Confrontation Between a Police Officer and Photographer in Los Angeles

The above video was recorded by Shawn Nee for Discarted, a blog that fights for photographers’ rights to shoot in public locations. It shows Nee getting into a verbal exchange with a police officer over whether or not he can legally photograph the officer.

Opinion over this video — created in February but just released yesterday — is extremely divided. Photography blogger Thomas Hawk thanks Nee for “continuing to fight for photographer’s rights”:

Our ability as citizens to document the police is extremely important. Historically, citizen photography has been instrumental in documenting police abuse cases from Rodney King to the recent shooting death of Oscar Grant. To wear a badge and a gun in our society is a privilege and ought to only be afforded to those willing to enforce actual laws and not intimidate citizens by making up illegal photography rules of their own.

On the other hand, comments left in various places regarding the video argue that Nee was intentionally provoking the officer, “stirring the pot” for the purpose of producing this video. A commenter at the LAist writes,

Who is harassing who in this video? Clearly, the guy taking the video wanted this to happen. He had a video camera set up, to video himself taking picture of an officer making a traffic stop? The cop tells him to stop at the beginning, and that the the guy on the bike is making him nervous. The officer is making a traffic stop. Lord knows how tense a traffic stop can be. Then you have this kid pull up behind up, and stop, and start taking pictures.

What are your thoughts on this video?

  • Guest

    While I admit it is rude and maybe foolish to provoke a police officer, it is perfectly legal and within his rights.

  • hypesession

    don’t worry, social justice, alberto the photographer is on the job– that cop deserves a beer

  • Dov

    So what the cop gains no right to break the law or lie about the law because of the photographer using a camera. The officer acknowledged the photographer and then told him he wasn’t allowed to photograph him. The officers only legal response was hello and to ignore the photographer and not engage him once he ascertained that he wasn’t doing anything.

    The point your missing is that shooting the officer can not and is not considered provocation. What the officer did do was intimidation and harassment.

  • Dov

    Please list the rights you speak of that exist in actual law and not in your opinion only please

  • Dov

    Hi thank you for posting you got the first one right which is cops dont want to be caught doing criminal things, funny that who does after all.

    The second is utter bull and is part of the garbage being spewed about why the Cops should be allowed to abuse their powers. Dont poke “the angry man with a gun” does not fly if that person is supposed to be a public serving the public.

    The only thing different in our modern age is the fascist assumption that asserting or exercising ones legal rights is some how now verboten

  • Dov

    So lets see the policeman makes an unreasonable request thats also illegal and its the photographers fault for not complying.

    Care to try that one again

  • Dov

    So your fine with the police officer not being aware of the laws pertaining to his job even more so one that is one of the first ones discussed in regards to dealing with the public

  • Dov

    Well no! if the average person asks you on the street to not photograph them you can certainly be polite and not.

    The police on the other hand are not average citizens and have no right or wherewithal to ask not to be photographed under any circumstances unless the photographer is interfering with their job which he obviously isn’t.

    Hes taking a photograph him being a jerk is your opinion and well yes he has a right to be a jerk the officer, does not he has a gun and can shoot you or throw you in jail.

  • Johnny Paycheck

    Got to love when people learn a few laws about a certain subject then have a go at the police for not knowing all the laws by heart,,,

    btw, anyone know what kind of potato this was filmed on?