Monday, August 15, 2011

Amateur Photographers Beware

This just in from the Long Beach (Ca) Post: "Police Chief Jim McDonnell has confirmed that detaining photographers for taking pictures "with no apparent esthetic value" is within Long Beach Police Department policy.

McDonnell spoke for a follow-up story on a June 30 incident in which Sander Roscoe Wolff, a Long Beach resident and regular contributor to Long Beach Post, was detained by Officer Asif Kahn for taking pictures of a North Long Beach refinery.

"If an officer sees someone taking pictures of something like a refinery," says McDonnell, "it is incumbent upon the officer to make contact with the individual." McDonnell went on to say that whether said contact becomes detainment depends on the circumstances the officer encounters.

McDonnell says that while there is no police training specific to determining whether a photographer's subject has "apparent esthetic value," officers make such judgments "based on their overall training and experience" and will generally approach photographers not engaging in "regular tourist behavior."

This policy apparently falls under the rubric of compiling Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR) as outlined in the Los Angeles Police Department's Special Order No. 11, a March 2008 statement of the LAPD's "policy … to make every effort to accurately and appropriately gather, record and analyze information, of a criminal or non-criminal nature, that could indicate activity or intentions related to either foreign or domestic terrorism."

Among the non-criminal behaviors "which shall be reported on a SAR" are the usage of binoculars and cameras (presumably when observing a building, although this is not specified), asking about an establishment's hours of operation, taking pictures or video footage "with no apparent esthetic value," and taking notes ..."

Makes me think ... no esthetic value? One of my favourite photographers is Henk van Rensbergen of Abandoned Places fame. One man's disused factory is another's photo-op.

Click here to read the whole article.


1 comment:

tbyrd said...

I agree that just because someone points a lens at a building, being in a public space, is no implied reason to detain someone or question their motives. I am a professional photographer living in Los Angeles and have often had spontaneous moments, after driving by, to stop and photograph buildings, landscapes or the like for my own aesthetics reasons....