The war on photography

This is Philadelphia, but it could have been anywhere — this automatic authoritarian assertion of non-existent lawbreaking. Just part of the new post 9/11 “security” world! (h/t Philly Bits)

My turn to be harassed by the SEPTA Transit police. I snapped a photo of an incoming Broad St Subway train at City Hall when I was faced with a person asking me if I was “authorized to take photos”. I say person at this point because while well dressed, he wore no police uniform. I told him photography was allowed in SEPTA. He claimed it was not and claimed he was a police officer. “Let’s see a badge” I sez. We all got on the train where he produced a badge. Ok fine, he’s a cop. And he continues this tirade where I didn’t have authorization to take photos. Jersey Mike heard this and added that that wasn’t true.

I told the officer to call a cop on us if that’s the case. By then we reached Race-Vine station where we were ordered off the train and detained on the platform by the officer, who radio’d for other officers, who showed up, first 2 then 2 more until we had at least 4 and at most 6 cops with us on the platform.

We got frisked for weapons and long story short, I was given a citation for disorderly conduct and was told to sign it. I of course insisted on reading what I was signing and noticed in the narrative that I “had used profanity”. This was false and I called the officer on it and he told me “you don’t tell me what to write” and so I refused to sign it. I’m still issued the citation, have a court date, etc.

He told me “that will teach you how to treat an officer when he questions you”.

I said “no, I wouldn’t do one thing different; you weren’t wearing a uniform and I had to ask you to show ID that you were a cop.” We were free to leave so we did. What a pain in the ass. I didn’t need nor do I need “authorization” to take photos; this guy is just a bully.

Geeze, you’re lucky you weren’t Tazed.

3 thoughts on “The war on photography

  1. Laws don’t apply to cops. Yesterday I was driving behind one who couldn’t stay within his lane, made an unsignalled lane change, and then made an illegal mid-block u-turn. His driving was so bad and unpredictable that I decided to give him a few extra car lengths for my own safety.

    In the SEPTA case, it would be nice to be able to sue the cop for false arrest.

  2. sort-of-similar similar thing happened to me a few years ago just after the NY City council decided NOT to go through with a ban on photographing in the subways (our mayor of tourism mike bloomberg derided the idea that tourists , and ok, anyone, should be stopped from snapping in the subways). I was with a NYTimes photographer following me around whil i took subway pix because I am known for some work I’ve made snapping in airports & subways, and the cops –uniformed, young–jumped on HER in a jumble, like locusts, insisting that it was illegal to take pix in the subway. I HAVE A PRESS PASS! From the TIMES! she said (It was big, and hanging around her neck). More and more cops kept arriving. Meanwhile, they were ignoring me with my small camera. (She had a big EOS.) Things were getting very tense, because this professional photojournalist on assignment refused to budge and of course the cops were getting pissed off. I meekly suggested they call a supervisor, just to get a stand-down, and they did, and when she arrived she she said, yep, it is legal, so all ended peacefully. But it had gotten quite ugly. challenge a cop… they are ALWAYS RIGHT!

  3. The whole point of Criminal Justice Studies departments at land grant universities was to discover ways to identify “officers” who would follow orders blindly and push their weight around. Many grants were issued to identify factors that would produce fascist cops way back in the 1960s. Sure works well now. Learning who to profie sadists was paid for with taxpayer money. How sweet.

    Have a look at the ad on the side about the American Military University. Gives me a headache. : (

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