hate to bother the room with this but something cute happened at a fire the other day. i was ordered to stop taking pictuires at a fire by a cop who asked why i was taking pictures of a fire? later when i had moved to where she told me to i was taking more pictures when she told me again to move on so she would not have to arrest me for obstruction. i'm only asking because i'm not sure if any laws had changed. (seriously)- i'm really not sure, because (post 9-11) i'm not sure if some laws had been changed and i somehow missed it
thanks to all who took the time to reply. i was just surprised that a cop as young as she went throught the police academy and NEVER SAW ONE PICTURE OR VIDEO of an action scene. as for a homeowner not wanting their home onm fire photographed i've honored the request...and used my telephoto lens. i remember being toldf that a cop could take your camera if they wanted to, i wonder how true that is....as for my case i was "near" the hot zone and was backing off at the time she tagged me. there was no fire line tape up either. i'm thinking about writing the officer to educate her about scene photographers but i know she would just file it...i think i'll put on my "god created firefighters so cops would have heros"shirt.....what seperates law enforcement from the fire service?...internal affairs
You should go to that departments Internal Investigations and file a complaint against her if you feel she violated your rights in anyway. Doesn't sound like she had the right to threaten you with arrest for that. If it occurred the way you said.
Russ-You have to use some good judgement skills when you are out and about taking scene photos. Just remember that if a officer or fd member sees you taking photos and something happens where they go to court, you can be call into court with your photos to testify and have your photos used in a court of law. There is a big controversy going on in some areas about the use of helmet cameras. If you don't use them carefully you can violate patients rights/HIPAA laws and bring down a whole bunch of bad stuff on yourself. Use common sense and if you are asked to move, then move. Stay back and take appropriate photos, and if neccessary get permission from the fd after the fact to use them.
i thought about that Al but my mom allways told me not to make descisions when you are angry so i wrote a letter to educate her about public safety photogrtaphy. in it i tell her that a photograph i take today may save a life or teach a lesson or it just might go into an archive for future review. in any case i enjoy what i do and it serves a purpose and someday it may even help law enforcement. i see no reason to screw with her carrear which will only serve to piss her off and give her a day on the beach, she gets a tan but dont learn nuttin. even if she sees who its from and throws it in the trash, if i have a second encounter with her i would ask her if she read it and if not...then she sits down with me and the rat squad-(internal affairs) and together we explore the mysteries of the constitution and the bill of rights and how it relates to how she does her job.
Mike you comment has weighed heavely on my mind and i thank you for it. as for going to court for photos, i have been the forensic photographer for my county's arson task force for 15 years and i have a few judges and attorneys who are TIRED of seeing me. i was testifying ducas tecum for a week once and when we were done the judge didnt want to see me again ever. he said we spent way too much time together, then we kept running into each other for a while in public, it was funny... As for HIPPA, the trick is not to get any faces of the victims because (this happened to a friend of mine) a person who was in an MVA complained that their accident was frequently used in some training and sued. the judge rulled that no faces could be seen in any of the pictures used so the fact that you recoignized "your accident" is your problem. nobody in the room knew who the victims are or were, so you should have said nothing. the photographer beat it. the good thing about digital is the erase button because nobody has a expectation of privacy at a fire, espically if i'm in the street or a designated area. i dont see the helment cam as a liability because the person wearing it didnt cause the fire (we hope) and i dont see how taking video inside or outside of a fire could be harmful. Mistakes happen at fires, thats a reality of our profession and if a dangerous practice can be exposed by a helmet cam, i'm all for it. i remember what a medal of valor winner said once, " show me a hero and i'll show you a guy that broke at least 10 department regs to win it". i have heard the argument of "causing pain to the homeowner" for seeing his house burn and the only thing i can say is if your know your house fire was taped...dont look at it at 6 and 11. emergency events are public events, and yes i do stay behind the yellow tape, i dont need to be in the way but what do i do when a chief who knows me grabbs me and draggs me along with him? (laugh-its happened) i try to stay out of the way,really i do. "Chaplain Mike" god bless you and your work and thank you and everyone else for your comments. i appriciate them all
Before I became a volly, I was actually a photographer for the city FD where I was going to school. They knew me and trained me, and even provided me with bunker gear, so I had awesome access. My only rules were to not get between firefighters and the scene, and at building fires, to stay out of the collapse zones during interior operations until told otherwise. Anyway, like others had said, I was also instructed to take crowd shots of any onlookers.
But to answer your question, as long as you are out of the way and standing where the officer instructed you to go, they don't have the right to tell you to stop taking pictures. However, that being said, even if the officer is in the wrong, I'd think long and hard about disobeying. You may very well win in the end, but in the short run, you're risking arrest, confiscation and/or destruction of your camera equipment, and several charges.
I would suggest that next time, you just state your reason for taking the photos (not that you need to) and give the officer the power. Apologize for being in the way, and ask the officer nicely, where you would be permitted to stand, observe and take photos. If fire scene photography is your thing and you frequently find yourself in that situation, may I suggest bringing a bag of donuts with you. This is one situation where you may just want to "feed the bears".
Wouldn't an explanation of "I'm the fire investigator" have worked with that young cop? Or were you not the investigator at that fire? If you aren't at a fire officially, perhaps approach the IC (with some appropriate ID) and ask if it's OK for you to be there as long as you stay out of the way? Here, we own the scene until we declare it 'safe', then the police can have control.
I've never seen a photographer ordered away from a fire scene. Blocking their view at an MVA yes, until the injured have been removed from vehicles, but not ordered away by the police.
Law of the press has established that you are free to photograph anything that is in the public view. In other words if you can see something from the street you are free to photograph it. If you have to climb a fence to see something you are violating someone's privacy until they give you permission. The police officer was clearly harrassing you.
Be nice to the police, and try to accommodate them on the scene of an emergency. They tend to not be too bright, and respond to any situation in the same way: patronise and annoy, threaten with arrest.
If you are in the way, or near anything hazardous, they can ask you to move and charge you with trespassing (and a grab bag of other things) if the mood takes them. If you are out of the way and in a public area, there isn't much they can (legally) do. It gets blurry if the cop decides the "incident" extends way beyond where all of the action is, and the sad reality is that cops get to do whatever they like and there isn't much you can do about it.
The cop can make a BS request, then run you in for not complying. You can argue it out in front of a judge if the mood takes you. Personally I avoid the police like plague. An arrest record, even if you never go to court, will follow you a long way.
It sucks that I hate the police now. When I was a kid I admired them.