his bureaucrat/political boss who bitches incessantly about all the complaints he gets from John Q. Public about how they are being treated and then the officer is the first one to get fired when he fails to adequately deal with a real security situation because he's afraid he might inconvenience someone.

Here is another tack you might try, contact the office of the CTA and ask them if they will sign you a letter giving you permission to shoot on their property. When the inevitable security issue comes up then you can present your chit to them and they should be placated.
PhotoAbuse 9 years ago
I just came across this article the other day. May be of some use to folks in the Chicagoland area.
Airchinapilot PRO 9 years ago
Here is another tack you might try, contact the office of the CTA and ask them if they will sign you a letter giving you permission to shoot on their property.

In a true liberal democracy everything is permitted unless explicitly disallowed. What's next, getting the proper documentation to walk across the street?
kcactionphoto / Kevin Camp Photography [deleted] 9 years ago
Airchinepilot, he's not just walking across the street, he's taking pictures of a facility that is a target of opportunity for any number of terrorist groups. In doing so, he places himself in the position of acting very much like a terrorist would doing a recce.

Also, the subway is not public property like the street is. Even though it may be administered by a public entity with public funds, its legally private property and no one has the unalienable right to use it.

Look, I'm not trying to pick a fight here, just trying to get everyone to see that there is lot more to an issue like this than being inconvenienced. I'd love to be shooting in New York or Chicago subways because the images are almost endless, but if go in there spoiling for a fight then I shouldn't get pissed when I find one and for sure won't be surpised when I lose it.
www.DanQuan.com Posted 9 years ago. Edited by www.DanQuan.com (member) 9 years ago
It's important thing to remember is that the police are not your friends. Especially if you are have a camera or are in the media, they will not hesitate to make it perfectly clear that they are not your friends.

This comes up every once in a while and people seem to be oblivious to the "authorities" penchant for arrest and release without charges as a bullying tactic.

It will only get worse, thanks in large part to bush's patriot act.

Check this out:

Teen facing felony for taping cop
State's wiretapping ban prohibits recording officer's voice


Airchinapilot PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Airchinapilot (member) 9 years ago
Airchinepilot, he's not just walking across the street, he's taking pictures of a facility that is a target of opportunity for any number of terrorist groups.

One could expand that definition to nearly every public space.

Open air market .. aren't they being targeted in Iraq? Okay, ban every single National Geographic style shot that shows life in an open market.

Harbour with pretty vessels - national infrastructure! Ban it!

Beautiful bridge span - vital transportation corridor! ban it!

A highway - oh no thousands of people cross it every day. Ban it.

Cathedral - place of worship! Ban it!
etc. etc.

Note: what I wrote was that unless something was explictly disallowed, then it should be allowed. For sure the government can try and disallow the photographing of certain things. For example, a secret warship. But then they have to justify it and be prepared to defend their decision, not set a blanket you must-ask permission-for-everything ban. That is a fascist response.

You are also missing the point that the original poster had already discovered that his activity was not disallowed. Therefore the authorities had already determined that there was no real threat in taking photographs and so had not -- according to the op's information, I have not seen it -- bothered to try and get a real ban on it.

Finally, you say that the train station is private property. Let's say that it is so for the purposes of this thread. You are also allowed to photograph from the street which is public property. So there is no place to kick you out of.
Ranger Gav 9 years ago
By the sounds of it nadtz you've handled it well. You stood your ground, stood up for the rights of a person in a free country and not really got up anyones nose.
Having their own bulletin to show them is a nice touch and makes it hard to argue.
Obviously there's a point where you have to gauge the response you're getting from the police you're talking to and quit if it's really going off the rails (excuse the pun ;) ). But I've heard of so many cases of this sort of thing in the US lately that it's nice to hear of someone fighting the insanity! (and going the right way about it).
nadtz 9 years ago
kcactionphoto: I get what you are saying, but I was not taking pictures of the trains or train station. If you happen to know the red line cermak station then you may have seen this view


My problem isn't with the possible policy, its with the fact that I'm being told of said policy with nothing to back it up. If you knew me in person you would know that what I call 'calling bullsh*t' is a pretty polite thing, I wasn't angry or agressive, I just wanted clarification on what I was being told when I had written and printed CTA documentation countering what I was being told.

Dan Quan: I actually do have police friends (I grew up in New York, not so much here in Chicago) and my current landlord is CPD. My father was a policeman for a while as well as some other family members, I get the cop mentality. Again my problem isn't with the job, its with being told something I cant find any documentation for and that in fact the CTA is telling me is false.

Perhaps its my fault for not wanting a false sense of security post 9/11, like I said Im from NY and in fact NYC, lost friends and all that, but that shouldn't stop rational people from well, being rational. Police are supposed to protect and serve last I looked, not harass and annoy. From further research during the day it seems this is a very murky subject for Chicago photographers (somewhat mirrored by New York) so i guess I'll just try not to end up in jail over this again until I get clarification.
nadtz 9 years ago
Ranger Gav:

Thanks, I'm glad some get where Im coming from. I'm not trying to be a horses butt (as it were) Im just trying to get info that I cant find and no one seems to be able to give me.
Sexdwarf420 Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Sexdwarf420 (member) 9 years ago
Yeah nadtz, you handled it well. As, in America you are allowed to photograph just about anything you want unless explicitly stated you can't.
No, cops can't arrest you for anything they want, well, at least without a very easy lawsuit for wrongful arrest/detention.
Yes, cops aren't your friend. In fact most police charters are very careful with their wording and they don't even have to protect you from a crime being perpetrated on you, but only must attempt to apprehend the perpetrator after the fact.
The post 9/11, overly secured atmos-fear we live in is utterly absurd imo over-all; especially when the long flabby arm of the law tries to reach out into cases such as yours. (I've had my own issues with similar circumstances if you can't tell)

Gorgeous picture, I'm glad you go it.
Derek Jackson 9 years ago
"No, cops can't arrest you for anything they want, well, at least without a very easy lawsuit for wrongful arrest/detention."

I'm not trying to stir the pot, but The Great Writ was struck from the US Constitution last Fall . . .

They can dang well do anything they want to . . .

Lock you up, and throw away the key . . . Toss you under the jail to rot and nothing can be done about it . . .

Habeas Corpus R.I.P.

. . .
peculiar planet 9 years ago
if you don't fight for your right to do what you CAN do, who will? There is nothing wrong with questioning authority.
ChrisVPhoto 9 years ago
You know, this topic has a bunch of people waving the rebel flag and shaking their fist, but given the fact that doing so will make it harder in the long run for you isn't that smart.

Being a general pain in the ass has come back to bite photographers in the ass. Intelligent protests, on the other hand, have won back rights. The mass mailing campaign from deviantart and other organizations helped turn the tide in actually getting back the privilege to take photos in the NYC subway.
padu_merloti 9 years ago
I wanted to take a few shots of the beach in the border field state park (imperial beach, ca). The most interesting thing on this beach is that the USA-Mexico border is on it.
It was very early in the morning and I had my dSLR and my 35mm on me, a backpack and a tripod.

I was walking on the beach and then I saw the border patrol jeep coming towards me. They were very polite and just wanted to know what I was doing there. I explained and they were ok with that. They even agreed on me taking a photo of their jeep.

Then I got closer to the border, and while doing this picture
USA-Mexico Border on the Pacific

Another BP came to me screaming that I couldn't take photos of the fence. I asked why and he said that it was because "it is sensitive material". I had the urge to ask him if my photo would make the fence melt, but better not.

I didn't argue with him because I knew that I wasn't in a public place (state park is public, but photographing there may be restricted, depending on your intentions).

The amazing thing is that if I was a terrorist, I'd never expose myself like that. I'd sure use flickr, google earth or any other internet searching engine that would provide me tons of information. Take a look here
and you'll know what I am talking about.
Mikko Reinikainen 9 years ago
Is there any known act of terrorism, that could have been prevented by prohibiting a photo from be taken? Actually, photos shot on public places can be essential in tracing and capturing terrorists.
nadtz 9 years ago
acesnines: Im just trying to find information on what Im being told.

The can of worms opened wasnt really my intention, but it seems i've hit something of a nerve. Maybe i'll just email DHS and ask them.
Airchinapilot PRO 9 years ago
You know, this topic has a bunch of people waving the rebel flag and shaking their fist, but given the fact that doing so will make it harder in the long run for you isn't that smart.

All I see is a number of people who are very aware of their rights. I don't see anyone advocating being a jerk or going out of their way to make law enforcement's job more difficult. Where do you see that?
Mark Scheuern 9 years ago
What happened to nadtz is a perfect example of what security expert Bruce Schneier calls security theater: publicly visible "security measures" that in fact accomplish absolutely nothing except making it look like something is being done. Schneier wrote a wonderful book called Beyond Fear where the topic is extensively addressed. His Crptopgram Newletter is fun and informative, too.

Kudos to nadtz for not unquestioningly accepting what he was told.
david.fleason 9 years ago
A couple of weeks ago, I took a picture of a guy who worked for the sheriff dept here in Orange County. I SAW him watching me. A few minutes later, there was a helicopter circling overhead, I thought, neat, and took some pictures. After it circled for a few minutes the realization that the chopper was circling ME sank in. Then, 5 cop cars came to a screaming halt. They detained me, searched me and prevented me from recording any of this. They told me the civilian employee reported that I was in the middle of the street taking pictures and almost got hit by two cars. The fact that I was TAKING PICTURES and that they showed clearly I was NOT IN THE STREET, wasn't of any interest to the cops. When I tried to complain to a supervisor, he told me, "it's a bad idea to make complaints about cops," and when I talked to the employees supervisor, he yelled at me, said it was illegal to take pictures of cops and hung up on me.

Taking pictures of our government employees and public property isn't illegal and in many cases nessicary for public oversight. While I'm sure there are many well meaning public officials trying to do the right thing, in my experiance they're just trying to prevent you from doing something they don't want you to do.
mvwphoto [deleted] 9 years ago
I have spent my career working in over 30 countries worldwide.

One of the things that used to distinguish the USA and other Western countries from third world countries and dictatorships such as Nigeria, Libya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and so on (and yes, I worked in all of those) is that you could take pictures in the US, while in the 3rd world countries authorities such as police officers, secret police or army would run over and stop you immediately.

The interesting this is that they always used to have the same reasons... "security", "anti-terrorism", "anti-espionage", "public safety", and so on. Who can argue with those? Who wants to endanger public safety? Right.

Authorities want total control. In free countries, they do not get it.

It appears more and more that the US is heading into that wrong list. I would hope that more people would challenge wanton paranoia, like the original poster did. And I would hope that citizens of the USA would resist simplistic calls for "restrictions for public safety". You don't want to live in those countries above, believe me.
mvwphoto [deleted] Posted 9 years ago. Edited by mvwphoto (member) 9 years ago
Oh.. I guess I was very bad here, making pictures of a target:

mycamerahatesme 9 years ago
I was hassled to the point of retaining a lawyer to keep the police at bay over taking pictures of a tragic event back in the early 90's. Police cant seem to get out of their heads that they are not the word of law and very few of them actually know anything about many of our civil liberties and rights (even with a degree in criminal justice and years of expierence, they still will make up bogus laws to scare you)

I also had a run in with a government agency over me taking a photo of a building long before 9/11(try 10 years before) I wasnt even aware this agency existed in this commercial building but I quickly found out all about it. If I had not been in a work vehicle and faced termination from my employment I would have fought for my rights alot harder in this issue.

This is not a new problem, they just have more ammo to enforce laws that may or may not exists.
JWPhoto 9 years ago
kcactionphoto, I agree wholeheartedly.

Dan Quan
It's important thing to remember is that the police are not your friends.

This is the type of thinking that is causing society to go down the toilet. When kids grow up learning this from their parents, they do not respect police (or authority in general) and no, at that point the police are not their friends.
mycamerahatesme 9 years ago
"Respect is earned not given" can be painted on both sides of this issue.
padu_merloti 9 years ago
I'm from Brazil, and I'm old enough to remember the military dictatorship era. Back then, they wouldn't only question you, they would take you for interrogation, and interrogation was pretty painfull those days (thanks CIA!). But that was for the low profile guys. If you disagree too much with the government, you'd only disappear.

The only good thing that arose from that era is that today everybody is more conscious about censorship and dictatorship signs.

How's that story about the frog and the hot water?
Chad Simcox 9 years ago
This is the type of thinking that is causing society to go down the toilet. When kids grow up learning this from their parents, they do not respect police (or authority in general) and no, at that point the police are not their friends."

And why should we respect them? If you do not question authority and do what they say then you will no longer have any ground to stand on for defending your rights. I dont mean this in the sense that you should disobey laws that are logically passed for the general safety of the public at large. However if you are told to do something just because they say so with no legal violation at hand then they are over stepping their bounds as PUBLIC SERVANTS. We here in America and others across the world should not let authority run free and do as they please because they carry a badge. Unfortunately our current government in the US has a different view on that.

Look at what happened at the peaceful May Day rallies in LA. Can you honestly say that those actions were justified in protecting and serving the public?

I'm not saying all this because I hate cops. In fact, one of my good friends just became a police officer last week. What I do hate is cops on power trips thinking they have the right to do whatever they please and thinking they are allowed to make up their own laws.
Airchinepilot, he's not just walking across the street, he's taking pictures of a facility that is a target of opportunity for any number of terrorist groups. In doing so, he places himself in the position of acting very much like a terrorist would doing a recce.

But really, what ISN'T a target? Should people visiting Washington, D.C. not be allowed to take pictures of the White House or other monuments? What about the New York skyline? The Statue of Liberty? Grand Central Station? Docks and harbors? Once you start banning picture taking at one place, it opens the doors for pictures of virtually anything to be forbidden.

Me, personally....I would rather give up a little bit of safety to have more freedom. I certainly don't FEEL any safer now with all these regulations than I did before 9/11 - in fact, I'd say the opposite is true.
max987456 9 years ago
The thing that often strikes me as "theatre" (as someone above called it) is targeting people with non-point and shoot cameras, be it SLRs or view cameras (obviously not in the subway, but elsewhere) or whatever.

A terrorist would be able to get everything they needed with a point and shoot or even a cell phone camera and wouldn't get hassled in the least.

It's all just doing something in the name of feeling safer, even though all it does is continue the erosion of our civil liberties.
johndohrn 9 years ago
I've had run ins with the law since I was about 13 years old. I have immense respect for police officers... who do their jobs. I've had police plant drugs at parties and in school lockers (luckily they never got it to work with me), have had them threaten to hurt me. In his words "I'll beat the shit out of you" for not giving him my name when I was walking home with 2 friends at 11 at night.

One police officer punched my friend in the face when he was 13. For what you say? He keyed the car of some guy who was rude to him. Stupid? You bet. Deserving a punch in the face? Hell no.

Whenever I am threatened, I always ask for their badge number. If they tell me to shutup, I say you got it and smile. But, it usually atleast takes them back a notch or two. Keep in mind, I"m really not a bad kid. Do I occasionally like to go to a party? Yep. But, am I doing stupid shit like robbing people or harassing others? No.

I was also at a park once, taking photos of a red tailed hawk when a police officer pulls over nearby and walks up to me. I was very surprised considering I am always photographing in this park. He told me people were complaining about me taking photos. As you can imagine, I was confused as to why anybody would complain. I wasn't harassing people, getting in their way, being loud, taking photos of other people, or anything. I told the officer that I've only been photographing birds and haven't even talked to anybody except for saying Hi when I walk by. He said okay but that he didn't want to hear about me again. I told him to have a nice day and that was it. I even dress presentably - a dark blue shirt that said dye paintball and kakhi pants. I think the real thing is that people get nervous around cameras and that police don't want to be targets for getting their photos taken. For all they know, it's for a court case and want to have nothing to do with it.

Btw, this is the image I was taking of the hawk:

Juvenile Redtail Hawk
andyptak 9 years ago
Some of this discussion is getting as heated as Ros Vs Wade and it should die down a bit - please!

Staying away from the liberty and patriotism debate, I would point out that I have had many similar instances shooting hotel exteriors when I was building my portfolio. Doormen and Concierges would walk out into the street (which is where I was, public property, right?) and insist that I stop because "you can't do that", without having any understanding of what they were talking about.

It all comes down to give a guy a uniform and he thinks he's a Tin Pot Dictator, whether he's a cop or a doorman, it makes no difference.

Photographer's need to stand up for their rights within the bounds of decency and common sense. End of story.
jjlphoto 9 years ago
You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. IOW, always be polite. If you are not doing a Greenpeace story where risking life and limb comes with the territory, it's best to act professional and diplomatic.

There's nothing wrong with sticking up for your right to take the photos where you want. But if push comes to shove, it's always a coin toss determing who is the alpha dog in the situation. You may be in the right, but if you wind up in jail and have to hire an attorney, what's the point?
strobist PRO 9 years ago
If any of you frequent public areas when you are shooting and would like to short circuit those "special" cops with more attitude than Constitutional knowledge, there are pdf's you can print out that clearly state your rights as a photographer, WRT the First Amendment.

It helps to have one that has a lawyer's name and number clearly on the form, even if you write that part in yourself.

That said, a clear and POLITE assertion of your rights, along with a request for the offericer to cite the eact law you are supposedly breaking, along with your info (and the implied idea that you would not take a wrongful arrest lightly) will solve your problem 99% of the time.

You'll also get a lot of mileage out of treating the cop with the same decency and respect that you would use for a friend, and acknowledging that his job has been made more difficult in the post 9/11 era. That count for a lot.

I do not have a link handy for the photographers' rights forms, but I am sure it will pop up here shortly.
Ryan McGehee [deleted] 9 years ago
This discussion in an other group has some links for the USA , UK, Canada and I think a couple other countries

max987456 9 years ago
Sexdwarf420 Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Sexdwarf420 (member) 9 years ago
Derek Jackson said:
I'm not trying to stir the pot, but The Great Writ was struck from the US Constitution last Fall .

That's right, it was one of the worst actions. However there is a bill moving through Congress as we speak that will hopefully overturn that. In fact if anyone is so inclined there's (slightly OT, but really its not) there's an EXCELLENT This American Life show, Habeas Schmabeus
- April, 27th, which addresses the root of he dissolving of Habeas rights in America. It won a Pebody award upon its original airing in 2006.
strobist PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by strobist (admin) 9 years ago

So, you guys are saying that there is absolutely no recourse for wrongful arrest? Seriously?
Sexdwarf420 9 years ago
DH, ok, yes and no.

Yes, there is recourse, and in 99% of situations nothing would ever go so far, however . . . By the actual wording in the Patriot act, if the label terrorist is assigned to a person, whether warranted or not, despite whether there are facts to back it up even in some cases, all rights can be withheld. Admittedly that's a worst case scenario, but in my eyes, the possibility is scary enough. I've had way too many interactions with Police acting unlawfully to discount such a possibility. My experiences are unique though, showing me the worst case scenario all too often.

I do, however give every individual the benefit of the doubt initially, until given reason to not. I also agree that it is best to assert yourself calmly and intelligently, so as not to incite any unneeded conflict. The cattle-prod tazers they use hurt really bad.
andyptak 9 years ago
I was trying to stay away from my own personal rhetoric here, but this isn't going to go away.

So here's my two cents - in Canadian dollars, of course.

ANY government leader who's in trouble domestically
ALWAYS points to a threat from without to justify quashing freedom. It doesn't matter if they're left or right, they all do this. It's a classic bait and switch.

The greatest threat to ANY society is not from weapons, it's from ideas. None of these morons in power across the world ever get this. An idea never gets to grow and eventually corrupt a society if there isn't a germ of truth in it.

I think it's very sad that so many Americans are willing to give up their freedoms and the most open society that the world has seen to date, in the name of fighting terror. This means the terroists have won.

As Machiavelli said, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Americans should stand up for their hard won freedoms and photographers should fight for their rights, every step of the way.

Your society has been the envy of the world, don't screw it up now.
very1silent PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by very1silent (member) 9 years ago
strobist: The Bush administration has, on several occasions, held people accused of terrorism, including American citizens, in secret detention without access to an attorney or any other outsider. How exactly do you think you're going to obtain recourse if you can't hire an attorney, contact your family, etc?

In most cases, when a law enforcement officer threatens to arrest somebody for photography, they're threatening the photographer with that kind of treatment. Its almost certainly a bluff, but there is the chance that it isn't.
21st Century Dad 9 years ago
Bert Krages is an attorney who deals with photographer's rights.

You can download a "bust card" here:


I keep a copy in my camera bag.

The rest of the site is worth digging around in too.
Bart R. Willems 9 years ago
"So here's my two cents - in Canadian dollars, of course."

Keep in mind that very soon your words will have more value than of USA residents... :) I still think there'll be parity before the end of the year.
max987456 9 years ago
By the actual wording in the Patriot act, if the label terrorist is assigned to a person, whether warranted or not, despite whether there are facts to back it up even in some cases, all rights can be withheld.

Exactly. And while I don't think it's necessarily likely that it'd go that far, the whole reason they don't want you to take pictures is... to prevent terrorism.

It's not too much of a stretch to think that it could happen.
padu_merloti 9 years ago
max987456 said:
The thing that often strikes me as "theatre" (as someone above called it) is targeting people with non-point and shoot cameras, be it SLRs or view cameras (obviously not in the subway, but elsewhere) or whatever.

I hear that... and that's exactly why I bought myself a Bessa R...
John Leonard 9 years ago
Let me preface my statement with the fact that I used to be a cop in NC.

@kcactionphoto- you said...... "The police can legally ask you to cease and desist in anything you are doing, unless doing so risks damage to life and limb. You can be arrested for failing to follow a legal order by a police officer, even if said order seems arbitratry and assinine."......

Unless other parts of the country have a different constitution this is not true. It would be a violation of one's fourth amendment rights. Anytime your movement is restricted by the government or its representatives it is an arrest. If a cop takes you by the arm, it is an arrest. If he tells you to stop it is an arrest. Thereby if he tells you to stop doing X it is an arrest. Police CAN NOT arbitrarily tell people to do things, and arrest them for failing to do them. The only time they can do so is if a persons actions can reasonably be believed by a person of normal mental fortitude to be dangerous (i.e., take your hands out of your pockets while I am talking to you). The obviousness of holding a camera snapping photos is not inherently dangerous.

Now the issue would be if there is a law prohibiting the taking of said photo. If there was a Federal law prohibiting it, then local law enforcement have no jurisdiction to enforce it. It would be the same as the local PD arresting you (with out a signed warrant) for not filling your taxes. They can't, a Federal magistrate would have to sign a warrant then you could be picked up. So the second issue is if there is a local law (State or Municipal). If there is then they could arrest you. If not then they can't. If there is no law then you could be asked to leave by whatever business or entity (even if it is public property). If you fail to do so you could be arrested for trespassing. Why do they have the right to ask you to leave public space you ask? Most states have a law against loitering. Being in a place with no purpose. Is photography a legitimate purpose? The courts would have to decide.

So I would have to side with nadtz. If they arrested me they would have a very large lawsuit, and some very nasty media coverage to deal with.

If we give in to the fear and overly police ourselves then what have we accomplished? The day I have to get permission to look at a building is a sad day for this country.
andyptak 9 years ago
America is not a country without it's faults - just ask any black guy you run into - wouldn't want to trade places with him for anything. Chris Rock has a really good routine about this.

But from an outsider's perspective, born a Brit, now a Canadian, you guys have too much too loose to give in to this malarky.

America has always been a grand experiment of freeedom of thought and action and the world has envied you. Even the guys who claim to hate you want a Chevy and MTV. Don't forget the Caddy.

You have lost many precious freedoms recently and I'm surprised that the Right has not joined with the Left in screeming blue murder about this.

This is going to be unpopular, I know but i have to say it,. 9/11 was America's first act of warfare in the homeland - I don't count Pearl Harbor for obvious reasons - and you don't know how to deal with it. I'm English and we invaded and were invaded countless number of times in history and in the end it all washed out and we increased our freedoms as a result.

While I do not minimize the lives of 3000 plus people and the pain that this has caused their loved ones, the loss of freedoms and even liberty is too high a price to pay . The three thousand dead would have resented this too.

Back to photography - resist the forces of censorship of words and ideas. If you're standing in the Chicagago subway shooting away and the cops come for you because it's a Patriot Act thing, resist and you wil be the true patriot. However, you're going to have an awfully bad f****ing day.

Keep the faith.
John Leonard 9 years ago
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

Thomas Jefferson
andyptak 9 years ago

Interesting quote. As a Limey I didn't take too much American history, I think you guys whipped us, didn't you.?

I think the point of arguement today is who's the Patriot and who's the Tyrant? In the eye of the beholder I guess.
John Leonard 9 years ago
I think we whipped you a couple of times! =p I love the Brits though you guys rock! I really want to take an extended vacation there.

I think the larger point is that all Americans need to take their own stand for personal freedoms. One person can not change the system, but everyone together asserting their own individual liberties will make a very loud statement.

I will spare the long diatribe about what I think the best way to exert those freedoms are. After all I am only one person with one opinion. There is a time to show one's self, friends, family, strangers, and indeed those who would try to scare us what we value; freedom or the illusion of security.

If walking around snapping photos is an expression of freedom, and a denial of fear then may we all have our cameras permanently attached to our necks!
andyptak 9 years ago

I love America but unfortunately can't afford to live there because my wife has MS and the health care bills would kill us. In the meantime, I am an American property owner - Cape Cod, Mass.

You have such a great country and I hate to see what an ill-educated buffoon is doing to it. I can stand what an intelligent person who is opposed to my views might do to the country - Wm Buckley for example. Although I disagree, I can live with him/it. But you have no idea of the freedoms that you have recently lost. It is such a shame.

Maggy Thatcher pushed a bill that changed our version of Miranda - paraphrasing now - "you have the right to remain silent, but if you do, your lack of cooperation will be noted by the courts". This was in response to the IRA. Shameful then and now and your country is going in the same way.

Photographers unite. Peace and love to you all. (showing my age here)
Nexusix Photography 9 years ago
I'm really surprized no one has brought up this article yet...


Really pretty scarey stuff...

John Leonard 9 years ago
Yeah again, I would really hate for those cops to do that to me. In the state of North Carolina a person has the right to resist an unlawful arrest with whatever force is necessary to overcome the arrest.

My personal experience is to talk my way out of any situation as a law enforcement officer. Why didn't the cops take a simple approach and ask the guy what he was doing? Would have avoided a whole mess of problems. I always told my fellow officers we have all the time in the world to solve a problem don't rush in. Many in law enforcement want to rush. Just ask the guy what is up, look at his I.D. enter his name in the computer, and explain how Exxon would prefer for him to not take photos of the buildings. I think thats fair.
eduardo_frances Posted 9 years ago. Edited by eduardo_frances (member) 9 years ago
I have read many stories like yours from many places in the USA from the Golden Gate, to the streets of New York, each one of them has the common factor of not having a legal substance to hold ground... it is a shame too loose the opportunity to document life in the USA, how many wonderful moments in portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, etc has been lost because of this??? truly sad that photographers aren't able to document places in their country now.... heck imagine how it would be if I go on vacation to the USA someday??? My camera would be in the bag all the time.???

I agree with Enigma1977, the solution is very simple if you take the time to know what happens.
Dave Schlier PRO 9 years ago
strobist: The Bush administration has, on several occasions, held people accused of terrorism, including American citizens, in secret detention without access to an attorney or any other outsider.

The Appeals Court found the above unconstitutional last week. From the NY Times (6/12/07, Adam Liptak): 'The federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled yesterday that the president may not declare civilians in this country to be “enemy combatants” and have the military hold them indefinitely. The ruling was a stinging rejection of one of the Bush administration’s central assertions about the scope of executive authority to combat terrorism.'

While the jury's still out on criminal penalties for unlawful detention, there is always civil recourse as the link that Weinheimerphoto provided shows.

As a representative democracy, we have the power to cause change. It's happened in the recent past, it happened in the 2006 elections and it will happen in the 2008 elections (hear my prayer...).
msknight Posted 9 years ago. Edited by msknight (member) 9 years ago
The fact of having to be fingerprinted, etc. on entry to the U.S. has made me think, not mainstream though, of not bothing to visit the U.S. - what eduardo says about having to keep the camera in the bag all the time ... this is adding weight to my staying away. (that and Microsoft cancelled the September conference this year.)

I faced the same in the U.K. on a stock photo gathering; but I called ahead to most of the locations and cleared permission for the private venues and got the paperwork signed. I was also carrying (and had cause to use on numerous occasions) a document from the Council stating who I was and why I was there. I have to admit that I took the initiative in a few cases, though, just to make sure.

... so the U.K. isn't far behind the US.

I did ask the legal department of the council for a black and white summary of what I could and couldn't do. I haven't had a firm answer yet and they have had the adult and child consent forms for weeks now and haven't given them an official rubber stamp.

The whole thing seems like a shooting match ... in more ways than one.

Edit - I've just gone on to the U.K. Government web site and started the long path, hopefully to getting some firm advice on the current U.K. law. I'll keep people updated, but it will be a long run.
Airchinapilot PRO 9 years ago
The education of the law enforcement / or security employee is very much a variable. You can be stopped by anyone and receive a wide range of responses.

- I photographed a street set for the Fantastic Four movie from the sidewalk. Immediately a production assistant jumped in front of me and said my camera could be confiscated. I laughed and shook my head. "Is that right?" "Yes, it is!" Apparently, by dressing up the street (that just the day before I could walk through with impunity, it became a 'copyrighted' expression and thus I would be stealing it. The next week - sans street dressing - that street would become again public property that I have paid taxes for. Again, that evokes a giggle from me.
- The same week I was warned by another PA for another show -- someone who knew the rules more than the first one -- that I could do whatever I wanted with my camera but Mr. {hollywood star} and Mr. {hollywood star} would spaz out and the night's shoot might be ruined. But whatever I decided to do was my decision. Well, I appreciate that candour. (There was nothing really to shoot. I walked on).
- Last month I was shooting street scenes in front of a ritzy jewellry store when the security guard beckoned me over with a smile. I waited until the street was safe to cross and made my way over. We had a nice chat. All he wanted to know was what I was doing and that he needed to know these answers in order to do his job which was to guard the expensive diamonds inside. I told him I was shooting street scenes and said, of course, anyone with a tiny pocket camera would do a better job of 'casing the joint' that someone with a DSLR and big lens. He knew that, he just needed to know. We wave at each other every time I pass by these days.
nadtz 9 years ago
dominant.paradigm: I have a copy of that card + the CTA announcement in my bag. Its actually a lucky thing I PDF'd the CTA doc, I didnt get it back from the cops.

andyptak: I happen to be one of those black males, Im just pushing all the buttons I guess. I also have an arabic first name =(

I actually emailed DHS over the weekend for clarification, hopefully I havent red flagged myself for life. I'll see what they say I guess. I obviously opened a much larger can of worms than intended, but its also obvious this is a problem that plagues many. I'll just say what I said before, when rational people have to hide instead of speak up, well things are in a bad way.

I guess I should be happy this is not censored in some way, but Germany also had a great constitution pre National Socialism. And no I didnt mention anything there that invokes Godwins law (ok I lie)! I guess it all boils down to the when good men stay silent thing, i'll just continue not to do so.
www.DanQuan.com Posted 9 years ago. Edited by www.DanQuan.com (member) 9 years ago
"JWPhoto says:

Dan Quan
It's important thing to remember is that the police are not your friends.

This is the type of thinking that is causing society to go down the toilet. When kids grow up learning this from their parents, they do not respect police (or authority in general) and no, at that point the police are not their friends."

This is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever read. I think its right up there with, "I am not a crook", "I did not have sex with that woman" and my personal favorite, "There ought to limits to freedom."
--G.W. Bush, press conference at the Texas State House, May 21, 1999, referring to GWBush.com

Trust and respect of authority and officials is something that needs to be addressed with both eyes open and not handed out foolishly.

I almost forgot:

"Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do." -- Ronald Reagan, 1981

Hah hah

: )

andyptak 9 years ago

The Chris Rock line was something like this, "I'm famous and I'm rich - and there isn't one of you Crackers who would trade places with me."

Sad, but true. I'm an old white fart and I still get hassled sometimes when I'm shooting. I can't even imagine what you must go through.

We have to remember though, infrastructure has always been a magnet for spies and now, terrorists. I don't envy the jobs of the poor SOB's who have to provide security. That being said, too many times people are just drunk on power and don't use their heads.

I think that what you experienced had less to do with DHS than it did with age and race. How old were the guys who arrested you and were they black?

Keep cool.
deaner66 9 years ago
Bottom line: Post 9/11, the terrorists have won a large portion of their war against us. You can wrap yourself in the flag and deny it, but it's true.

Not to get off too far here, but look at all of the asinine changes we have been put through post 9/11.

There are a great many relevant quotes from true American heroes regarding this issue, so I won't bother. But the shear volume of changes that have happened in this country since 9/11 is astounding. And frightening.

Run, and run away fast from the person who states that they don't mind needless intrusions because, "I have nothing to hide."

The time is long overdue to find out what is most important for us. The freedom we enjoy, our "way of life" is currently writing rubber checks to a bank called security.

Our "way of life" is dangerously close to being altered for generations. And our grandchildren will ask us how it happened, why it happened, but most importantly, what we did about it.

What will we tell them?
andyptak 9 years ago
I think you're right. These bastards have already won while no one was looking.

Do you think we're being monitered?? Hello, Hello, is anyone there?
nadtz 9 years ago
andyptak: pretty much all US traffic is monitored. remember that ATT employee (I think it was ATT) who gave documents to the news and it quietly dissapeared? Its more a matter of what you say being interesting as the amount of data is way too much to have people reading all of it.
mvwphoto [deleted] 9 years ago
OK, one more rant then:

Personally, my way of life has already been altered, and in very real ways. Taking off shoes and belts, passports with many months' wait list, being shouted at, no longer taking much hand luggage on board of aircraft, no longer being able to take pictures where and when I want - and as described above, getting the Africa treatment in America.

And the 9-11 "T"-word can be used to justify anything and everything!

Seems to me we should have more guts, and as a society we should say "we will not change our way of life".

Anyway, that's my C$ 0.02
andyptak 9 years ago

Lots of rants here, including my own. I think that Nadtz struck a nerve.
carlos.benjamin 9 years ago
They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.
Benjamin Franklin

I can see both sides of the issue and realize that law enforcement has a tough job to do. My son-in-law is an officer and I do not envy him his role in society.

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.
Thomas Jefferson

Having said that, I think the right side is the one which aligns itself with the Constitution and the intentions of the founding fathers. The quotes above, from two of those founders, sum it up for me. Every decision that is made comes at the expense of something else. Turning right is to discard everything to your left, or straight ahead. One must ask themselves if they're willing to pay the price for the decisions they make. Many people don't consider the costs before embarking in a given direction. This is why we have the word "regret" in our dictionaries, for those souls who count the cost after they've made irretrievable decisions.

The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

The destruction done to the towers and the Pentagon along with the images of the grief suffered by those who lost their loved ones is indelibly etched in my memory - in the memories of all of us who watched in disbelief that such a thing could happen here. What is not so easy to "see" is the damage done to our nation from within.

It is our duty still to endeavor to avoid war; but if it shall actually take place, no matter by whom brought on, we must defend ourselves. If our house be on fire, without inquiring whether it was fired from within or without, we must try to extinguish it.
Thomas Jefferson
sdiestler 9 years ago
"It's important thing to remember is that the police are not your friends."

"This is the type of thinking that is causing society to go down the toilet. When kids grow up learning this from their parents, they do not respect police (or authority in general) and no, at that point the police are not their friends."

on this one.. and the person who said that respect is earned and not simply granted. I agree, but a decent person let's someone they don't yet know start out with a reasonable level of respect. Starting out a confrontation with a police officer with the idea in your head that you should "question authority" isn't very smart in my opinion.

In summary, I agree we should question authority, and you do have to earn respect. But the scales are off if we start with no respect and we are immediately questioning someone we just met.
Lazy S Creations [deleted] 9 years ago
Well said sdiestler, though on one point i'd like to add, as far as questioning authority, it should not be done indiscriminitly. To some extent that can be understood or perhaps misunderstood as defiance. (something akin to "why should I obey the law")

Most people tend to forget, regulation (be it assumed or documented) is in theory at least, in the best interest of the majority. and the good of the majority is considered first.

Looking at some of the complaints about "why cant i take pictures of......." and having been in law enforcement in the past, i understand both sides of the arguement. But looking at it realisticly, Anyone of a terrorist frame of mind and after information would not represent themselves in the stereotypical white robe and towel on the head, o but would try to represent themselves as innocently as possible to blend in.

I may not like it, and i most certainly do everything i can to assure i play within the rules, but like it or not, doing images of questionable landmarks today is going to be questioned in many cases.

For those with the "police are not your friends" attitude, you can bet that attitude shows, and i'd not be surprised if those same individuals complain the loudest about police not doing they're job if they are subjects of a crime.
As individuals its everyones responsibility to find out what appropriate regulations are, and get permission as necessary. In a worst case scenerio that will go a long ways in your defence in court.

If you want something to B***H about, make it something important, like complaining to your government reps about why we're about to see 12 million illegal aliens given amnesty and made citizens, when the first action they made entering our nation was illegal.
www.DanQuan.com 9 years ago
Some of you people apparently do not understand the concept of "authority" and what a police officer or federal agent is.

When a "law officer" interacts with you they are the absolute authority in the relationship. They are not your friend, they have the sole discretion to decide what you will do and what you will not do. You can only decide whether or not you will easily comply or be forced to comply with their choices for you. You have no other choices. You show them your name, tell them where you live, brief them on your current business and intentions, where you are coming from and where you are going and why. If you are respectfully submissive they may allow you a minimum of inconvenience. If you are not they may decide to detain you for an hour or a night without charges, at their discretion, and there is nothing you can do about it except complain.

If you have a "friend", sibling or offspring that is a "law officer" they have sole discretion as to when they will exercise their authority over you and when they will allow you to believe they are your compatriot. If they choose to be "on duty" then you will be forced to comply with their wishes.

We all want to hope and believe that our legislative, executive and judicial officials are above reproach, well at least above average, but that is rarely the case. Just ask the Duke lacrosse team, Joe Wilson or Richard A Jewell. And these are just the names that make headlines big enough to remember, I wonder what we don't know.

Wake up and smell the reality.
nadtz 9 years ago
"As individuals its everyones responsibility to find out what appropriate regulations are, and get permission as necessary. "

That was exactly the point of this post. What I've basically gotten from the responses is various people have heard of some nebulous 'no photography' rule, but no one seems to know exactly what it is (including the people quoting it).

I'm not talking about pictures of a military installation, federal building or the like. The picture I posted earlier is an example of the types of things I usually shoot, and (perhaps my having grown up in NYC shows) I love subways, for all the dingy dirty smelliness of them. They are a part of my daily life and have been since I was in junior high school or so, and are one of those things I like to shoot.

And in fact I *have* checked with as far as Im aware the relevant authorities, and they say "shoot to your hearts content within these guidlines" which I've been doing.

Also the 'stereotypical terrorist' would only be a white robe and turban if you happen to watch CNN all the time and know no history. If you look at (more or less) modern terrorism it started with the French and others during WWII (you are welcome to pick your own date and start from there), moved to the Germans for a while post WWII, the Jews in what later became Isreal, then moved around between europe/middle east/south America during the 60's-90's, America just was not directly affected by a lot of this, so the myopic American mind set has this misinformed idea of Islam (god, black and brought up somewhat Muslim, any more flags to raise?) as the turban wearing AK47 toting... etc. etc. Turbans are mostly a Sunni thing now a days, most Muslims don't wear them (nor are they required dress). I could go on for days but thats getting off topic. Then again I started off topic.

A couple more from my subway wanderings to give an idea of what I'm talking about. I don't consider myself particularly good, but hey, they are mine and I like them and to me thats the point.


nadtz 9 years ago
Dan Quan:

Sorry but that is not true. Yes Officers of the law have powers reaching far beyond that of a normal civilian and most military personnel, but they do not have absolute authority. If they did that would be called a police state, not a republic, there would be no reason for trials, and I wouldn't live here.
www.DanQuan.com Posted 9 years ago. Edited by www.DanQuan.com (member) 9 years ago
I did not say "they have absolute authority".

I said "When a "law officer" interacts with you they are the absolute authority in the relationship."

There is an important difference, and my statement holds up.

You may test the validity of that statement by choosing not to comply next time and report the results back to us.

edit to add:

The Nifong disbarment, Libby sentence, and Bush's overturned constitutional infringements prove we do not live in a police state.

But when they choose to intervene in your life all you can do is complain. Maybe someone will listen.
John Leonard 9 years ago

“Citizens may resist unlawful arrest to the point of taking an arresting officer's life if necessary.” Plummer v. State, 136 Ind. 306. This premise was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case: John Bad Elk v. U.S., 177 U.S. 529. The Court stated: “Where the officer is killed in the course of the disorder which naturally accompanies an attempted arrest that is resisted, the law looks with very different eyes upon the transaction, when the officer had the right to make the arrest, from what it does if the officer had no right. What may be murder in the first case might be nothing more than manslaughter in the other, or the facts might show that no offense had been committed.”

Courtesy of : www.constitution.org/uslaw/defunlaw.htm

I have not read the opinions in John Bad Elk v. US.

Now, You play lawyer when on a street and deciding what is a legal arrest and what is not. It is best to cooperate with an officer for the sake of clearing up any misunderstanding of what is actually going on.

@Dan Quan: you said, ..."When a "law officer" interacts with you they are the absolute authority in the relationship. They are not your friend, they have the sole discretion to decide what you will do and what you will not do".......
This is a very disappointing statement to me. There are bad people everywhere who abuse the system. There are Doctors who kill patients, Mothers who kill their children, and so on. People do not say to kids, "Don't trust your parents, they might kill you". That would be ridiculous. Likewise using the small percentage of officers or other enforcement officials, i.e District Attorneys or Attorney Generals, who are at best inept and at worst criminal to sum up how all law enforcement works is a gross misrepresentation.

Knowledge is power. I tell everyone I know to study the law. An instructor I had in rookie school told me this, "You have to know the law to work the law". In other words how can you enforce the law if you don't know what it says? DO I remember all of the State Laws I read? No, but I understand the process and thought of what is needed to uphold and likewise violate that law when I read it.

It would be an interesting poll to ask how many of the people who complain of unjust treatment have read the U.S. Constitution? (Directed towards those in the US obviously) I have, I did take an oath to uphold it, and then I realized I hadn't read the thing. I got a copy, and all the amendments and read it all. I'm not a legal scholar or professor, but I understand more then some one who had not read the Constitution.

The point here is this: Screaming Conspiracy is a panic approach generally reserved for those who are not informed or do not care to listen to reason. There have been and are things going on that I do not agree with in the government, local, state, and federal. However, I right my representatives. Heck my Congressman's office is like 5 blocks from me. I vote, I help people understand what is going on. Everyone is free to make their choices, there opinions, and speech. Even Dan Quan is entitled to his opinion that police have absolute power. Maybe those opinions are needed as a check to the power they do have. I would say to all listen to reason, look at what people say and if they can back it up with proof. I have proof in the form of case law that police DO NOT have absolute power. Prove that they do have it.

PS- Nifong should go to jail.
nadtz 9 years ago
Dan Quan: every time a cop says "you cant take pictures of that" and I say "sure I can" I would posit you are wrong. I know my rights and have no problem letting anyone know it (and keep documentation in my bag!). I'm not disrespectful, I both understand and appreciate what the police do, even if not always how its done. This does not mean I let them walk all over me.

And saying "absolute authority in the relationship" is indeed the same as saying "the police officer has absolute authority (in the relationship)". If they are not interacting with you then there is no discussion. Thats not to say I dont get your meaning, but it simply isnt true.
Airchinapilot PRO 9 years ago
@spottedpony: "Anyone of a terrorist frame of mind and after information would not represent themselves in the stereotypical white robe and towel on the head, o but would try to represent themselves as innocently as possible to blend in."

Right. Exactly. Like Timothy McVeigh. One of your home grown terrorists.
strobe_flash 9 years ago
@EVERYONE - an awesome thread, really thought provoking - thanks one and all...

I can recommend signing up to Bruce Schneier's monthly newsletter. He's the security guys security guy - speaks an awful lot of sense about the need to balance theatre with safety (and budget). Well worth a read.


>Crypto-Gram is a free monthly e-mail newsletter from security expert Bruce Schneier. Each issue is filled with interesting commentary, pointed critique, and serious debate about security. As head curmudgeon at the table, Schneier explains, debunks, and draws lessons from security stories that make the news. After nine years of publication and with 125,000 readers, Crypto-Gram is the most popular and influential publication on security technology.
GarethDix 9 years ago
definition of security = taking away the freedoms that it is supposed to protect
John Leonard 9 years ago
@cham128- So you don't believe in security. Next time you take a long vacation leave your doors and windows unlocked and opened. That way everyone will have the freedom to come into your house and use your stuff. Please leave your camera equipment on the table where I can see it. =)

Really you can't believe that security takes away our freedom. Maybe you mean oppressive laws take away our freedoms. Then all that is left is to decide what is oppressive. Which is apparently what the debate centers around most of the time.
mvwphoto [deleted] 9 years ago
Enigma: Of course "security" takes away freedoms - at least the way 'security" is used in this context. "Security" is used to mean "restrictions for security's sake". Restrictions take away freedoms.

Now, you may argue that any benefit derived is, or isn't, worth the price. I argue it isn't,. but I am perfectly willing to accept that others think it IS worth the price. Both are valid viewpoints. But we cannot deny that freedoms are being taken away. Try taking an airplane, or buying a car with cash, or taking a picture of a bridge as discussed above. Those are REAL freedoms that are being taken away.

Photography is just one example, but clearly the one we are talking about here.
www.DanQuan.com Posted 9 years ago. Edited by www.DanQuan.com (member) 9 years ago
We are talking about two different things, you are talking about legal authority and I am talking about actual tangible authority. If you or your family has the power, the money or celebrity to resist and prove that you are in the right and they are in the wrong then wonderful, your case can move forward while you are in jail or prison or the hospital or grave. If not then you are just another convicted or harassed individual yelling out “I am innocent”.

Frequently these battles take years and many times the unjustly persecuted or prosecuted citizen is financially or socially ruined or physically deceased by the time they are exonerated. And many times the citizen does not have the resources to fight for justice and they spend their lives in prison. How many innocents are on “Death Row” or serving Life sentences due to negligent or criminal actions of law enforcement or prosecutors? No one knows the answer, but we see people exonerated through new DNA evidence every year. How many more are unjustly persecuted or prosecuted for lesser crimes or infractions and simply do not have the means or the will to seek justice. Many times the infraction and punishment is small enough that it is simple easier to pay the fine or ticket than it is to fight it. But that is not justice, that is pragmatism.
mochzr Posted 9 years ago. Edited by mochzr (member) 9 years ago
this is assanine. you can't even take a picture these days? it's a fucking picture, the same picture you would get if you WALKED in there and saw it for yourself. What are they going to do then, blindfold everyone?? How can you possibly defend this?
fir3bird 9 years ago
kcactionphoto says:

I can understand your frustration, but aggravating authority over the matter is not going to get your case further along at all. The police can legally ask you to cease and desist in anything you are doing, unless doing so risks damage to life and limb.

Yup, this is pretty much true. But until they threaten you with arrest you are only discussing, not "aggravating". Each and every time any one of us get this idiotic treatment we should do the same thing:

First, act polite and calm, and politely ask for their identification. Any police officer legitimately doing their job will comply without complaint. If they refuse, try to remember badge numbers if displayed, but leave the area at once without argument. Angry police officers can ruin your day and you will have *NO* recourse. Like a bad smell, they are best avoided.

Second, stop photographing if they threaten you with arrest or detainment.

Third, write up a synopsis of the encounter and mail it as a complaint to the authority involved. Do not appear in person to make the complaint.

Fourth, email a copy of the complaint to several radio, TV, and print entities in the area.

Fifth, and most important, complain to the local, state, and federal legislators that represent you each and every time this happens.

There are a *FEW* public places where photography should be limited or banned. But damn few. With a modern point and shoot, or digital video camera, terrorists can easily case a location for a future attack without being detected. Police and security harassment of the public is generally done for two main reasons.

An attempt to impress the public that something is being done to prevent terrorism, and to "show the flag", or demonstrate to the true terrorists that the police are on duty.

The most important advice is to just act calm, cool, and collected. I've never been asked to stop photographing. I have been approached by security, and police officers and asked what I was up to. I honestly tell them what I'm up to and generally show them my ID without being asked. This will usually disarm the situation. These people are just like most of us; they have a job to do. If we help them with it things will go better.

But, when the police overstep their bounds it's important to call them on it. There should not be blanket statements like: "Well, since 9-11......." to justify any repressive action that authority makes. Freedom requires vigilance.
fir3bird 9 years ago
kcactionphoto says:

Just as all the blamecasting and fingerpointing went round and round after 9/11, the real root of the problem of security has never been addressed. EVERYONE WANTS TO BE SAFE, NO ONE WANTS TO BE INCONVENIENCED.

If you think the police can protect you from terrorists, you're deluding yourself. The real root of the 9-11 security problem was solved within a year or two of the attack: The airlines locked the doors on the cockpits. PERIOD. The rest of it has been a major waste of time, effort, and money. You can spend every penny the nation has and not ensure security. Just like the rest of "real life", you must accept the fact that you may die at any hour, any day, and any time. The worst problems caused by 9-11 were perpetrated by our own government:

*illegal war in Iraq

*ransacking of personal rights via
the "Patriot Act".
John Leonard 9 years ago
@Dan Quan- Don't get me wrong I understand your point that most people do not have the financial means to hire the Johnny Cochrans and Shapiros of the world. My point in my rant is that ALL persons deserve a trial by jury to determine the justness of the charges brought before them. If every citizen were to at the minimum read some of the law then that jury of your peers would be better informed. Like wise a person is entitled to represent ones self in court. If we understand the law we can aid ourselves in our defense or mount our own defense without the need for expensive lawyers. Imagine where the 12 people sitting in the jury box were at least all somewhat knowledgeable in the law. Do you think the prosecution would have a harder time? Sure they would, they couldn't make emotional remarks and circumstantial evidence stick. The best thing for our legal system is all citizens to 1) Vote and 2) Serve on juries. These are our most basic responsibilities as citizens.

@fir3bird- I'm going to open up a can of worms here.......I'm not going to side if we should or should not have ever gone into Iraq. LET ME REPEAT I AM NOT STATING WITHER IT WRONG OR RIGHT. However, it is not by definition an illegal war. Here is why: 1) The first gulf war which we entered under treaty with Kuwait as they were one of our allies was legal, voted on by congress and the UN (Which for the sake of declaring war the UN does not matter). 2) That war was never ended with an official deceleration of surrender or end of hostilities. It stopped, not ended, with a cease fire agreement. 3) Under the terms of that cease fire Iraq was to comply with certain requirements. Iraq violated those requirements on more then one occasion thus rendering the cease fire null and void. 4) At any point the US and our allies would have been within the terms of the original deceleration of war to resume military action. We however did not.

Now the issue is those points were never laid out to the American people or congress as a reason to resume the Gulf War. Also the issue as to why people think the war is illegal is that Congress never passed a second Deceleration of War. They did not have to as it was still under the terms of the first Deceleration of War. Congress did vote to allow the President to resume military action. So Congress approved the first war and OK'd the resumption of military action. The current war IS NOT by definition illegal.

If it is right or wrong I am not taking sides, history will judge. I do think we have been there long enough. Bring our guys home.
John Leonard 9 years ago
Oh let me add, that I love a good discussion, and I thank everyone for speaking in an intelligent manor on such topics. This is where freedom shines, and we voice our concerns. I think in the old days people gathered in stores and meeting places and held the same discussions. Now we have the internet. By hearing more opinions we all widen our views!
Airchinapilot PRO 9 years ago
the real root of the problem of security has never been addressed.

The sad fact is that 9/11 could have been prevented by a single phone call at the right time to the right people. They knew about bin Laden -- after all he had bombed the U.S.S. Stark -- , they knew there was heightened activity, they even knew the names of half of the perpetrators and knew some of them were in the U.S. learning to fly (but not land) planes. But the information never reached the right people and those who got it never understood its importance. The problem was intelligence and a decision making apparatus that broke down.

We have the same painful security review in Canada. The Air India bombing -- which before 9/11 was the largest act of terrorism perpetrated in North America -- is an acute embarrassment to our intelligence and police officials here. There was a specific threat to that flight. There were tips saying this flight was going to be targeted. And the plane flew anyway because the information was sidelined. Plus, it was matter that seemed to be restricted to an ethnic minority and, well, the government and the police are shockingly whitebread.

Real human intelligence is not sexy and does not gain headlines or polling numbers for politicians. Putting heavily armed cops in front of train stations does little. Try putting that same budget into hiring people who can analyze intelligence -- speak the language -- into shoring up partnerships with foreign intelligence, into spies who are actually seeking out information. All this nonsense about spending billions of dollars on software that can search the internet is BS when they are firing Arabic speakers from the military and intelligence who happen to be gay or maybe they once smoked a joint in university.

Even this is just a way of dealing with problems that come up because of wider issues of worldwide injustice and the decisions our elites make to secure economic power for themselves. Iraq is a permanent U.S. base over strategic oil reserves. It is only because of their gross miscalculation over their efforts to create a client state that people are realizing what a farce it is. If it had gone well the 'war on terror' marketing slogan would still have currency beyond the minority who still believe it.
msknight 9 years ago
UK Update - my legal enquiries have relativley quickly come back and so far have all pointed at the doors of the Citizens Advice Bureau. I have drafted a letter asking for personal advice, and also my opinion that an official pamphlet should help clarify the situation (and photographers can carry around and wave under the noses of the self-wrongly-righteous)

We'll see what happens.
Son Of The Griz 9 years ago
Well... it's an interesting conversation and I had a situation come up a few weeks ago that just blew me clean out of the water.

I was down at the Denver Art Museum with my wife on a random Saturday morning. I had a (rather large) camera bag with me and all of my essential pieces of gear and the 'guards' at the front door -- one old and one a little older than my 32 years and both of them with the IQ of a sponge -- told me that in order to get in I'd have to check my camera bag. I asked "why" with the thought of "no stinkin way am I leaving a couple grand worth of easily-pawned equipment with a minimum-ware museum jockey" and the rest is an incrediblly inane dialogue complete with an ironic ending:

"Why can't I keep my camera bag with me?"
"It's too big." (opens a bracket in a nearby bench which illustrates the maximum handbag size)
"I'm sorry? This is a museum"
"It's 9/11... Homeland Security."
"In a museum?"
"State and federal laws limit the size of bags that can be taken into public buildings, it happened after 9/11."
"What does 9/11 have to do with going to the art museum?"
"It's a Homeland Security Rule, but you can check your bag for 25 cents over there..."
"I don't want to check this, it's a camera bag"
"I'm sorry, sir, that's the law, you can take your camera with you, it's just your bag is too big, according to the regulations"
"Huh? I'm not checking my camera bag. What's the problem?"
"It's regulations, you can't have a bag bigger than this inside."

At this point my mind is running through every possible scenario where a terrorist might be thwarted by not being able to carry anything larger than a big purse into the museum. The rules seemed so arbitrary, so arcane and irrelevant.

After that, a rambling explanation of the rules that evades logic and common sense followed, but I'd lost interest in DHS beaurocracy and just wanted to leave. My wife and I left the then-deserted art museum, walked across the courtyard to the public library, buzzing with people, and walked right in -- large camera bag and all.
very1silent PRO 9 years ago
dschlier: There are two problems with depending on that court decision for your safety: The first is that you're talking about a single appeals court, so it isn't clear that the ruling is applicable in other parts of the country. The second is that the Bush administration has quite loudly asserted that it can ignore the law when it comes to "terrorism" related issues, and thanks to years of right-wing demonization of courts and judges, there are a whole lot of people who are willing to ignore the law when asked.

In addition, being able to file a civil suit is all very nice and well, but it doesn't do you much good after you've been driven insane by years of sensory deprivation or being forced to listen to your children scream while their testicles are being crushed.
patrick austin 9 years ago
From a purely human perspective, have a _little_ bit of compassion for the cops in this sort of situation. They're generally not stupid people, but you can't expect them to know _every_ law.

When you start doing stuff that falls outside the realm of common legal knowledge (ie, if you weren't a photographer would you know the law?) you're going to get hassled from time to time. Period. The police have a pretty simple MO: if they know it's illegal, they check it out. Even if it just _looks_ suspicious, they check it out. Think sketchy guy walking around your neighborhood, peering in front doors: do you want them to stop and talk to that guy or should they throw up their hands and drive away because he hasn't done anything explicitly illegal?

Basically here's your scenario:
1) 80% of the time, if you're polite and CALMLY explain what you're doing, they'll leave you alone. I've even had a amateur photographer cop stop, ask a bunch of questions, and then wound up talking about all the cool abandoned buildings around Detroit.
2) 10% of the time they'll continue to harass you until you leave or....
3) 10% of the time they'll haul you off and figure the lawyers will determine whether or not you were, in fact, doing something wrong. Then...
4) 9% of the time the legal system will find in your favor.
5) 1% of the time you are going to find yourself seriously screwed in one way or another.

Personally, I stop pushing my luck at step #1. :)

This isn't to say that the system isn't broken, or that we've not become a bunch of paranoids, but _most_ cops are simply tools of the state out trying to do an often unpleasant job.
BeanEater Posted 9 years ago. Edited by BeanEater (member) 9 years ago
msknight - I look forward to seeing the response.

I work for a government body (in the UK) and today was issued with a procedure note supposedly protecting children and vulnerable adults. In it it states that photography on any land including land owned (by the government body) with public access requires authority in writing from the appropriate body. It even places the responsibility on staff to intervene if photographs are being taken.

Whilst this is primarily aimed at protecting a vulnerable group of society the procedures do not differentiate between subject matter sufficiently and could be used against photographers in general.

I am about to challenge this as the whole thing is badly thought out and unnecessarily restrictive, whilst I wouldn't stop a family taking photos at the park, I am not sure how often I could justify stopping someone taking photos of kids playing etc.. I deliberately avoid shots of children I don't know the parents of, but could I be stopped for taking pictures of children with their parents permission? Or just stopped taking photos in general.

The boundary here is the use of the description that anyone taking pictures on 'land owned' where it is a public place or not that worries me. It will be interesting to see if anyone gets approached by some do-gooder trying to enforce this.

Rant over.
ExNihilo [deleted] 9 years ago
Maybe not exactly how I'd have responded, but good job nonetheless.
msknight 9 years ago
BeanEater - interesting, but fortunately it is only a procedure note. If that kind of things makes it in to law then something is severely screwy somewhere. I'll be taking the letter in to CAB tomorrow; I work in the building next door.
Dave Schlier PRO 9 years ago
very1silent: there have been a number of recent findings against the Bush administration; the above ruling is the latest. As far as crushing my children's testicles, under current US law that would be an illegal act. It would also be difficult, because my kids are gyrls (please note I'm trying to raise feminists ;<) ). Right now, detaining someone (especially someone labeled 'terrorist') is not illegal but the issue is now in considerable doubt. Yeah! I am ticked off about what my country is doing in Gitmo and other places.

What can we do to ensure that we don't live in the police state that so many in this thread seem to fear? First question: if you can, do you exercise your right to vote? If you can't, I'm sorry. If you do, great! If you don't, stop complaining until you go out, get registered and vote. Will that by itself fix anything. No. But if enough people become involved, it is much harder for the will of the minority to triumph (think MLK, or Ghandi) I think Carlos said it best above. it is we who have to ensure liberty for our children. If we care enough.
mvwphoto [deleted] 9 years ago
DSchlier: I am very much afraid is is the vast MAJORITY, not the minority, who put thinking on hold when politicians mention "security", "our kids", "safety", "national pride", and such. I am guessing 80% are always in favour of anything that uses those justifications....
very1silent PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by very1silent (member) 9 years ago
dschilier: The problem is that there's a large number of people out there with the belief that nothing is illegal if they're doing it to "combat terrorism." In particular, John Yoo, who wrote one of the earlier memos authorizing the use of torture, gave a radio interview in which he indicated that it would be ok to "crush the testicles of children" if the President thought it necessary for national security.

Why should I trust these people to pay attention to the courts?
mvwphoto [deleted] 9 years ago
Oh, and, DSchlier... excuse me, all, for being totally OT within OT... but, um, do I deduce from your post that "gyrls" is feminist? Does that mean "girls" is anti-feminist? (masculist?) tell me more!
Dave Schlier PRO 9 years ago
Sigh... I knew I shoulda kept my mouth shut. Oh well.

And did we not not suffer international and internal outrage (well maybe not outrage) because of it? The vast majority is, BTW, coming around because we, once again, are (re)discovering that simplistic solutions to complex problems are doomed to failure. It has taken 3500 American lives, an untold number of Iraqi lives and several years to see it. However, I noticed that neither mvwphoto or very1silent didn't answer or respond, other than to return that the vast majority is in favor. So, what's your solution(s)? You don't get to say 'I'll move'. It's not original.

Mvwphoto, gyrl is a play on womyn (which has been claimed by some feminists as correct where woman isn't - I don't claim it so, but anyway...). Or from an Avril Lavigne song. Or I missed the 'i' and got the 'y' . Take your pyck. In all seriousness though, if you've lived through current pop culture with a teenager, you learn very quickly that girls are simply sex objects. I strongly object to the 'simply' part of that statement. My kids (and my wife) are much more than body parts.
mvwphoto [deleted] 9 years ago
Respond? To what a solution might be?

I grew up in the UK of the IRA, in the 1970s. The solution there (at that time: the UK has changed now) was NOT to be intimidated, NOT to change our way of life, and NOT to impose laws that break more than they fix. If we make the USA like a Middle East country, we have lost. <My solution is to look terrosists in the face and say "you will never intimidate us; we will go on enjoying the freedom to take pictures where we want. And you will NOT stop us".

Gyrls.. I get it.

My kids are boys. (Bois?)
www.DanQuan.com Posted 9 years ago. Edited by www.DanQuan.com (member) 9 years ago
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