Another Update on the Carlos Miller Arrest Story
So the arrest stories that I’ve been running on Miami journalist Carlos Miller have been getting a lot of attention. The story has appeared now on both Digg and BoingBoing and has generated quite a few comments with regards to the matter.
A couple of things I’d like to point out. First, I have been in contact with Carlos Miller directly on this matter. Carlos has not responded directly in these threads and forums to some of the criticism because there may be legal action pending on this one. For what it’s worth, I hope he wins. But because of potential pending legal action he can’t really carry on in the debate on this one at this time. He is reading the comments of course.
Carlos sent me the photo above which was one of the first photos that he took. In response to people who say that he was initially shooting in their face and not 20 yards away you can see his distance in this photo.
But what I also see in this photo is that the accident scene that the police are working on is not particularly a busy one. There is not rushing traffic by it. In fact there is a “Road Closed” sign right behind it. Seeing this photo makes me question why the police felt it was a safety hazard having him near them shooting. I think it’s more plausible that these cops simply did not want their picture taken and someone stood up to them.
Now. Some people have suggested that Carlos is in the wrong here simply because when a cop tells you to do something, well, you’d damn well better do it. But here’s the thing. These cops absolutely should *never* have asked Carlos not to photograph them in the first place. They should know that as public officers that they are allowed to be photographed. This has gone to court. The case is settled. But when he defied them they still should have taken the high road and just put up with it. Because again, the courts have ruled that having the ability to photograph the police is an important First Amendment right.
I’m glad that Carlos insisted on shooting the police even when asked not to because he stood up for my rights and the rights of every other photographer. The problem is that if everyone just does whats asked of them in the interest of “getting along” then abuse like this can happen. It reinforces it. I get in scuttlebutts with security guards at buildings here in San Francisco all the time when they tell me I can’t photograph their building. A lot of people criticize me saying why don’t you just do what your told? Why do you have to be a prick?
The reason why is because the security guards have no right asking me not to photograph a building from a public street in the first place. Likewise the police, in my opinion here, had no right to ask Carlos not to photograph them. Look at the photo above. There are plenty of places he could have shot this scene from without being a danger to himself or others.
Some people have objected to the flash. Saying that it’s uncomfortable doing your job with a flash firing. Well it’s uncomfortable for the celebrities that have the paparazzi shooting flash at them too. But it’s not illegal. The fact of the matter is that our government and courts have ruled that when in public, photographers can take pictures of people. If people don’t like this then have the rules changed. But until then it’s not illegal to take a photo of someone with a flash.
Other people have suggested that it’s just rude to take a photo of someone who does not want their photo taken. I happen to actually agree with this kind of. I’ve actually had plenty of people who afterwards asked me not to photograph them and almost every time I’ve complied. But there are times when I haven’t and that’s when people are abusing their power. Telling me I can’t shoot a building. Running illegal background checks on me etc. Telling me not to shoot something that is not their person or their family.
Anyways, I’m glad to see that this issue is getting the attention that it deserves. I’m sad to read comments from people saying that Carlos was in the wrong for simply not listening to the police. This kind of attitude that the police can do what they want with impunity may in fact be a sad fact of life in places, but the only way to make things right is for the Carlos Millers of the world to stick up for themselves when this abuse occurs. I’d hope that I’d have the guts to stick up for myself the way Carlos did.
I actually really like the police in general. Some of my closest friends are cops, family members of mine are cops. I don’t think all cops are bad. I think most cops play by the rules and act accordingly. I shoot cops here in San Francisco all the time and never have had a problem. When I shot a police action on Market Street here about a year and a half ago this cop actually turned to me after I shot him and made a joke saying, “make sure you get my good side.” That attitude is refreshing. I appreciate that cop and the hard work that he does for me here in San Francisco. What I don’t appreciate is cops who overstep their authority and abuse their power. And that is what I think happened to Carlos Miller.