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Citizen Photographers v. The Police? 407

Posted by timothy
from the oh-no dept.
Several hundred readers commented on yesterday's Slashdot post about citizens arrested for photographing police either in public or in the photographer's own property. Read on for some of the comments which defined the conversation in today's Backslash summary.
Anthony Boyd is one of the readers whose inclination to believe the police is mitigated by the facts as reported in the case of Philadelphia's Neftaly Cruz:

"Police told Hairston that they did take Cruz into to custody, but they said Cruz was not on his property when they arrested him."

OK. I'm more inclined to believe the cops... wait a second...

"A neighbor said she witnessed the incident and could not believe what she saw."

"He opened up the gate and Neffy was coming down and he went up to Neffy, pulled him down...

Oh, you dumb, dumb cops. Of course Neftaly Cruz was "not on his property" during the arrest if you went onto his property and dragged him off! Why would you do that in front of witnesses?

To tomstdenis's argument that, even if the police really did violate people's rights, they should be treated leniently because "[P]olice are people and do bad things," reader alienmole points out a crucial difference:

The difference is that police have powers which ordinary citizens don't have, so when police do bad things, it can have severe consequences. Quite often, they're not held accountable for that, which again results from an abuse of power. That's what this is all about: accountability for the actions of public servants, particularly those with extraordinary powers. Cops in general are not the enemy, but bad cops are certainly an enemy which needs to be guarded against and eradicated whenever possible.

Reader BINC wants to know whether Pennsylvania actually has a law which would illegalize Neftaly Cruz's cellphone photo of police in the act of arresting a suspect. He writes

This seems to be part of a national push. In Montana it extends beyond photography. I have recently been threatened with being charged with "Obstructing" for not yielding to a warrantless search of my property, so I looked it up. See data.opi.mt.gov/bills/mca/45/7/45-7-302.htm especially paragraph (2). !!

General defense in Montana is insisting on trial by jury — provided one represents himself; otherwise it invites rapid bankruptcy — but trial by jury is not guaranteed by all states' consitutions for all crimes.

Many readers linked to online information and commentary on the recognized rights of photographers (at least in the U.S.). Reader pen was one of several to point to Bert Krages' site:

Here is a handy pamphlet called The Photographer's Right that provides some advice for dealing with a situation like this.

Reader hacker linked to an informative PDF and offers a useful summary:

Except in special circumstances (e.g., certain government facilities), there are no laws prohibiting the taking of photographs on public or private property. If you can be there, you can take pictures there: streets, malls, parking lots, office buildings. You do not need permission to do so, even on private property.

Trespassing laws naturally apply. If a property owner demands you leave, you must. But if a place is open to the public — a mall, office-building lobby, etc. — permission to enter is assumed (although it can be revoked).

In terms of the law, trespass and photography are separate events; the former is illegal, but the latter is not. Only if the use of photographic equipment itself violates a person's privacy (e.g., by using a long lens to look into someone's private room) might it violate privacy law. Further, while people have a right of privacy, businesses do not except as it relates to trade secrets.

Subject to specific limits, photographers can publish any photos they take, provided those photos do not violate the privacy of the subject. This includes photos taken while trespassing or otherwise being someplace they shouldn't be. Taking photos and publishing photos are two separate issues.

Please read the full PDF here with much more detail. I print copies of this on 4x5 index cards and keep them with me at all times when I'm taking photos in any public place.

Also, if someone demands your "film" or your camera, let them know that it is not legal for them to take it, unless you have been arrested of a crime involving that camera and that film. The crime for someone to demand and take your camera or film, is called theft, and threatening to do so (or to "break your camera"), is called coercion. Don't tolerate either of them, and if your equipment IS taken or broken, call the police and file charges.

PsychosisC contributed a link to a short video called " BUSTED - The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters," writing "I've only had two encounters with police officers... but both of them sort of leave me thinking less of them."

Rights on paper aside, many readers posted horror stories of arrest-happy police; leereyno pointed to one that made the news in the Mid-Atlantic region, writing

[T]here does seem to be an increase in cases of police officers getting confused and thinking they work for the Gestapo. There was a case a month back or so where the daughter of a police officer was arrested for "trespassing." She and a friend were lost and had stopped to ask a police officer for directions. The officer refused to help them, stating that they would have to find their own way out. A few moments later they spotted another officer and drove over to where he was to ask for help, at which point the first officer rushed over and berated them for daring to ask her partner for help when she had already told them to get lost. ... A few minutes later these same officers arrested them for "trespassing" ..... on a public street. The girl and her friend spent the night in jail. They weren't charged of course because they hadn't committed any crime.

I don't know how this case turned out for the officers involved, but it shows a serious lack of oversight when two cops are able to run wild and abuse the public in that manner.

[...]

In most parts of the world, being a police officer is met with about the same level of respect as a personal injury lawyer would be here, if not less. The police are held in contempt because in most parts of the world, particularly the 3rd world, corruption and abuse are almost part of the job. Police officers in the U.S. are, at least among healthy segments of society, viewed with respect if not admiration. But this esteem is fragile because at the end of the day the police are armed agents of the state and that makes them difficult to love. So when officers abuse and betray the trust of the public and make false arrests, all it does is make life that much more difficult for them and and their fellow officers. Things like these are noticed, and remembered.

According to reader rs79, this sort of thing on wouldn't happen north of the border; rs79 writes "I've photographed cops here in Canada arresting people a couple of times. They don't care." To this, RajivSLK says

It's not so rosy up here in Canada. This past Canada Day the Victoria police instituted a policy of mandatory searches on all buses heading downtown. They can get away with this because, on Canada Day, the bus is used mostly by young people going to clubs. I objected to being searched thinking that I would simply not be allowed back on the bus. Instead, to my complete surprise, the officer began to become very verbally abusive and I was arrested for "Drunk and Disorderly Conduct."

No breathalizer, no sobriety test, nothing. 100% solely based upon the officers "observation." I was processed and thrown into a dirty cement holding cell that lacked even toilet paper let alone a bed. As it stands, the Victoria police can arrest anyone at anytime under the charge of "Drunk and Disorderly" with no evidence and no sobriety test.

I can't wait for the day when *I* can video tape everything. That should provide a little balance to things.

ZorbaTHut suggests the sort of technological answer that RajivSLK's looking for, which might remind Neal Stephenson fans of the "gargoyles" in Snowcrash.

I've been waiting for a mini-stealth-camera-and-recorder to appear. I want a little device, the size of a cellphone camera, that fits in a button or a necklace or a belt buckle or something equally inconspicuous. It should be connected to a waist controller, which would include battery pack, storage (hard drive or flash), and wifi. Wifi so that, whenever it can find an available internet connection, it can upload its contents to a secure server located elsewhere.

Just imagine that. "Sorry sir, you took a picture of something you weren't supposed to. I'm going to have to confiscate your camera." "The pictures are already in Texas, and in ten minutes they'll be posted online. Same as the recording of what you're saying right now. You really want to illegally take my possessions, Officer Frank, Number 3894?"


Many thanks to the readers (especially those quoted above) whose comments informed this discussion.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Citizen Photographers v. The Police?

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  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:17PM (#15819547)
    This was a local police department, they were in the wrong, they guy was released, and hopefully the citizen and/or others who are concerned will press this so that the officer(s) involved are subject to some sort of corrective action.

    This is, however, NOT representative of a "police state" or anything like what some in the original article went on about. This is also not 1984, nor is it because of the "environment fostered by the PATRIOT Act" or the Bush administration, or anything similar.

    It's an action of a local municipal police department, period. These inappropriate actions have been executed by people in positions of authority since the beginning of time. The point is we heard about it, it got covered, and hopefully it will be corrected. And hopefully the police department will issue a directive to think twice before they harass and/or arrest other citizens who aren't doing anything wrong from exercising their own rights.
    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:26PM (#15819642) Homepage Journal
      This is, however, NOT representative of a "police state" or anything like what some in the original article went on about. This is also not 1984, nor is it because of the "environment fostered by the PATRIOT Act" or the Bush administration, or anything similar.

      Holy shit! I think we just found the world's only omniscient individual.

      First of all, the future depicted in 1984 is fast approaching, or did you miss the fact that there's a lawsuit proceeding (besides the one just thrown out) against AT&T for allowing the feds to tap their communications? Sure, it's twenty years late, but he was remarkably aware of the date.

      is because of the environment fostered by the PATRIOT act. In particular, law enforcement all over the country is utilizing the U SAP AT RIOT act to bypass process and protection. Did you really think that attitude wouldn't become essentially endemic of the freedom-less atmosphere engendered by that piece of trash legislation?

      It's an action of a local municipal police department, period.

      The corellary to "actions have consequences" is that they also have causes. This didn't just come out of nowhere. Everything that you can see is the result of pressure in other forces. Period. This works at all levels, in all systems; they're not all genetic, but ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. When you see light, that's the result of photons; those photons were in turn released when an electron's energy state was reduced; that in turn occurred because it was first increased. "Pressure" - or more to the point energy - makes things happen.

      • I have absolutely no doubt your comment will be quickly moderated up to +5, with a flurry of violent agreement.

        But, to answer your questions honestly:

        No, I don't "see" 1984 coming. All I see is a government availing itself of everything possible technologically to do what it believes is the right thing, with technology enabling the kind of massive, omnibus monitoring. Can this be abused? Of that I have no doubt. Do I simultaneously believe that, *at present*, it was done with the sole goal of attempting to
        • by Tony (765) on Monday July 31, 2006 @03:38PM (#15820327) Journal
          All I see is a government availing itself of everything possible technologically to do what it believes is the right thing, with technology enabling the kind of massive, omnibus monitoring.

          This may be all you see. I've noticed a lot of people are willing to turn a blind eye on this (and the last) administration.

          If the government is only trying to protect us, why are they so quick to step outside the bounds of legality to accomplish its goals? Why have they often resorted to lies and misdirection to accomplish their goals? Why have they so readily blocked investigations that might clear up their honor?

          My Dad used to tell me, "If they act untrustworthy, they probably are untrustworthy." Respect and trust are to be earned, not demanded, nor due. This current administration has destroyed the little bit of trust and respect I had after the *last* administration.

          The government that demands transparency from its citizens, but is in turn completely opaque, is hiding something dishonorable. *That* is why some of us make a big deal about seemingly insignificant details. After all, most of us realize it takes a lot of pixels to make a picture.

          Personally, I'm glad we're making a big deal about this. Part of it is education. There are too many people who think police have the right to infringe on *your* right with no just cause. Too many people are unaware that we as citizens *have* many rights.

          And finally, it's always nice to see a bully get his come-uppance. I really hope that fucker gets nailed to the wall. I mean, literally. I've got a hammer they could use.
        • by jimicus (737525) on Monday July 31, 2006 @04:28PM (#15820730)
          All I see is a government availing itself of everything possible technologically to do what it believes is the right thing, with technology enabling the kind of massive, omnibus monitoring.

          This is a fairly accurate description of 1984, though perhaps the justification is different.
        • We've always been headed towards a police state. The natural tendency of any government is to assume more power, not less. The same force works in a democracy as it does in a dictatorship, the majority will follow this tendency to assume more power over the minority. It proceeds through three "tipping points" that eventually lead to societal collapse.

          The rub is, that at this point in the development of our society, the minority has no realistic, effective way to counteract the power of the majority, so the
        • Your doublethink is doubleplusgood. You are a good revolutionary.

          Big hugs,
          Big Brother
      • I think the big deal here is NOT that big brother had a bunch of cameras. Our own government has a lot of cameras, and others do too. Big deal. The problem as I see it is that Winston Smith and his fellows didn't have their own cameras. Only Big Brother had cameras.

        When we can't take pictures of our police and our government, and document either the criminal activities or just as importantly the good things that police do, then it's something to worry about.

        Citizens, point your cameras at the government.
    • by Andy Gardner (850877) on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:34PM (#15819721)
      Where were the repercussions for the offending officer though?

      The simple fact is the police can arrest you at anytime if they don't like what your doing, under the guise of being drunk/abusive/offensive etc. It's more hassle than its worth to try and make a complaint and even then it's unlikely any action will be taken (your word against theirs) also police are just people and 'people make mistakes'. So what happens is as a citizen do you stand up and have the inconvinience of spending the night in a cell? no, it ends up being far easier to just do as they say...

      • No, there haven't been repercussions yet, but there may me (and may already have been internally and unofficially). And if this was indeed wrongful arrest/imprisonment, there may be other more serious ramifications. Now, I understand what you're saying: the guy was still arrested, and if he wants to pursue it, he's got to waste even MORE of his time, and possibly raise the ire of even more cops. Sure, I agree with all that. But the point is, we're all discussing this, and the details of what happened are ou
    • It's an action of a local municipal police department, period.

      How many of these incidents have to occur before it's not just a single action by a single officer?

      How many people have to have their rights trampled before it's necessary to do something about it?

      This single instance is indicative of the actions that lead many of us to have a growing concern about the role of law enforcement (from the very top of the federal level all the way down to local yokels) with respect to the rights of the individual.

    • by EaglesNest (524150) on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:42PM (#15819788)
      I agree with the parent post, and yes, I agree with the criticism of this incendent. I don't think it's representative of police nationwide. After all, the media made it public knowledge based on the word of the victim; the ACLU may be getting involved (the family should sue -- they have a case); and there is already an investigation. So the good news here is that it's a big deal. When is it time to start worrying, and not just making a fuss about it, but taking real action against a police state? That time will come when incidents do not provoke the kind of outrage we have seen here. I understand how police -- especially unseasoned patrolmen -- can become jaded quickly without having the experience or training to know how to deal with a situtation they don't like. Police so often get a very warped view of the world since they most often are responding to terrible situations and people who would have very bad karma on Slashdot.
    • by Lord Kano (13027) on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:46PM (#15819819) Homepage Journal
      the officer(s) involved are subject to some sort of corrective action.

      Some sort? They should be subjected to dismissal and incarceration.

      This is, however, NOT representative of a "police state" or anything like what some in the original article went on about.

      What this does represent is that for the first time, middle-class white America is subjected to the same kinds of abuses that poor and/or minority comminunities have been for decades.

      That's what's new here. That's what's different.

      LK
    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday July 31, 2006 @03:00PM (#15819964)

      This is, however, NOT representative of a "police state" or anything like what some in the original article went on about. This is also not 1984, nor is it because of the "environment fostered by the PATRIOT Act" or the Bush administration, or anything similar.

      Bullshit. You don't read sites like photo.net, where stories of police harassment and intimidation are the norm, not the exception, and many photographers have stopped trying to photograph anything they think they might get in the slightest trouble over.

      • Photography student is detained and his IDs 'reviewed' after taking night-time photos of a firehouse [photo.net].
      • Man was physically intimidated and threatened by private security and police after photographing, from public property, a commercial chemical plant.
      • Young photojournalism student in Provincetown is roughed up by Provincetown police after shooting some pictures of cops beating a bunch of drunks.
      • MBTA has never permitted photography anywhere on its property, and is well known for its officers harassing photographers. NYC just instituted a no-photography rule in the last year or two.
      • Vacationers at the Golden Gate Bridge have had film confiscated for taking pictures of the bridge. When they said they were just tourists, they were told to buy a postcard from the vendor nearby. Security risk, or helping the postcard sellers?
      • Photograhpers are often harassed for taking pictures of public buildings, bridges, reservoirs, dams, etc. It has been a prevalent experience that anyone with a camera taking a picture of some sort of infrastructure is deemed a potential terrorist, or terrorism is trotted out as an excuse (see the Golden Gate postcard fiasco.)
      • Parents are reported to police by film development labs for taking pictures of their babies playing in the bath and have been threatened with having their children removed from them.

      Those are just the few examples that immediately come to mind.

      Try this search on for size [google.com]. Add on fun keywords like "harassment","arrested", "questioned", etc.

      People are rotuinely roughened up, threatened with arrest or being "reported" to the FBI, arrested and detained then released before the charge-or-release 24 hours are up, lied to about their rights, what the law is, or what they are criminally liable for, had film/cards confiscated, their IDs demanded (would it scare you more if I called them "papers"?), and so on. These days just about anything gets you on various watch lists and that means even more fun.

      We live in a country where you can be arrested for taking a picture of a bridge on vacation and get harassed trying to board a flight home because you were placed on a "watch" or "no fly" list. Wake up and smell the fucking coffee- we're fast headed the way of fascist and communist countries.

    • Tried to take a picture of the President lately? Hell, tried to go to a Bush even lately? Did you sign you loyalty oath? No? THen you didn't get in.
    • On the contrary, this is _representative_ of a police state. Whether the US has _become_ a police state or is becoming a police state is debatable, but certainly the fact that police commonly arrest people for doing something that isn't in _their_ best interest regardless of whether they have broken the law _is_ representative of a police state. The difference between a police state and a free state is how often that happens (more often lately it seems) and how the people react to it.
    • The cops thought they could arrest someone for taking their photographs because something in their training led them to believe that they could do so. Now, that was either their police academy training, or something in a more recent training exercise. Based on the sort of things I've been hearing about how federal guidelines are being interpreted, I think the argument that this was caused by "the environment fostered by the USA PATRIOT Act" cannot be so lightly dismissed.
  • Public place... (Score:2, Informative)

    by _PimpDaddy7_ (415866)
    If you are in a public setting and can be photographed, why can't you photograph a police officer in a public setting?

    • You can. The police were in the wrong here. That's why the guy was released and hasn't been charged with anything. He did nothing wrong. Just some local city cops pissed off that someone was taking pictures of them, and then overreacting. Nothing more, nothing less. No national conspiracy, no general "police vs citizen photographers" crisis.
      • Re:Public place... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by finkployd (12902) * on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:41PM (#15819774) Homepage
        The conspiracy is that this cop will still have his job tomorrow, when he has clearly shown that he does not deserve it. Abusing his power and violating the public trust should be grounds for immediate dismissal. Sadly, he will probably be congratulated in the locker room for showing one of those uppity photo-jerks who is boss and making others think twice.

        Finkployd
        • Re:Public place... (Score:3, Informative)

          by jagger (23047) *
          This officer deserves a reprimand for this but not outright dismissal. If there is a pattern of this with an officer then dismissal would be appropriate but we do need to cut people some slack when it comes to things like this.

          I would say that a public apology from the Police Department and an official statment saying that what the person did was not illegal would be nice as well. This would help dispel the image that photographing the police is a crime.

          I do not like abuse of power by the police we do need
          • This officer deserves a reprimand for this but not outright dismissal. If there is a pattern of this with an officer then dismissal would be appropriate but we do need to cut people some slack when it comes to things like this.

            No you do not. When you give someone a gun, a ton of power, and the ability to arrest/detain everyone else, that person needs to be held to a much higher standard. Abusing that power is NEVER EVER acceptable, and is a violation of the public trust. Second chances are for middle manage
          • Re:Public place... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by falconwolf (725481)

            we do need to cut people some slack when it comes to things like this.

            What kind of slack did the officer give the kid?

            Falcon
  • simple as that. the state can watch you, but you cannot watch it. Pretty amusing considering we all pay their way. Sort of like you buying CD and getting punched in the face at random by the cashier and there is NOTHING you can do about it. I never understand people that call for bigger government.

    This is why you can't rely on the police, the courts, judges, anyone. They all work for the government, they are all agents of the state. Much like how the White House can get cases dismissed, judges are just ano
    • Except for that we can "watch" the state, since it got covered by multiple news outlets, the details were revealed, the guy was released and not charged, and we're talking about it now.

      Oops.
    • Wrong, Sir, wrong! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by megaditto (982598) on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:39PM (#15819756)
      In America, the Government is the People. All of us. You and me. We get to voice our opintion on things. If we do not like something, we change it by voting.

      I fully empathize with people from Kraplickistan living under a dictatorship. If you live in America however, you have no excuses if you chose not to participate.

      Say you don't like the good folks at the White House; who's stopping you from writing to your Senator, going door-to-door to get the vote out, starting up a collection for your favorite party. Starting up your own damn party, if you don't like any existing one.

      Yes, I understand it is hard work, and it is much easier to sit at home instead of trying to change the system, but at least folks like you should have the courtesy not to stop being a whiney little bitch!

      Apathetic jerks like yourself make me sick to my stomach!
      • What kind of fairyland do you live in?
      • by scribblej (195445)
        How can I change the system? I don't have a vote.

        No, I don't mean that I'm convicted of a felony, or an illegal immigrant. I'm a natural-born US citizen with a clean record over the age of 18.

        But I still don't have a vote.

        Why?

        The electoral college. I can vote if I want, but my vote doesn't count. The votes from the Electoral College do count. And you know what? They're under zero obligation to vote the way I voted, or the way I want them to vote -- even if my vote is in the majority. They can vote ho
        • In reality, you've little say over the how the President is being selected- for the reasons you state in your post. However, you DO have a say over how your Representative and your Senators get selected from the populace. The President gets to sign things into law, choose potential Supreme Court appointments (which then get approved by the Senate...), but he doesn't QUITE get to make laws unless Congress isn't doing it's job like it's supposed to. That's Congress' job. For all of your talk of not ha
      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday July 31, 2006 @03:48PM (#15820407) Journal
        Hogwash. If you think that the power truly rests with the people, you are either very much the optimist, or you're deluding yourself (or both). I'm a cynic, but it appears that you've drunk the kool-aid we've all been fed since our first days of civics lessons in school.

        Two simple reasons why our government is no longer (if it ever was) for and by the people:

        (1) Secrecy. When you can;t find out what your government is doing, how are you supposed to act against it in a legal manner?
        (2) Money. Big money interests (both corporations and individuals) have an undue amount of influence in our political system.

        I personally participate in the democratic in many ways, from voting to writing letters to calling my state legislators, to attending functions they'll be at in order to press my point(s). Nevertheless, the actions of the individual (even the actions of hundreds) are far from a panacea to our civic problems.

        Government may have used to be the people. Not so any longer, and it's important to recognize that the bureaucratic government holds power that the electorate (us) can't counter. Career politicians, career bureacrats, government agencies whose very existence is secret, monies spent on secret budgets that no one is accountable for...

        My tinfoil hat is on... because it's not paranoia if they ARE really monitoring your actions (I've been pulled out of line to be searched waiting to board a plane because my FBI file lists me as an agitator. Had to fly into SEA-TAC during the WTO meeting pre-9/11 for business.)
  • by neonprimetime (528653) on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:22PM (#15819607) Homepage
    even if the police really did violate people's rights, they should be treated leniently because "[P]olice are people and do bad things"

    If the [P]olice do something wrong, they should be [P]unished just like the rest of us!
    • If the [P]olice do something wrong, they should be [P]unished just like the rest of us!
      No! They should be punished far worse than the rest of us. They want the courts to "trust" their discression more than they trust criminals, so they must be more trustworthy than the criminals.

      If a cop gets a misdemeanor, break his legs. If a cop commits a felony, hang him.
    • by finkployd (12902) * on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:38PM (#15819751) Homepage
      If the [P]olice do something wrong, they should be [P]unished just like the rest of us!

      Yes they should, and they should also IMMEDIATELY lose their job. They are given powers and abilities above that of normal citizens and with that comes responsibility. We place our trust in them and once one of them violates that trust there is absolutely no reason at all to keep them. A crooked or corrupt cop is a much greater risk to society than your average joe.

      If a cop is caught abusing his power, violating the law, or anything of that nature, he needs to be fired ASAP. No cushy desk job, no paid leave, gone. We as a society have become far too accepting of crooked cops and the police community is far to protective of its own, even when they are giving all a bad name.

      Finkployd
      • Immediately lose their job?

        Or did you mean immediately after they've been given a fair trial, had the right to legal counsel, had the right to appeals, etc. and so forth?

        I'm not saying this case is one in which there is a lot of doubt, but there are two sides to a lot of stories. Dismissing your police without appropriate compensation (just turfing them out) would (one would think) demand a high level of proof in a court of law to back it up. Just an accusation would hardly be sufficient. At least not if yo
  • by BWJones (18351) * on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:23PM (#15819618) Homepage Journal
    I've had a couple [utah.edu] of incidents [utah.edu] as well with police and now city run facilities where people want to restrict photography. It's getting really discouraging for folks that enjoy photography and all anyone has to do is invoke the spectre of "National Security".

    • http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0615,ferguson,728 [villagevoice.com] Since 2003, the NYPD has been filming protesters at political demonstrations, regardless of whether anything illegal's going on. City lawyers were in court last month defending the practice, arguing that what happens in public view is fair game. But police evidently aren't so keen on surveillance when the cameras are turned on them--particularly when those cameras show them abusing free-street-parking privileges. Transporter_ii
  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:24PM (#15819620) Homepage Journal
    You can get arrested for pretty near anything. Even on "trumped up" charges. Getting convicted is another matter. If the guy in Philly has a civil case, I expect he'll press it. If he wins, it's payday.
    • Indeed, and I'm glad at least one person here realizes it.

      In fact, this guy's probably going to come out of this better than he came in, not to mention the officer(s) involved are probably ultimately going to be reprimanded.
    • by nuggz (69912) on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:51PM (#15819878) Homepage
      Being arrested IS a penalty in itself.

      When a foreigner enters the US they don't ask if you've been convicted of a crime, they ask if you've "ever been arrested".

      Also an arrest in many areas means you get fingerprinted and put in the databases. Plus in more and more places you have to give a DNA sample.
      • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Monday July 31, 2006 @03:08PM (#15820037) Homepage Journal
        That's very true, not only for the bad marks on your paperwork and such, but because of the immediate threats that an arrested person faces.

        Everything in your personal life shuts down for however long it takes to process you. Apart from the "one phone call," there's no way to let everyone who needs to know that you're alive and well instead of just missing. Dependents are a whole other issue in themselves. There could be everything from a pet that doesn't get fed to a grandmother who doesn't get reminded to take her pills to children who don't get picked up from school. The emotional stress your family goes through seeing you dragged off in handcuffs or simply not coming home when you should is really not measurable. And woe be to the single parent in this situation..

        Aside from family obligations, there are the business ones. How important are you at your job? Are you the type of employee who can be covered for for a day or two? Will your employers react well to your excuse the next day? Never mind that if you're a sole proprietor of a struggling business, the whole thing could be pretty much destroyed by nobody opening the door for a day.

        Basically, no matter how innocent you are, being arrested can screw with your life and any others involved in it on a major scale.
      • by morcheeba (260908) * on Monday July 31, 2006 @05:24PM (#15821138) Journal
        True. In Philly, they won't return all your bail money [2600.com] even if the judge finds the charges ridiculous. This guy is out 1 week of jail and $750, for no good reason.
    • Being convicted for this would be completely asinine, but "just arrested" doesn't make much better.
      Having cops intimidate and arrest people would be enough to scare most from doing whatever they were doing. Do you think people would be willing to get arrested every time they see the police doing something? I don't think so, most would just turn away and "forget" about ever seeing anything.
  • by guruevi (827432) <evi AT smokingcube DOT be> on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:30PM (#15819686) Homepage
    that usually they don't or hardly get punished or even rewarded (they get 1-3 days paid leave) for doing such things. Another problem is that if you go after them (using an expensive lawyer) you can hardly sue for damages (spending a night in jail) because they have the right to put you in jail for a long time (48h or look @ Gitmo) without even charging you with anything. If the police wants to be anal they can hold you even longer (ongoing investigation without charging you) and I heard of people spending a week in jail without getting anything back (no damages rewarded, nearly lost their job, the neighbourhood viewing them as criminals) while they were not doing anything wrong (unless you say that a peaceful demonstration is illegal). The officers just got their kicks out of it. Then they wonder why they get shot (recently 2 officers in this area got shot) or dragged behind an ATV. I recently heard of someone in this area that got EXECUTED (as in shot after being in custody) according to witnesses after resisting an arrest warrant. 3 witnesses against a small police force don't stand up in court so what are we going to do about it. Yes this was the USA.
    • Kevin Mitnick was put in jail for 3 years including 8 consecutive months of solitary confinement - WITHOUT A TRIAL!!!
  • by MagicMike (7992) on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:38PM (#15819748) Homepage

    Did you guys read that? You should:

    http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/mca/45/7/45-7-302.htm [mt.gov]

    "It is no defense to a prosecution under this section that the peace officer was acting in an illegal manner, provided that the peace officer was acting under the peace officer's official authority."

    What???

    So, if the police are acting illegally by not having a warrant to search my house and asking to search it anyway, I'm obstructing and this law makes it legal?

    Ohhh - but they were acting under official authority. That's so comforting.
    • If you prevent them or resist them performing the illegal search, yes you are obstructing.

      If you simply do not consent this isn't obstruction. If they acted improperly the evidence should be disallowed if it is actually found to be an illegal search. And they may be reprimanded for their behaviour.
    • I imagine that that portion of the law would be unconstitutional. After all, how can an officer act illegally, yet still be acting "under the peace officer's official authority"? That would mean that the government can authorize it's agents to be 'above the law'. Last I checked, even the President is (legally) not above the law.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @02:51PM (#15819885)
    I feel that your best defense in these situations is to call 911, if possible. No, it won't help you at that immediate point in time, but now there is a recording of the conversation you had with the law enforcement agent: Police, Sheriff, FBI, etc.

    In this case, if the person called 911, there would be a recording where you could hear them being dragged off the porch and hear the gate being opened and closed. Proof that the person was not on public property as claimed. If someone is attempting a warrantless search, you can have it on record that you aren't giving them permission to enter the premesis, and have a recording of any threats that they make to you to force their way in.

    Another benefit is the recording is now stored off-site. With a video camera, regular camera or phone if they take it, you lost your evidence. If you can get that data off-site, they can't take it from you without a lot more work. (Maybe the 911 tape disappears, but without the FBI or NSA, AT&T isn't going to delete the record of the phone call to 911.)

    Now, I don't think that all cops are bad. In fact, I have nothing bad to say about any of my experiences with law enforcement. However, I am white and live in a low crime area - the last "major" arrest in my town was over 10 years ago. So my experience may be different than yours.

    Perhaps the best advice I can give is to think about the best thing to do if you were ever in these situations. Everyone does it for RPG games, just think about real life in those same terms.

    FBI wants to search my house?

    My wife calls 911 and tells them armed men are trying to get past me to enter the house without my permission. Didn't lie. Just didn't mention that they are federal agents. I'm sure the Sheriff will show up pretty fast with a call like that. Now, I have an officer that will hopefully be on my side in the matter. If not, I have pissed them off, but am no worse off. I also have a record that I didn't give them permission to enter. Then my wife can start calling the neighbors to come over and call the TV station, and I have made a big enough scene to (hopefully) be protected. I don't know if that is the best thing I can do, but at least I have thought about it enough to have a plan. In this case? Immediately send the photo to everyone in your address book. They can get the phone, but not the data. (It may cost you $0.50 or something, but probably worth it.)
    • Armed people claiming to be FBI, you haven't confirmed and verified that they actually are.

      Heck if the police came to your door you could do the same thing. With the way some security guards dress they might not actually be police, even though they in many cases try to create that impression.
  • by emkman (467368) on Monday July 31, 2006 @03:05PM (#15820012)
    Despite what some might believe, this is not uncommon. It has to do with the way police are trained, and will remain an inherent flaw until something changes. I personally see it all the time. I live in Isla Vista, California, which is what I affectionately call the nicest ghetto in the world. It is only one to two square miles, with a population of about 20,000 people (not a typo). It is comprised almost entirely of students attending UCSB and Santa Barbara City College, as well as a large latino population. Here, we have the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, which many people don't exactly like. They constantly lie to students, illegally enter property, and illegal search people, usually in the name of writing an alcohol or marijuana possesion ticket. I was at a friends house when the IVFP entered the party for a "noise violation" and proceeded to bang on the door of the room we were in. The door was opened and the office claimed that he could smell marijuana. No one would admit they had any, and no one had been smoking atleast since I had entered the room. The cop proceeded to take people out of the room one by one. When he called me up, he stuck his hands in my pockets, and I immediately objected, claiming he had no probably cause or consent from me to enter my pockets. In my pockets, I had nothing illegal, though I did happen to have rolling papers, which I made quite clear were legal. This caused me to be taken into another room, and tested to see if I was drunk. As RajivSLK mentioned, this is what happens when you anger a police officer. Aslo, as he pointed out, there is no evidence(i.e. breathalyzer) required to cite you with drunk in public, or drunk and disorderly conduct. After determing I was not drunk, the other officer said he was "going to be nice and let me go this time" as if I had commited a crime. No marijuana citations were issued that night.
    A month later, at another house, police arrived, again for a noise violation. One of the officers promptly recognized me and called me "the marijuana man", and proceeded to pat me down. He stayed over my clothes, keeping the search legal this time, however he kept yelling at me to spread my legs farther apart until you would have sworn I was an olympic gymnast. Furthermore, I was lucky. I can't even fit on one hand the number of friends I have had arrested for saying something to the police when someone else was being arrested. Things were so bad here at one point that the student government had to launch a campaign against the police, informing students of their rights and accepting police complaint reports that they would then file for you. Thankfully we also have free legal advice available to all students and are currently forming an official position called Office of the Student Advocate.
    Anyways, here is the point:
    Police officers operate this way on purpose. This is how they are trained! It is not really good cop bad cop thing as much as you would believe. The police's job is not really to uphold the law. That is the court's job. The police are there to investigate crime and catch "bad guys". If the 4th ammendment gets in their way, oh well, let the courts decide that. They are trained to lie, decieve, and push the boundaries, usually in search of a verbal confession. Most cops don't even know the law, they are just there to do what they were trained to due. Read Breaking Rank, by Norm Stamper, former Seattle police chief, to learn about how the police system fosters violence, racism, and homophobia as a matter of practice. Finally, if you don't know how to deal with police and refuse a warrantless search, please please please watch Busted. There is a YouTube link already in the slashback. Finally, if you are afraid to talk to police officers in such a situation, keep something like the NORML Freedom Card [norml.org] in your wallet. Simply invoke your right to remain silent, and hand the card to the officer. Its simple yet very effective.
  • when the 2nd revolution comes, there will be a few changes.
    1) police will face 2x the punishment a citizen does for every crime. police get 0 tolerence for bending the rules. they enforce the law by example as much as anything else.
    2) the basic unit of society is the citizen. goverment exists to serve that citizen. goverment has no rights to tell a citizen what to do with his / her body. you can take what you want, you can kill yourself, sell yourself, whatever. so long as you do not infringe on anoth

  • A rich black girl friend of mine got arrested for DWB in a nice neighborhood. The police department appologized in a letter, which the family handed to their lawyer. The department settled for a cool $250K. Not bad for a few hours in lockup.
  • What the hell? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Skreems (598317) on Monday July 31, 2006 @03:29PM (#15820214) Homepage
    Police officers in the U.S. are, at least among healthy segments of society, viewed with respect if not admiration.
    Uh... no?
    • Re:What the hell? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by crhylove (205956)
      Spoken like a true never been to American. Most of the people I know in southern California, from the kid on the street to the republican/christian business owner look at the police here as a street gang with public funding. I can't recall the last time a bill to up the funding was approved in California. Nobody wants more of the same from the "serve and protect" department, because they've become almost unilaterally the "harrass and molest" department.

      Consider the following facts:
      Nearly half the populat
  • i don't know how they compare to cops in other major cities, but the philly cops ive had the misfortune of encountering (having gone to drexel for 3 years, and growing up around philly) are a lousy bunch of arrogant, self-aggrandizing, abusive, asshats who i hope are first against the wall when the revolution comes.
    ive met small town cops who were actually helpful, reasonable human beings; but i guess the danger of working in the big city makes them crazy.
    really, large cities in general seem like a sort of
  • Max Headroom (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kagato (116051) on Monday July 31, 2006 @04:10PM (#15820595)
    It reminds me a bit of the TV Show Max Headroom. When Edison Carter was live and direct the cops didn't say boo to him. When his camera when off air things got a bit more ugly.
  • All -

    Several years ago in an excellent book "The Transparent Society:How Technology Will Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom [amazon.com], David Brin [davidbrin.com] argued convincingly, that "privacy is gone, get over it!", and that in trying to hang onto it, we put our freedom at risk. For we would put ourselves in the position that those in authority/power would be able to hide their actions and those of us who aren't would be on the short end of the stick.

    In the society envisioned by Brin, this street would have been covered by cameras, the homeowners would be able to dump their feeds into the grid for observation by others, and all of the officers and their vehicles would have cameras. And all of us would be free to examine the feed in real-time or pull materials out of the archive. In fact, the "surveillance" Brin envisions would provide the kind of check that articles such as this do.

    I will be honest, I would be more than willing to live in Brin's world - with the checks it would give us on those in authority - and the privacy zones it would grant us (need to read the book to get the full details).
  • by FleaPlus (6935) * on Monday July 31, 2006 @05:54PM (#15821302) Journal
    Here's an idea: We should organize a "Police Photography Day." On this day, the participants would go around legally taking photographs of police officers. This would be done in the most polite manner possible, and would be photos of officers doing their everyday activities. There could be a set of documents participants would carry, explaining the idea of "Police Photography Day" to concerned officers, and explaining that such photographs aren't illegal.

    Seriously, a big problem seems to be that officers (and many citizens) simply don't realize that citizens taking photos of them in public places (or from their own property) is completely legal. Organizing a day like this could help raise awareness about that.
  • by splatter (39844) on Monday July 31, 2006 @06:59PM (#15821662)
    For people to read and hopefully gain another prospective & protect yourself.

    At 1 am on the morning of September, 2005, I was awoke by a persistent knock on the door. I opened the door to find three officers asking me about a smell in the building, and asked me to enter the apartment. I told them I did not smell anything, and refused to allow them entry into the apartment. The main officer continued to ask me about the smell, and if he could come in, and I refused by telling him "no you may not come in". At some point in the conversation my fiancé came into the room and the officer ask if she was ok.

    He again asked me if he could come in which I said no one final time and attempted to close the door. At that point the office had his foot inside the door jam to prevent the door from closing. I again attempted to close the door by leaning on the door. The officer pushed the door back throwing me back while stating that I had committed battery against an officer by hitting him with the door and proceeded to hit me about the right side of my face, while attempting to cuff me. I struggled with him only mildly trying to understand why I was being charged, and never threw a punch or was violent in any way against the police. He continued to hit me after being thrown to the ground and being completely cuffed.

    I was then taken out to the second floor stairs were the officer hit me multiple more times on the right side of my face. I was completely hand cuffed at that point and was not able to resist. I screamed out multiple times "stop hitting me, stop hitting me".

    The officer then grabbed me by my cuffs and lead me to the car were I was placed in the back seat. The officer returned a few minuets later with my marijuana pipe asking me if this was why I did not let him in. He then stated "I can't wait to get you to the station and kick your ass." In front of the transporting officer in this case. The transporting officer had no other involvement in this incident he pulled up on the scene as I was being taken out, and was polite and professional in his duties. I was seen in Ward D at the local hospital and released without medical aid to the county jail.

    I was seen and treated for my eye and a concussion in the jail by nurses station within the jail the next morning after vomiting twice in the holding cell over night, and complaining of pain. I was given pain relief and given a call back and was told to see some one outside when I got out. I was released on bail the next day.

    I returned to the Emergency room twice and was diagnosed and treated for an Ocular Floor Fracture on the right side of my face. I still suffer from numbness on the right side of my face under and around my eye. I had a follow up appointment a few months later to determine if I need surgery to correct orbital sink or any other complications that can occur due to my ocular floor fracture.

    I am not known here by many, but the few that do can attest that I am a college grad, and navy war vet. I have not been in a fight since high school and am not violent by anymeans. I never resisted hit or otherwise attempted to hurt the officer in question.

    I was charged with two felonys and two misdomenors neither deserved, & foolishly listened to my lawyers advice & took the states offer of a PTI which nullified any possibility of a civil suit. I live in a small beach town, and see the officer on a weekly basis, and fear him returning to my house so can not file a IAS investigation.

    By carefull everyone because they are NOT there to protect you despite what it says on the patrol car.

    DP

  • I am a cop. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mad-cat (134809) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:02PM (#15822248) Homepage
    I'm reading through some of these things and am appalled to see things my proverbial brothers are doing. This should not stand, and officers who are truly guilty of such offenses should be punished with the maximum penalty under US chapter 18 for violation of civil rights.

    I have never done anything on duty or while as an off duty representative of the state that I wouldn't want photographed, recorded, or otherwise witnessed. I am proud to protect and serve, not to bully and harass. In fact, there are times that things have happened when I wish I had a camera or tape recorder to back me up on what I had to say. I've arrested people who try to bang their faces against the side of my patrol car in order to cause bleeding and claim that I beat them up. Fortunately, I had a civilian witness in the case to back me up on what I said.

    While some cops lie, remember that criminals lie too. There are cops who do bad things who should be soundly punished, but there are people who will go out of their way to ruin a cop because they don't like them, and they should be punished as well.

    Maybe it's because I'm a small town cop, but with the exception of the "bad" part of town I feel like a welcome presence everywhere I go. If I can't hold my head up high and know that people see me as a friend and protector, not a tyrant, I couldn't do my job.

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