Police. Photographers. Rights. And isn't this getting harder?

Started Feb 23, 2004 | Discussions thread
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ucs308
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Police. Photographers. Rights. And isn't this getting harder?
Feb 23, 2004

I have a few questions, the reason behind them follows the questions.

What information can a police officer request when you are being stopped for taking photographs?
What rights do I have to get a copy of that information?

What rights does the officer have for sharing that information with a commercial organization, that originally called the police?
How do you - professional photog's - handle being stopped by the Police?

Is there an organization that supports photographers and their rights to take photographs that might provide advice on such matters?

I realize these are really questions for a lawyer, but I am interested in the perspective of professional photographers.

Background:

I was taking some pictures over the weekend, and was asked by a company security guard to stop. I was taking these pictures from the side of the road, and was not on company property. Rather than be a jerk, I asked him his reasoning, and packed up my camera and walked back to my car, the company security guard followed me in his truck.

By the time I got to my car there was a California Highway Patrol officer waiting for me. Clearly the company had a direct line to the police. A few minutes later another CHP car pulled up and then a local Sherrif's car.

Everybody was courteous. The CHP ran my drivers licence, asked me a couple of question and made it clear I had not done anything wrong, but said they like to keep track of these things. The local cop was a little different, and it is from this interaction that my questions arise.

He was very careful to make it clear he was not harassing me, he made this point several times. But he also took the make and model of my camera. He wanted to know what the focal length of my telephoto was. He took my social security number, and drivers licence. The name of my employer. Why I took photos, and what I intended to do with the photos I took. He asked me several times if I had ever been arrested, and asked me if I belonged to specific groups. I made it clear to him that whilst I am answering these questions the information must not be given to the company. They had no rights. He agreed and said they just like to know these things. He would not even be filling a report. I don't trust him.

This was not a military installation. Nor was it state or federal installation. It was admitted by the CHP, and the Police officer that this had nothing to do with Homeland Security. The Sheriff also made the point that they come out at the request of the company, as a courtesy to the company.

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