PopPhoto Flash: The Crime of Photography: Rewarded! Pop Photo blogs about the case of amateur photographer Bogdan Mohora who was jailed in Seattle last year after he took photos of police that they didn’t want him to take during an arrest.
Although Mohora was only briefly detained he pushed the issue and worked with the ACLU to get an $8,000 settlement for his arrest. The two officers involved in the incident James Pitts and David Toner, pictured above, were discilplined with written reprimands for a lack of professionalism and poor exercise of discretion.
Photography, even of the police, is not a crime. Think about this the next time a cop tells you that you cannot take a photograph. The police should know better than this and I’m glad that Mohara is $8,000 richer after being harrased by them.
The sad thing is that the police get away with telling photographers not to shoot probably 99% of the time. It’s only when photographers really push the issue and insist on their First Ammendment rights that we see this stuff in the press.
On Boing Boing here.
Update. Officer David Toner responds:
“Hello, I just came across this web site while looking for something else and read the comments about Mahora’s incident. I am the officer that arrested Mahora. I have seen a lot of negative comments concerning this arrest and wanted to give you my perspective. First of all I would like to say that not one single person has contacted me about my side of this arrest. Not the press, not the ACLU, and not one single individual. All of the results of this have been based on Mahora’s less that honest and rather self serving retelling of the arrest.
First off, Mahaora has every right to photograph police officers while doing their everday work. Some exceptions apply but not in this case. There were outside circumstances that caused this arrest to become more dangerous to both the officers and the two men being contacted. The fact that Mahora was taking pictures of the event was not in and of itself an issue. I get photographed doing my job more often than you’d think and have no problem with it. The problem arose when Mahora got too close to us to take his pictures. I had asked him to move back and he did. Eventually he got close in again and was again instructed to step back a short distance. Again he complied. The third time became a serious officer safety situation when my partner was handcuffing a compliant suspect and I was seated in my car several feet away. I looked back to make sure my partner was under control with his suspect and there was Mahaora standing right next to me blocking my exit out if needed, taking a close up of my face. At this time I saw that my partner was fine and then placed Mahora under arrest for hindering.
Many other parts of Mahora’s story were inaccurate and sometimes out and out lies but they do not address this particular topic so I won’t go into them. Suffice is to say that this was not an issue about trying to suppress anyones constitutional rights but one of keeping two police officers safe while trying to do their job.
As for the $8000, Mahora was given the money as a settlement out of court as there was no court case about this. He won nothing but was simply paid off to “go away”. This is common practice for governments to do since handling a case in court will cost many times that amount. And yes, it makes me mad as well since that was yours and my tax money paying off a guy who was in the wrong. That’s politics for ya. I know that this will not mean anything to some of you who are quick to blame us dirty stinking cops for everything you can but I know that most of you know that we are all in this together and some might have wanted to hear the other side. Thanks”