In response to September 11th and London Bombings, the UK drafted a series of Terrorism Acts, giving their officers certain rights they thought would help fight terrorism. This included a section (58a) added in 2008 that made it illegal to photograph or film a police officer if the footage was likely to be useful to a terrorist. The police’s interpretation of that section has since changed, but not before that “if” caused some newsworthy controversy.
This short animated documentary covers that controversy from the point of view of one of the act’s victims, Gemma Atkinson, who was assaulted by police in 2009 because she was filming them searching her boyfriend. It tells the story of the subsequent legal battle she went through trying to get the act changed and hold the police officers who were unnecessarily rough with her accountable. Read more…
The San Diego Police Department is in hot water with photographers and First Amendment rights advocates everywhere this week over the way two of their officers handled a situation this last Saturday.
The story and the video that goes with it — which went viral after being shared by the website Photography is Not a Crime — shows one of the officers violently arresting a man for exercising his right to record the officer during the course of his duties. Read more…
Montreal resident Jennifer Pawluck was arrested earlier this week after she posted the above photo of anti-police graffiti to her Instagram account. The photo shows a caricature of Montreal police Commander Ian Lafrenière with a bullet hole in his forehead, leading police to accuse Pawluck of criminal harassment against a high-ranking police officer. Read more…
Mug shots and airbrushing are both photography-related, but they aren’t commonly found together in stories. Not so with some ongoing controversy over in Greece, though. The police there may soon be under investigation after releasing a number of mug shots that appear to have been Photoshopped.
Why would they ‘shop photos of suspected criminals, you ask? The claim is that the images were edited to hide injuries that were inflicted by officers during (or after) the arrests. Read more…
If you’re a street photography-loving New Yorker who’s worried about being stopped and harassed by the New York Police Department, check out this official memo that was sent out to officers back in 2009. The Operations Order, titled “Investigation of Individuals Engaged in Suspicious Photography and Video Surveillance”, states,
Members of the service are reminded that photography and the video taping of public places, buildings and structures are common activities within New York City… all such photography will have no connection to terrorism or unlawful conduct. Given the City’s prominence as a tourist destination, practically all such photography will have no connection to terrorism or unlawful conduct.
Members of the service may not demand to view photographs taken by a person absent consent [...] When there is probable cause to believe that the camera, film or other media contains evidence of criminal activity, the item may be seized, and a search warrant must be obtained in order to view its contents.
Here’s a higher-res version of this image in case you’d like to print it out, laminate it, and carry it around in your photo bag. You can bust it out in the event that you do get stopped.
Bad news for photographers in Southern California: the Los Angeles Police Department issued a notice regarding its official terrorism handling policy earlier this week, and the document still identifies photographers as potential terrorists. The intradepartmental correspondence, sent out by the Chief of Police, warns officers about the following:
Photography. Taking pictures or videos of facilities/buildings, infrastructures or protected sites in a manner that would arouse suspicion in a reasonable person. Examples include taking pictures or videos of ingress/egress, delivery locations, personnel performing security functions (e.g., patrol, badge/vehicle checking), security-related equipment (e.g., perimeter fencing, security cameras), etc.;
Observation/Surveillance. Demonstrating unusual interest in facilities/buildings, infrastructures or protected sites beyond mere casual or professional (e.g., engineers) interest, such that a reasonable person would consider the activity suspicious. Examples include observations through binoculars, taking notes, attempting to measure distances, etc. …
Some people who find themselves on hard times try to have themselves arrested so that they can eat for free in prison. It turns out that people in Southern California can do the same thing for a free studio-style headshot. Cat Cora, a chef on the Food Network show Iron Chef, recently got booked for a DUI after drinking three beers and getting behind the wheel. Her mugshot wasn’t taken until 11 days after her arrest, so Cora had time to have her hair and makeup done in order to pose for a picture-perfect mugshot. When the photo made its way onto the Internet, websites began to comment on how it looks more like a studio portrait than a police station mugshot. Read more…
DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier (left) and Earl Staley (right)
Well, that didn’t take long. Just one day after Washington DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier issued a directive ordering officers to leave photographers alone (PDF here), a police officer reportedly snatched a man’s camera at a crime scene and later returned it without the memory card. My Fox DC writes,
Earl Staley says he considers what happened to him Friday, July 20, a robbery.
“I know that I could take these pictures of these guys,” Staley tells Fox 5 News. “I know it. Especially when they’re doing something wrong.”
Staley says his smartphone was snatched by a D.C. Police officer last Friday evening along Raleigh Place in Southeast D.C. Staley says he saw police punching a man they were arresting and another plain-clothes officer harassing the people watching.
“So I go and grab my phone and start trying to record it,” says Staley, a 26-year-old employee of a private, non-profit mental health agency in the District. “And once I do that, another vice cop reaches over my back and grabs my phone and tells me he’s not giving my phone back.”
One of the reasons photographers raise a fuss when their rights are infringed upon is to create awareness in the general public and among law enforcement. A recent lawsuit between a photojournalist and the Washington DC police department has done just that. The Washington Post reports:
District police cannot interfere with citizens as they photograph or videotape officers performing their jobs in public, according to a new directive issued by Chief Cathy L. Lanier as part of settlement in a civil lawsuit.
The six-page general order, similar to one published by police in Baltimore in November, warns officers that “a bystander has the right under the First Amendment to observe and record members in the public discharge of their duties.”
[...] “It tells police to leave people alone,” Spitzer said. “It makes it clear that if a person is in a place that interferes with police operations, the officer can ask or tell them to move to another location, but they can’t tell them to stop taking pictures.”