ACLU Sues Los Angeles Police For Harassing Photographers For Taking Photos With No Apparent Aesthetic Value

from the hope-their-lawyers-have-aesthetic-value dept

Remember how the Long Beach police defended their decision to detain photographers if they believed whatever they were photographing had "no aesthetic value?" Well, it seems that the ACLU took notice of that. Neppe alerts us to the news that the Los Angeles sheriff's department has been sued by some photographers and the ACLU for its activities in harassing photographers. The specific claims are violations of both the 1st and 4th Amendments. Should be an interesting case to watch, especially for photographers, who are increasingly harassed these days.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    DannyB (profile), Oct 31st, 2011 @ 11:06am

    Why are freetards against detaining and harassing photographers?

    The world must be protected from photographers who take photos with no aesthetic value.

    Why shouldn't good photographers be allowed to make money from their photos?

    The police should consult with the accounting departments of large successful stock photography suppliers to determine if a particular public place has aesthetic value. Because they are so successful, their accountants must know what makes an aesthetic photo.

    The process could even be automated, using a system built from public funds. Police cars could be equipped with with a system where an officer can submit a photo and within minutes have the opinion of an accountant from a major stock photo supplier to indicate whether the photographer should be told move on, harassed, arrested or even beaten.

    Think of the children! We can't have photos taken that might make certain parts of our fine city look bad! Furthermore, photos of police brutality should be prohibited in order to protect the children from images of violence. Other photos must be prohibited to protect people from litigation -- or worse, even prosecution.

    Why would anyone be against that?

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 31st, 2011 @ 11:16am

      Re: Why are freetards against detaining and harassing photographers?

      "The police should consult with the accounting departments of large successful stock photography suppliers"

      No, that would be too much work for the police. The photographer should have to get express written proof from the stock photo suppliers that the photograph they want to take has aesthetic value. Then the photographer must pay a licensing fee since there's a chance they're taking a picture of something someone else took a picture of.

       

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      DueDoe, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 1:35pm

      Re: Why are freetards against detaining and harassing photographers?

      Because the Pigs and you live in a police state! ???????? DUH!

       

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    John Doe, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 11:10am

    Do we have conflicting rights?

    Copyright has been extended and is now granted automatically at the time you click the shutter to encourage more work. Yet the police state is out there harassing photographers and discouraging that work. Seems to be some kind of conflict in the law there.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 31st, 2011 @ 11:18am

    But but but terrorist take photos, so all photographers are terrorists.

    And because we told people this we have to keep doing it, even if its proven to be untrue. No one wants to admit in the massive overreaction after 9-11 they made mistakes, someone might make them look bad in the media for retracting a statement....

     

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    Robert Freetard, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 11:28am

    Apparently

    Apparently no one has ever shown the police google maps, street view or google earth.

    There's no need to go and physically take your own photos for nefarious purposes, they already exist.

     

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    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Oct 31st, 2011 @ 11:38am

    Send them to school

    Shouldn't the police have to complete a certain amount of qualifying art school credits before they're allowed to decide the aesthetic value of things?

     

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    abc gum, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 11:53am

    Is it ok to paint a picture in a public place, or will this also lead to harassment?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 12:03pm

    No

     

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    Ninja (profile), Oct 31st, 2011 @ 12:46pm

    no aesthetic value

    The "no aesthetic value" claim is simply laughable. Ppl react differently to the same thing. What's not aesthetic for me may be aesthetic for you. Who is the police to judge something that is completely subjective?

     

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      FuzzyDuck, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 1:04am

      Re: no aesthetic value

      Indeed, aesthetics are totally subjective.

      But more than that, why would a photo need to be aesthetic in the first place? You can take pictures for many reasons, for instance to document things.

      Some years ago I took a photo of a hole in the pavement to document a complaint about the state of the pavements in my town.

      The photo wasn't aesthetic to me either, but served a purpose to me. I don't see why aesthetics need to be a criteria in the first place.

       

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    Steve R. (profile), Oct 31st, 2011 @ 1:02pm

    But Then Why is "Legal" for the Police to Record You.

    First, good to see the ACLU involved. Seems that they have not been reluctant to get involved in how Corporations and Government have using technology to suppress freedom. I hope that the ACLU becomes more concerned and active.

    Second, it seems that the police record our every move. So if the police can record the public, the public should be able to record them.

    If only one side can record events then how do we know what is true or not? Furthermore, what about the concept of transparent government? Government actions are supposed to be "exposed" for public scrutiny. I guess, we are just getting "trained" to accept the coming police state.

     

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      abc gum, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 5:44pm

      Re: But Then Why is "Legal" for the Police to Record You.

      "I guess, we are just getting "trained" to accept the coming police state."

      The future is now.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 1:40pm

    "Remember how the Long Beach police defended their decision to detain photographers if they believed whatever they were photographing had "no aesthetic value?" "

    No, actually. I remember them saying they would "make contact" if there was no apparent aesthetic value, but that any potential for detention would depend on further circumstances, and TD mischaracterizing that as a policy to detain photographers is there was no apparent aesthetic value to the photos they were taking.

    Unfortunately typical of TD.

     

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      DH's Love Child (profile), Oct 31st, 2011 @ 2:07pm

      Re:

      Really, you need to learn how to read. The original article (here's a link for your review.. like you're going to click on it.. http://www.petapixel.com/2011/08/15/long-beach-police-on-lookout-for-photos-with-no-apparent-estheti c-value/) says "now the police chief is saying that stopping photographers for photos with “no apparent esthetic value” is part of department policy"

      It doesn't say make contact, it says stop, as in, prevent from going anywhere which sounds an awful lot like DETAINING. sheesh

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 2:08pm

        Re: Re:

        The article is mistaken (both Mike's prior article and the petapixel article). Did you read the police statement it refers to?

        You ought to do so, before attacking others' ability to read.

         

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          DH's Love Child (profile), Oct 31st, 2011 @ 2:27pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Oh.. by that you must be referring to this article, http://www.lbpost.com/life/greggory/1218, which says "9:45am | Police Chief Jim McDonnell has confirmed that detaining photographers for taking pictures "with no apparent esthetic value" is within Long Beach Police Department policy." Is THAT the article that doesn't say anything about detaining them?

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 3:43pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            If you're not going to read the police statement, I don't see what point there is in continuing this conversation.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 3:48pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Also, your link doesn't work.

              Here's the petapixel quote, from another article (which itself contains a quote from the police):

              “If an officer sees someone taking pictures of something like a refinery,” says [Police Chief Jim 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.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 5:04pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                you don't read between the lines much.

                what do you think happens when the photographer doesn't answer the cops questions?

                if you are stopped and questioned by a cop, you are being detained. Go ahead; try and exit the situation without cooperating. I guarantee you will get to leave with some shiny new bracelets.

                keep in mind, the individual is only taking photographs.

                what the hell is a photograph going to harm?

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 9:40am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  If you need to "read between the lines," then the police didn't say they would detain someone for taking photos without apparent aesthetic value, which was the point of my original post. TD and other articles are mischaracterizing what the cops actually said.

                  "if you are stopped and questioned by a cop, you are being detained."

                  This isn't true from a legal standpoint. If you want to argue that simply asking questions is "detaining" someone from some other definitional standpoint, I guess you're free to do that, but the police certainly never said they would detain someone, and I don't agree with that non-legal definition either (unless the cop gives someone a reason to believe they are not free to leave).

                   

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                abc gum, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 5:57pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Not sure what the difference is between the police making contact with the individual and detaining the individual. Seems to me that the result would be the same in either case. Perhaps you could enlighten us with a delineation of terminology.

                Terminology aside, the point of this story is the stupid police state mentality which has become the norm and the fact that the public is expected to simply accept it as an inevitability.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 9:42am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Detaining means you're not free to leave. I think there's a significant difference between "hey, whatcha taking pictures of" and "you're not going anywhere buddy."

                  It's just another example of how TD either willingly or negligently spins the details to make something look worse (or better, depending on the issue) than it is.

                   

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                DogBreath, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 6:23pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Here is the link that DH's Love Child tried to post (seems like his was only missing an extra "8" on the end of it).

                The link above also contains the quote you mentioned:

                9:45am | 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.




                It also contains:

                Deputy City Attorney Gary Anderson says that the legal standard for a police officer's detaining an individual pivots on whether the officer has "reasonable suspicion of criminal activity"; and that whether taking photographs of a refinery meets that standard "depends on the circumstances the officer is confronted with." For that information, Anderson says, we must know what is in the officer's mind.

                Officer Kahn did not reply to repeated attempts to contact him in order to determine what was in his mind when he allegedly detained Wolff; and the LBPD Public Information Office referred pertinent questions to Anderson.

                According to Anderson, Kahn claims that Wolff complied with Kahn's request to see his license, and that it was unnecessary for him to compel Wolff to do so — a version of events Wolff flatly contradicts. "I absolutely asked him if showing him my license was necessary," Wolff says, "which is when he gave me his little spiel about Homeland Security [allowing Kahn to detain Wolff under the circumstances]."2


                2 Legally, a police detention has occurred when "a reasonable individual" in that circumstance would be believe he or she is not free to leave



                and to drive the last nail into the coffin:

                Regarding whether Kahn felt Wolff's behavior gave him "reasonable suspicion of criminal activity," Anderson initially replied, "I never asked [Kahn] that question." Agreeing that "we can't go any further in discussing [whether Kahn had 'reasonable suspicion of criminal activity'] without knowing what was in the officer's mind in this specific instance," Anderson agreed to follow up with Kahn on that matter.

                However, when reached 10 days later, Anderson stated, "I'm not going to get into the officer's subjective state of mind at this point. … That's attorney-client privilege."

                As to why Anderson failed to cite attorney-client privilege initially, Anderson says only that he has "been thinking about it more"; and, "We have no further comment. Seriously."





                Always remember and never forget, photography is a crime, or at least suspicion of one:
                Los Angeles County Sheriff's Commander: Officers Trained That "Potential Terrorist" Activity Such as Photography Merits Pat-Down Searches

                 

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                  identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 9:44am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  So, that's *exactly* what I said in my original post. They won't detain someone for taking pictures of "no apparent aesthetic value," but they will make contact with such a person, and any detention will be based on further circumstances.

                  I wonder if we can get Mike to make a correction in his story.

                   

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                    DogBreath, Nov 2nd, 2011 @ 10:45am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    They won't detain someone for taking pictures of "no apparent aesthetic value," but they will make contact with such a person, and any detention will be based on further circumstances.


                    Well, as far as I can tell, they certainly aren't detaining them based on mismatched socks they might be wearing, so it must be something in the Los Angeles Police Department's Special Order No. 11. It would be either:

                    Engages in suspected pre-operational surveillance (uses
                    binoculars or cameras, takes measurements, draws diagrams,
                    etc.).


                    or

                    Takes pictures or video footage (with no apparent esthetic value, i.e., camera angles, security equipment, security personnel, traffic lights, building entrances, etc.).

                    So, it's clearly just a case of semantics, like "I didn't have sexual relations, with that woman", when it "is" what happened. The LBPD chief may be saying one thing while his officers are doing something entirely different. It doesn't pass the smell test, and is just a statement to cover themselves.


                    As an example, if it's not "policy", then why in the hell is it happening all over the country (as in this is not an isolated case)? (Are the LASD officers "policies" getting mixed into the LBPD officers heads?)
                    COMMENTARY: Unlawful Police Detentions and Pat-downs in Downtown Long Beach?

                    2:54pm | How many police officers does it take to respond to a man dressed like this (see below) believed to be taking pictures of the Long Beach courthouse from across the street?

                    If you're the L.A. County Sheriff's Department contingent that guards the courthouse, the answer is: eight. Or at least it was on June 2, when that many officers crossed Ocean Boulevard at Magnolia Avenue to physically detain me for "suspicious circumstances."

                    It is important to note two things here: 1) Photographing the courthouse is a legal activity. 2) This was not, "Can we talk to you a second?"; this was, "What are you doing? Move over here, sir. Put your hands behind your back, palms together," then a non-consensual pat-down search thorough enough to include two gropings of my groin.

                    Ironically, I was not actually photographing the courthouse. I live across the street, and I had popped downstairs to see if I could snap a few pics of people talking or texting while driving to go along with my little piece on the results of Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

                    So why all the hubbub, bub? "You were suspiciously doing something gave us probable cause to contact you," said Sgt. Maurice Hill, the lead officer on the scene — that "suspicious activity" being my seeming to photograph the courthouse.




                    So... the "contact" by the LASD in this particular case was for purposes of "detention". For what? Photography. (You can plainly see in the pic on the website that the man in question was not wearing mismatched socks)



                    Maybe police and sheriff departments all across the country ought to pass down this LBPD police chiefs "policy statement" to their officers, and make sure they understand it fully and be aware of the legal ramifications, because if they don't... oops... too late... ACLU lawsuit time.

                     

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                      Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2011 @ 1:26pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      I don't necesssarily agree that it's just a case of them saying one thing and doing another (though it might be).

                      Based on the particular description of the courthouse photo you provided, that does sound like detention.

                      But, in either case, the TD article is still misleading to the extent it purports to describe the LBPD is *saying*, when they didn't say that.

                       

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      dwg, Oct 31st, 2011 @ 4:24pm

      Re:

      Yeah, whenever I'm "contacted" by the police, it's made completely clear by the officers that I have the opportunity to leave or keep my mouth shut as I choose, since I'm only being "contacted" as opposed to "detained."

      What's actually true, here in the real world, is that any police contact of this sort--where there is a possibility of detainment--is that there is more appropriately a possibility of not being detained, but that it's incumbent on the possible detainee to show why he or she shouldn't be detained. "Prove that your photo has aesthetic value and I'll let you go. Tell ya what: just give me the ArtForum blurb version--I don't have time for your whole freakin' artist's statement."

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 9:44am

        Re: Re:

        If you want to argue that the police are doing something different than what they say they are doing, that's fine, but that doesn't make Mike's article truthful.

         

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          identicon
          dwg, Nov 2nd, 2011 @ 3:31pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          What did I say? I made an statement based on what happens in the real world as opposed to what the police are claiming, even in your version. I did not hold forth one way or the other about the veracity of the reportage because I hardly care--I know what happens to humans in these situations, and that's detainment with a possibility of release.

          Go flog your journalistic integrity horse somewhere else. This post and thread are about the cops.

           

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            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Nov 3rd, 2011 @ 11:09am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            This post and thread are about what the cops said. At least, the post is in large part about what they said, and the thread is entirely about what they said (at least, until you showed up).

            I'm not sure why you responded to me if you want to talk about something else.

             

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      identicon
      Michael, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 3:47am

      Re:

      Except they WERE detaining people, and they defended it. Hard to understand?

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 9:46am

        Re: Re:

        If that's true, it's certainly not supported by Mike's link or any of the other links provided in the comments.

        Do you have some sort of support for the assertion that they were detaining people on the basis of "no aesthetic value" and defended that action? It might be true, but nobody has either shown that to be the case or shown that the police defended such a policy.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Corky Boyd, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 7:29am

    To the police, cameras are the enemy

    Police have long used their positions of authority to win in court, often when they are not telling the truth. Cameras, especially video cameras, change all of that. Cameras have become their enemy.

    After operating so long with that advantage, it is hard to give it up. The videotaped Rodney King brutality was the game changer and life became far more difficult for the cop ever since. The solution, ban the camera.

    With the newer cell phones, high quality video images and sound can be emailed before a cameras is seized and the content erased. So now police in some states fall back on questionable wiretapping laws to ban photographic evidence.

    Hooray for the ACLU. If by chance they lose the case, the next step should be to demand every jurisdiction publish a list of unesthetic objects that can't be photographed. Including the mayor and the chief of police would make them a laughing stock. And it would cost a fortune to compile such a list.

     

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    identicon
    Pettifogger, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 9:58am

    Aesthetic Value

    If taking photos of no aesthetic value is an offence, then I've committed an offense almost every time I've clicked a camera.

     

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