Lieutenant Phillip Dreyer, Even in Bexar County Texas Photograhy is Not a Crime
The Cosmic Tap: An Accidental Interview with Lieutenant Phil Dreyer Anthony Citrano has an unfortunate write up about an altercation he had recently with Lieutenant Phillip Dreyer of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department.
Anthony was minding his own business, doing what many of us do, documenting our world with our cameras, and unfortunately, according to him, ended up instead harassed and threatened by one Lieutenant Phil Dreyer.
“Can I see some ID?”
My instinctive response, before I saw what he was holding, was “no.”
As he shouted, “I better or you’re goin’ t’ jaail!”, I noticed he was displaying in his hand some sort of police identification.
Finding him unusually aggressive, noting his weapon and ID, and hearing his threat of arrest if I did not produce identification, I decided to show him my license.
“Are you taking pictures for personal use or a company?”
“Well, it depends.. probably personal, but I suppose if someone wants to run them, they can… why?”
(getting in my face) “You ever hear of September the 11th?”
“Uhhh, yeah, but I’m not sure what it has to do with this.”
“You are between two buildings housing communications equipment.”
“OK… and I am in a public place, taking pictures of things in plain view. There’s nothing secret or sensitive here. I mean, if I had criminal intent, do you really think I’d be out here in the open like this taking photos?”
“You’d be surprised.”
“I would? Have you ever caught such a person?”
As he began a call on his cell phone (my license in hand) and talked (or pretended to talk) with someone, I noticed a news crew setting up about 50 meters away. He ended his call shortly thereafter and our conversation continued.
“How do I know you’re not going to give these pictures to someone [to do harm]?”
“Well, I suppose you don’t – but how do you plan to ascertain that by checking my identification?”
(shouting again) “LOOK – you give me any lip, and you’re goin’ t’ jaail!”
Police that abuse their authority make me terribly angry. Generally speaking I like the police. I have family members who are cops, good friends who are cops, etc. Yesterday morning before we all met up for photowalking, The Half Moon Bay Sheriff pulled up behind my car when we were parked on the side of the road taking some pictures. I showed him my camera and said we were just taking some photos and he waved back and went on his way. That was a cool cop. We were shooting this kind of interesting looking store by the way.
Later on when the same Sheriff saw us shooting out at the Half Moon Bay Airport, he drove into the parking lot, saw it was us and circled back out on the Highway.
Most of the time I believe that cops interact with photographers very responsibly. But there are always bad cops and one bad apple can do much to taint the whole bunch. If police want respect then people like Phil Dreyer need to be put in their place when they abuse the system. As much as Officer Dreyer seems to insist in the story linked above by Anthony that he not be told how to do his job, actually somebody does need to tell him how to do his job. His job is to enforce the laws, not harass photographers.
I appreciate Anthony writing his blog post and documenting this instance of harassment. For those of us that are photographers, the best way to make this stop is for enough public light to be shown on the bad cops. You are doing nothing wrong. The September 11th line is a bunch of BS. Stand your ground, report when this happens to you and especially if you can, photograph the police involved. Hopefully for a long, long time anytime anyone Google’s Lieutenant Phillip Dreyer’s name people will know what a prick this guy is.
Thanks for the head’s up Henrik!