NY Times article re: arrests for photographing in the subway

Discussion in 'News' started by john_gleason|1, Feb 18, 2009.

  1. Any halfway competent lawyer will make short work of the remaining charges. We have the same problem in Australia with the Police often pursuing frivolious charges.
     
  2. I wonder if that despite all the laws the transit supervisors are sending the word to officers it's ok to stop photographers to protect the system and passengers. Kinda' the Dick Cheney approach, send an ambiguous meaning and a give a wink it's ok. How else could the officers still not know the rules and law or simply dismiss them? They're obviously not being read or heard at staff meetings. I'm curious what those officers would have done if an adult class of photography students suddenly started photographing.
     
  3. I read this article about 30 minutes ago after I took my paper in. The police have access to databases which show whether a car is stolen and whether there is a warrant somewhere for a person's address. It was the photographer in this case who had an electronic device which stored the relevant law. We don't expect a mechanic to memorize every part of a repair manual. Why do we expect a police officer to be able to memorize all of the laws in a particular state or city? Police officers should carry electronic devices which store the laws. We wouldn't expect an officer to consult the device during a gunfight but in this case the person improperly arrested wasn't using a gun. There wasn't any emergency. What about the other pending charges? During the Republican convention in 2004 in New York, NY City Police officers illegally dressed up as demonstrators and charged uniformed officers. The unifirmed officers then charged the crowd and arrested people randomly. These same uniformed officers then showed up in court and perjured themselves on the direct orders of their superiors (Mayor Bloomberg?) by accusing demonstrators of attacking them. The demonstration was videotaped by several different people and the officers who had illegally dressed up as demonstrators were identified. The result was that all of the false charges filed against the demonstrators were dropped but no police officers were punished for either participating in the initial illegal action or for their later perjury. When police officers know that they can get away with criminal behavior there is very little incentive for them to do the right thing.
     
  4. Jeff: Police officers are supposed to know the codes that impact their on-the-street actions, and can use their radios to get input from a superior if need be. Having them thumb through The Laws Of New York City, the State Of New York, and the US federal codes, while standing in front of a possible lawbreaker in public - whether they're looking at hardcopy or paper - is hardly workable. Traffic cops know the codes they enforce. Transit cops need to know theirs, too. This is just a matter of training.

    And just to clarify: there's nothing "illegal" about a law enforcement officer being under cover. How exactly do "protesters" dress, anyway? Can you be specific? Would you consider a cop that (under cover, out of uniform) infiltrates and helps to break up a murderous local chapter of MS13 to be doing something "illegal" by not wearing a uniform? It doesn't help you to make your point (about whether an officer did something actually illegal) to use the word so broadly, and incorrectly in relation to something they do (and must do) on a regular basis, in all sorts of situations.

    When police officers know that they can get away with criminal behavior there is very little incentive for them to do the right thing.

    Would you say the same thing about violent protesters?
     
  5. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    Would you say the same thing about violent protesters?​
    Don't see the relevence. We aren't paying protesters to be on the streets protecting citizens from wrong doers and (importantly) protecting the right to pursue perfectly legal activities. I expect different standards from professionals ( police that is), and I do expect them to be sure of their ground before they choose to intervene.
    And, referring to Mr Adler's post , if ignorance is not held to be a defence for citizens, why on earth should we be prepared to accept it as a reason why the police can be excused for arresting people, or interfering with their lawful activities, with no just cause? Whichever way you look at it a cop should know more about the law than the vast majority of people walking the streets and who are nevertheless bound by it.
     
  6. I am certain that people with cameras taking photographs do much more to deter crime than to support any type of illegal activity.
    People including the police behave strangely when they are operating in a climate of fear and suspicion.
    00SUoe-110391684.jpg
     
  7. Whichever way you look at it a cop should know more about the law than the vast majority of people walking the streets and who are nevertheless bound by it.

    Yes. But there's also a reason that judges who actually weigh in on whether a person is guilty of something often take a recess, have full-time law clerks dig up precedents, etc., in order to understand the nuances of many laws and circumstances. Cops can't and shouldn't be expected to operate at that level of familiarity with the law - but they should certainly understand the basic framework around which routine arrests (or the decision not to arrest) in common public situations are built . Drunk and disorderly - a no brainer. Somebody destroying property - a no brainer. Selling knock-off purses from a van on the side of the street - probably a no-brainer, depending on a bunch of variables. Using photo/video equipment in public transit facilities - apparently not yet a no-brainer, since not all of them (the beat cops) have got the rules down yet. We're back to training, again.

    Don't see the relevence

    The relevence is that that just as the average citizen has reasonable expectations about how the cops are supposed to behave, cops (especially veterans) have long experience about how people on the street actually do behave. They are called upon, day in and day out, to deal with the most obnoxious, most damaged, most unhappy, most inebriated, most chip-on-their-shoulder, most criminal people in society. Every day. All day. And some of those people are genuinely dangerous. Some police die at the hands of people like that. It's an unnerving job. And they get regular briefings about how to watch out for an about-to-happen New York version of the recent Mumbai attack or the London or Madrid transit station bombings (think those can't happen in NY? really?). If I didn't think that most people would be horrible at it, I'd like to see everyone have to spend a day with that sort of concern and responsibility on their shoulders, as they walk through a crowded train station in uniform. Just like everyone should spend a week waiting tables (ah, think of how much more civilized we'd all be if everyone realized what asses most people are to service providers of all kinds).

    Cops should only make arrests that have a solid foundation in appropriate law. This particular subject (train station arrests) comes up visibly and loudly but only once in a while (despite the millions of people who take pictures in NY and, of course, never have any trouble at all). If you don't like it, write to your city councilman or state legislator and encourage them to spend more of your tax money on training programs and refreshers for beat cops. Because that's what it takes.
     
  8. What happened outside of the 2004 Republican convention in New York has been covered well by the press. The issue of police officers pretending to be demonstrators and charging uniformed officers is settled law. According to the Supreme Court it's illegal. I made it plain that I did not expect an officer to consult a manual in the middle of a gunfight. NY City police cars have the letters CPR on their sides. This stands for courtesy, professionalism, respect. I lived in New York for many years and I would say that most NY City police officers live up to the CPR motto. The ones who don't shouldn't be defended simply because their work is hazardous.
    What's happening now is a kind of spy vs. spy between citizens and their government. When I took a tour near the Electric Boat Yard in Groton, CT in the 1970s there were plenty of signs warning that photography was not permitted. I understood the reason for it and I respected it. We are now in a situation where we are tracked almost constantly. I read in another post in this forum that in London it's illegal to take any photo which includes a policy officer. In other words, the police there can photograph you, you just can't photograph them. When I can no longer go to the conservatory at the Botanical Gardens and take pictures of flowers and plants I think I'll just donate my cameras to a museum.
     
  9. I read in another post in this forum that in London it's illegal to take any photo which includes a policy officer . In other words, the police there can photograph you, you just can't photograph them.​
    I'm sure you meant police officer.
    Anyway, that law makes it illegal to make a photograph of a police officer which may be of use to a person planning an act of terrorism. Just photographing a police officer is not illegal.
     
  10. Yes. I meant police officer.
     
  11. The problem is not that the police do not know the law, it is that NYPD policies sometimes differ from the law. I have been stopped for using a camera on the street. When I pointed out that the mayor's office said there is no law to keep me from doing that, the answer was "I don't work for the mayor. Do it again and I will lock you up." Draw your own conclusion about who runs this city.
     
  12. Steve, so WHO exactly is there to make the distinction at the time of arrest? The problem is, almost ANY action could be interpreted as possibly be planning terrorism. This is a thought crime. Unless the person is standing there with a map that says "bombs here" and a big red X I really find it rediculous to make a law forbidding someone from what they are about to do to. I mean, think about it this way... let's make it illegal for people to buy guns or knives they intend on using for murder. OK, sounds great. But how do you know they are planning on murdering someone unless you already have evidence that suggests they are? Which begs to ask, if you know someone is planning on murdering someone, why wait until they buy the gun or knife to try to stop them? The short answer is that thinking about murder is not illegal, attempting it is. That's why police preform dramatic sting operations to try to catch people in the ACT of doing something bad... because intent is not enough to stick. (Unless you have over a certain amount of illegal drugs in your house, in which case you will be arrested for intent to distribute even if you wanted to keep it all for yourself.)
    So the problem introduced by this cart before the horse thinking is that there is absolutely no way of knowing what someone plans on doing before they actually do it. I mean, it's like telling someone they can't buy a fast car because we know that they are going to speed and speeding is illegal. The only way it would be possible to enforce such silly laws is if you already know these people are terrorists. So why purposefully make a law which could possibly be misinterpreted by the police when you already know who it is you want to arrest? Because these laws are loophole machines. And as loophole machines, they are intended on catching people who are suspected of being terrorists but have done nothing illegal YET. And since you can't arrest someone for being suspected of planning a terrorist attack, you make up a silly law about photographing police officers or subways to try to catch that person in that act and use it as probable cause to generate the warrants you could not legally produce beforehand. That's why oral sex is illegal in many states... it has nothing at all to do with people in their homes having oral sex with their spouse, it's a loophole machine for arresting prostitutes. The problem is, unlike the oral sex law, photography is something that EVERY ONE does in public all of the time. Billions of photos of subways and police officers are taken every year by hordes of people. The minority of those people are using professional camera gear, so they stand out as "suspicious". Personally, I have a hard time imagining why a terrorist would purposefully do anything as suspicious as setting up a large format camera on a tripod in the middle of a subway station, but I'm sure any photographer to do so would immediately be arrested on the grounds of suspected "terror planning".
     
  13. You know, an unscrupulous photographer could probably make himself a decent living by getting arrested for doing nothing illegal once a week and then suing the NYPD for, say, a modest $10,000 for wrongful arrest.
    You could probably make a better living at being arrested than you could selling your photography and you could probably afford to keep a lawyer on retainer to handle the paperwork.
     
  14. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    Just photographing a police officer is not illegal.​
    No, you're right it isn't. On the other hand if you try to photograph a policeman and he doesn't like it, it is possible for him to arrest you on the basis that he (supposedly) thought that the photograph would have been useful to a terrorist. It doesn't have to be true. There is no test of justifiablility. Its down to the individual copper. And thats far too much power for my liking. The fact that the case almost certainly won't be prosecuted is of scant consolation.
     
  15. No, you're right it isn't. On the other hand if you try to photograph a policeman and he doesn't like it, it is possible for him to arrest you on the basis that he (supposedly) thought that the photograph would have been useful to a terrorist. It doesn't have to be true.​
    You are absolutely correct. However, it will end up with the photographer being released without charge and the police issuing an apology as has been the case in most of the recent cases of police abusing the terrorist act to prevent photography.
    What this modification of the act does is increase the potential for abuse. Made even greater by the media attention it has received.
    I can't see this law ever being used to bring a case to court for two reasons:
    1. If the prosecution could prove terrorist intent then they would have evidence of crimes of terrorism of a far greater magnitude than taking a snapshot of a police officer so I don't believe they would bother with this lesser 'crime'.
    2. If the prosecution cannot prove terrorist intent then they have no case.
     
  16. Alas, this has been going on for decades. I went to Columbia back in the 70's and the Film School had to constantly send people downtown to spring students who had been filming on the subway.
    I think a lot of it dates from how extremely awefull the conditions on the subways were those days. They were an embarassment to the city, and the fewer pictures that were taken the less pressure there would be to clean things up.
    Also there had been a big scandal a few years earlier. Somebody had taken a camera down to where the 2nd avenue subway was supposed to be under construction and came back with pictures of workers sleeping on the job. The outcry was huge. The project was shut down. And millions of dollars in kickbacks were lost. Don't want that to happen again, nope!
    I guess the old habits just stuck.
     
  17. Mr. Atkins...

    Great idea! I see it is time for me to come out of retirement. I like your idea of making the settlement small as it keeps your legal costs (overhead) down. Just like a car dealer rather than make the big bucks on any one deal, you can make it on volume.

    More serious... If a high percentage of clearly wrongful hassles/arrests sued there would soon be a number of photographer chasing attorneys. Costs per suit would go down as these attorneys got their act together on this specialty. There would be ads on the TV encouraging victims to sue through these lawyers. Costs to the "protected" entity would skyrocket. Within a year or so the policy would be changed and by another six months it would be enforced at the officer level. We'd be free again.
    A few of us were alive back when a man walking down the street in Germany could be, and was far too often, stopped for "looking Jewish". He would then have to drop his pants so the authority could look at his penis to check for circumcision. If someone carrying a camera is stopped for "looking whatever" and is asked to drop their pants, what exactly do the authorities look at? I for one, would be glad to show them my rectal orifice.
    Tom
     
  18. I posted this in another thread, but I think it bears repeating. Cop is the new mafia.
    An ordinary, law-abiding citizen has no recourse at the time of arrest, against an unlawful arrest. The ordinary, law-abiding citizen has no recourse to follow-up on a complaint against an officer, but an officer can just about make a career out of pursuing an "offender". Maybe we ordinary, law-abiding citizens should be a little more extraordinary and a little less law-abiding. If the modern day police force here in the States had been around during the days of our Founding Fathers, I guarantee the Boston Tea Party would never have happened.
    Cops "protect" us only from exercising our own Constitutional freedoms, most of the time. Just because a cop says it, doesn't make it so. Cops have their own cosa nostra. The bad ones do just whatever the hell they want to do, then count on and/or bully the decent ones to keep the silence for the good of the fraternal brotherhood.
    Michael J Hoffman
     
  19. What did you learn in school today? by Pete Seeger.
     
  20. Based on these figures here
    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_murders_committed_per_day_in_US
    it would seem that in the USA around 131400 people have been murdered since 9/11. I have doubts myself that these murders were helped in anyway by photographers images.
     
  21. Mr. Durer brings up an interesting point..Since 09-11-2001, 131,400 people have been murdered in the United States..Since 09-11-2001, approximately 40,00 people PER YEAR have died in motor vehicle-related deaths for an approximate total of 280,000 plus deaths..In most of those seven years the deaths from motor vehicles is actually greater than 40,000 per year..
    Rounding up for the seven plus years that have passed since 9-11, the total number of human deaths in the United States from murders and motor vehicles is in excess of 415,000 people..When one adds in ALL of the other ways that people die in the USA, both natural and human-caused, the number of people that have died in the United States since September 11, 2001 far exceeds 1,000,000..
    It is abundantly obvious to anyone that looks objectively at the reality of our lives in the USA that there are literally hundreds of ways that it is more likely to lose one's life than from any form of terrorist attack..Our police forces are, on average, better trained and better equipped, than any other country on the planet..This fact is also true in most other Western countries, even those with more frequent terrorist attacks than in the USA..
     

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