Hey LAPD, Photographing the Police is Not a Crime!

I was very disturbed watching the video above which documents an altercation between Discarted and an Officer of the Los Angeles Police Department as documented by Discarted here.

Our ability as citizens to document the police is extremely important. Historically, citizen photography has been instrumental in documenting police abuse cases from Rodney King to the recent shooting death of Oscar Grant. To wear a badge and a gun in our society is a privilege and ought to only be afforded to those willing to enforce actual laws and not intimidate citizens by making up illegal photography rules of their own.

Thanks to Discarted for continuing to fight for photographer’s rights.

To voice your concerns regarding this officer’s behavior, contact the following individuals and offices:

Internal Affairs – Los Angeles Police Department
304 South Broadway, Suite 215
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Office: 213-485-1486
Fax: 213-473-6420

Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles
Email: mayor@lacity.org

Eric Garcetti, City Council President
5500 Hollywood Blvd., 4th Floor
Hollywood, CA 90028
Phone: 323-957-4500
Email: councilmember.garcetti@lacity.org

Tom LaBonge, Councilmember, District 4
Hollywood Field Office
6501 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Phone: (323) 957-6415
Email: councilmember.labonge@lacity.org

Update: The Los Angeles Times is now reporting that an investigation has been launched by the LAPD into this officers conduct.

Hey SF Muni Fare Inspector #32, Photography is Not a Crime

"Sir, You Are Not Allowed To Take Pictures On Muni Property!!"
Sir, You Are Not Allowed to Take Pictures on Muni Property!! by What I’m Seeing.com

It seems like day in and day out, increasingly, idiot cops and security guards continue to try and push photographers around. This most recent case is more personal to me because it hits close to home on the SF Muni and happened to a friend of mine Plug1.

Plug1 was doing his usual thing, which is documenting the hell out of daily SF life, when he was approached by an over-zealous muni transit fare cop, Fare Inspector #32.

From Plug1:

“Before I could get the 1st shot off, Fare Inspector #32 started marching towards me, hands in the air, yelling at me to STOP TAKING PICTURES!! So I put down away camera, walked towards him and answered his statement with a question. I asked him if he could cite me the specific Muni code that prohibited a Translink Card carrying passenger from taking pictures of Muni Personal on Muni Property. He could not. Instead he responded that I needed his permission and demanded to see my credentials and the pictures on my camera. He added that in fact, if I was unwilling to turn over possession of my camera to him he would seize my camera and have me arrested.”

Now first off. There is no prohibition against taking personal photographs anywhere publicly accessible in the Muni system. Public photography is allowed on both Muni and BART in the SF public transportation system. Secondly, no cop can ever make you delete images or seize your camera. Photography is a First Amendment right and they have no legal right to demand or do this. If Plug1 was arrested in this case, in fact, he’d have great material for a wrongful arrest case against SF Muni.

It sounds to me like this cop simply didn’t want his photo taken and decided to try and illegally bully Plug1 to get his way. This is an abuse of power. I hope Fare Inspector #32 is disciplined for this.

Now my own policy about shooting strangers is that if they ask me politely, 99% of the time I won’t shoot them or I’ll agree not to publish their image. In fact, over the years I’ve also taken down many images from my Flickrstream, blog, etc. when people have contacted me and asked me to take them down. On the other hand, when someone decides to be a prick about it, like this cop did, I’ll almost always publish their image and bring attention to the fact that they were being a pig — like Fare Inspector #32.

Somebody at Muni needs to inform Fare Inspector #32 that photography is in fact allowed within the muni system and that it’s an abuse of power for him to threaten paying customers with arrest over the crime of photography. Photography is not a crime.

Oakland Police Memorial Service Draws Thousands of Police From Around the United States

Berkeley PD-2

On Saturday, March 21st, 2009, four Oakland Police Officers were killed in the line of duty. A Memorial Service was held in Oakland at the Oracle Arena on Friday March 27th, 2009. Thousands of Police Officers attended the service from all over the United States. The Arena was filled to capacity and overflow attendees watched the service from closed circuit televisions at the Oakland Coliseum next door. The service was broadcast on major Bay Area television stations live. The text below is taken from the Memorial Service program:

“The men and women of the Oakland Police Department would like to thank everyone who has reached out to us during this sorrowful time. The loss of a single officer is tragic; losing four officers is overwhelming. This devastating event will forever change the lives of the families, friends and colleagues of our four fallen comrades. It is in times such as these that we realize the importance of community, family and friends, and we are grateful for the incredible outpouring of support the people of Oakland, the state, the nation and the world have shown us. We appreciate the countless cards, emails, flowers, acts of service, well wishes and prayers that have been sent our way. Sergeant Mark Dunakin, Sergeant Ervin Romans, Sergeant Daniel Sakai and Officer John Hege will be forever missed and remembered.”

Chief Howard Jordan

Trust Fund Information

Individual donations for the families can be mailed to c/o OPOA:
Attn: Renee Hassna
555 5th Street
Oakland, CA 94607

Checks should be made to the following:

“Dunakin Children’s Family Trust”
“Romans Children’s Family Trust”
“Sakai Family Trust”

Wire transfers can be made directly to Merril Lynch Accounts:

“Dunakin Children’s Family Trust”
a/c #204-04065

“Romans Children’s Family Trust”
a/c #204-04066

“Sakai Family Trust”
a/c #204-04064

You can view my photo set of images from today’s Memorial Service here.

Want to Know Why People Don’t Respect Police? Read the Comments in This Cop Forum on the Oscar Grant Shooting

I have a number of friends who are cops, good friends and even family members. I respect the police mostly. I respect how hard their job is and that they sacrifice a great deal to serve and protect the public. But there are always bad apples out there and I was extremely disappointed to read comments in a police officer internet forum today on the Oscar Grant shooting.

Here are some choice posts:

“Any number of reasons that he may have shot…..you can see from the video that there is a struggle before the shot is fired (even before the officer pulls his weapon)…..the suspect may have reached underneath him, leading the shooter to believe that he was attempting to retrieve a weapon….. There isnt enough info to call it a bad shoot…….not by a long shot….. btw….saying ‘liberal media’ is redundant…….esp. in SF area…….” by Forum Member LA DEP who says he’s an officer for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

Forum member Brenden then adds:

“I don’t know why people worry themselves with such things. The people that get shot are the people who put lives at risk. That cop probably saved the taxpayers over 200K in Courtfee’s and other convictions anyways. Maybe he even saved someone from getting killed.”

jb5722, who describes himself as a sworn police officer from North Carolina writes: “I would say that I’m sure the officer had his reasons for firing his weapon,” after adding earlier that if a reporter’s mouth is open they are lying.

, who describes himself as 23 year veteran patrol sergeant from Texas, speculates that: “the guy may have repeatedly told the officers he was going to shoot them and then reached under his body. Or a million different things that would prove in the end that this was a righteous shoot.”

One member, scratched 13, who describes himself as a police officer from the South goes so far as to suggest that the video of the incident may have been faked.

People wonder why some people hate the police. They wonder why people don’t respect the police. They wonder why protesters around the Bay Area have been protesting with chants of “F*** the police,” for the past week. All I can say is that asinine cops making comments like the ones above in a public forum are as big a part of the problem as anything. How a cop behaves in online forums and the words they choose can be amplified and magnified.

As much as many of these comments made by cops are offensive, just the overall tone of a forum like this troubles me. Referring to shootings as “righteous,” claiming that taxpayers are saved court fees when someone is killed, even the signatures that many of these cops choose to use as their taglines (Fear not the night. Fear that which walks the night. And *I* am that which walks the night.) just goes to show me that much of the hatred towards the police is due at least in part to the attitudes that comes from the cops themselves.

You can read more comments in this thread but the overall tone is that the news media and reporters (especially in the Bay Area) suck and mostly people trying to somehow defend the actions of Johannes Mehserle, the cop who shot Oscar Grant (and the cop who was arrested for the murder of Oscar Grant yesterday).

Interesting to read what this shooting looks like from a police perspective.

By the way, this same police forum has been discussing my recent stop by the Long Beach Harbor Patrol while shooting last month here. It’s unfortunate for me to read comments like this one: “Point is, if they ask you to move, then move. Why do people have to be so annoying about minor stuff. I am sure there are tons of other things you can take pictures of. If they say it’s against the law, then say ok and move along.”

Update: It seems that forums.officer.com has now deleted in it’s entirety the post about my recent run in with the Long Beach Harbor Patrol. Why does it not surprise me that a site like this one would so easily censor the threads in their forums?

Last Night’s San Francisco Oscar Grant Protest

We Are All Oscar Grant

About 100 demonstrators protested in the streets of San Francisco last night in San Francisco’s first major Oscar Grant protest. Oscar Grant was the 22-year old man who was killed and shot in the back by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle early New Year’s day at the Fruitvale BART station with the shooting heavily seen afterwards in videos around the internet.

The protest was mostly peaceful in contrast to last week’s more violent protest that took place in Oakland.

The protesters began protesting at around 5:45pm at the Civic Center BART station and then marched from there down to the Powell Street BART station and then downtown around near the Sutter and Montgomery intersection. About 50 or so San Francisco Police Officers monitored the protest and accompanied the march down Market Street. The local news crews were out as well with cameras and microphones in the protest.

Oscar Grant Was ExecutedSpeechLaw EnforcementRevolution On

Except for a very small amount of graffiti that I saw spray painted downtown and a reported trash can fire, there were no other incidents of violence accompanying this protest. The speakers at the protest kept encouraging violence in their speeches though telling people that they needed to “tear s*** up,” but the crowd seemed to lack the momentum that turned Oakland violent last week. No one was arrested in this protest.

The protest was promoted earlier in the day on Indy Bay with the tagline, “The kids in Oakland know how to party. Let’s show them they are not alone.”

The protest did not seem very well organized and except for a small battery powered bull horn which kept losing power, there did not seem to be anyone really in charge.

A few of the comic moments for me came as the protesters passed the bull horn around to each other sort of randomly. In one case I think one of the guys who got a turn on the bullhorn wasn’t even part of the original protest. Before the protest had even started he seemed to be just hanging around Civic Center telling anyone who would listen about problems with his wife. When he got the bull horn I’m not even sure he knew what the protest was about, but he did get an opportunity to rant a bit about his wife.

Another comic moment for me came when the protesters seemed to get into some sort of an argument with each other over the fact that some of the protesters were wearing bandanas over their face to mask their faces. One of the protesters challenged the protesters wearing bandanas to remove them from their faces while a protester with a bandana on tried to explain why she had hers on handing out a leaflet explaining it.

It seemed early on that some of the protesters were trying to make the protest about other things complaining about Palestinian occupation and homelessness in San Francisco. At one point a protester shouted into the bull horn. “How many of you are homeless and living in Golden Gate Park?” No one raised their hand and so he said, “ok, well a lot of people are,” and went on with his speech.

A few of the protesters said that they knew Oscar Grant. Another gave a speech saying that his best friend had been killed by the cops. Mostly though they just shouted and chanted “f*** the police,” “we are all Oscar Grant,” and “no justice, no peace.”

The protest seemed to gain the most momentum down around Market and Sansome Street when the protesters took a turn into downtown and the police on motorcycles couldn’t easily follow them down a one-way street. The protesters then headed up Bush Street where the SFPD sort of cut the protesters in half completely blocking off the intersection of Sutter and Montgomery in riot gear for about 15 minutes. After that the protest just seemed to dissolve into thin air. A few folks headed back up Market Street but mostly people just went on their way.

I put together a set of 50 photos from last night’s protest that you can see here.