i am interested to know if anyone has ever been harassed, threatened or ordered not go to fire scenes and photograph. i was talking with some buff friends and we swaped lies about expierences we have had positive and negative. i have allways seen the function of the photographer as an individual that documents the activities of the fire department for enlightenment, entertainment or education and it definatily provides a service. the individuals that "shoot fires" are professionals and should be seen as an important part of the public safety community
at a scene i was ordered by a police officer to turn over my film or i would be taken to jail. i told him i would be happy to provide the department with copies of what i'd shot but i thought he could not legally confiscate my property
i was once suspected of being a "kook" for being at every scene taking pictures. when confronted it was like a "session with some lay shrinks". they wanted to know why someone would want to photograph fire scenes? the act seems weird. i pointed to a copy of firehouse magazine and asked, where do you think the photographs come from?
i know of a photographer who was banned from fire scenes in his town because the powers that be thought he was setting them. there was never any evidence to prove it and the guy never got an apology from the department when the real arsonist was caught
If you are on public property, NO ONE can tell you not to shoot something. You have constitutional rights. Now if you are on private property, thats a whole nother matter. A cop has NO legal authority what so ever to confiscate your film or camera without a court order...except on federal or military installations where its clearly posted. No one can ban you from a fire scene if it is visible from public property..not the cops, not the firefighters and not a private citizen...as long as you are on public property...and the authorities are not banning other people. This of course does not apply to crime scenes where they have posted yellow tape...NEVER EVER cross the tape! Thats asking for a trip to the graybar hotel. You all should study up on the part of the US Code that deals with your constitutional rights. Ive scene cops back right off when you can spout chapter and verse of the relivent part of the US Code...here it is:
TITLE 42 > CHAPTER 21 > SUBCHAPTER I > § 1983
Civil action for deprivation of rights
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.
Note the part of the section in bold type...that line exposes the out-of-control cop or other official person, personally to legal proceedings. If he is found to have violated your rights under this section, you can go after his house, bass boat, weekend condo, cars, motorcycles or other assets to make good on any judgement against him. Assuming he doesnt have the cash to pay you off. This is above and beyond whatever coverage and legal exposure that the persons employer may have in the incident. Sue 'em all, let God sort 'em out!
Now remember, Im not a lawyer....but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn once!
The only "bad experience" I have had happene to me wasn't really at me at all, because of me? YES.
I photographed a fatal accident scene, driver and sole occupant dead on arrival of fire department.
I reposnded to the crash site, was immediately recognised due to my past involvment in the fire service. I was asked to not photograph the drivers side of the car while they removed the deceased from the car. I said no problem. I was granted full access to the scene by the officer in charge of the fire department. The investigating police officer asked me to shoot pictures for him, of all sides of the cars involved from all angles. I complied, trying to keep peace with the police as well (LOL).The drivers side had blood running down the door, the inside of the car I shot showing the air bag deployment, which also has some blood stains visible. I posted to my site. The responding department denied my offer of web ready images for their website, their policy is to not display any fatal incident, (volunteer dept, small community) which is fine.
Word got around I had these pictures on my site of this crash, I was blasted via newspaper comment forums for shooting such disgusting things, without the families permission etc. Once I explained the finer points about not needing permission, they took their anger to a new level, they contacted the fire department involved and said they would immediately stop their donations, financial support for all events hosted by the dept etc. if these pictures were not removed from my site. The chief informed them he didnt have that authority to enforce that, they said "make it happen".
He called me and said he knows I dont have to comply, but he is asking me to remove the bloody shots, they can not afford the financial loss from the fallout of this. I laughed, but said I would because in no way was I trying to create bad feelings or hardships for anyone, especially the fire departments.
Lesson learned, I have the right, but sometimes good sound judgement is a better option than exercing my right. Posting those pictures gained me nothing, so why not remove them. It woud cost me accesss to that departments scenes in the future I felt.
Russ - I don't know if you are a member of the FD or not, sounds like you are not. For me, I am a member of several of the FD's I take photos for, and not a member of some others, but they know me. I have been a police officer in the area for over 37 years and a member (some life member) of several area FD's. So that may make a difference for me.
However, my suggestion if you are not a member of the FD, stop by the FD on a training night, speak to the Chief and Training Officer. Let them know what you do with your photo work. That you would like to take photos at fire scenes, and would be willing to give copies of the photos to the FD for their web site or training purposes. That if they have a special training coming up, if you are available, you would be happy to come out and take photos of the training for the FD. That way the Training Officer can review what the did or didn't do. Also that the firefighters that were busy fighting the fire at one point, will get to see what went on at the entire scene, different points of the fire.
I think more along the line of they have to know who you are and your purpose. Your purpose for them would be to help them with photos of fire scenes and training. Give them copies of all the photos they want. With digital, it's not cost, just a little time. Take photos of the trucks and officers/firefighters to give them copies of. If they allow you to take photos at a fire scene, make a special effort to ask or let the Chief know "Let me know if there is anything special you want photos of". There will be some things they will ask to photo, some things they will say don't print that.
The biggest part is, you have to work with them. You just can't go in there snapping away if they don't know you. They have to get to know you, what you do, who you are, that you are working for and with them. What started out for me as taking some fire scene photos for 4 FD's, has now turned into I can walk onto any fire scene for over 2 dozen FD's in my area (which takes in a 3 county area) and start taking photos.
Hey, enough said, course different geographical areas work in different ways, but just thought I would pass my thoughts along
I have relatives in the fire / ems fields. My dad was a vol. ff, cousin was a ff/emt (now just paramedic), brother is a ff/paramedic. All started at an area vol. fire district. I used to tag along with dad when I was younger to his classes and to the station where I got to learn a lot from some of the members. Then when I got older, the local paid dept. started an explorer post which I joined and was in for a few years due to age. I still know quite a few of the ffs at that station and went to two fires in 6 days a couple of years ago and took photos from across the road and some in the road since the roads were ordered closed due to apparatus or hoses blocking them. When the chief (whom I have known for years -also friend of the family) took a look at the second batch of photos (fire 2) he asked me if I would like to be the Official VOLUNTEER Fire Photographer. I said yes. That was in an August, Then then that Nov. there was a structure fire where a cop tried to order me to stand on the side of the road in my dark clothing. I told him what I was doing there, he said he didn't care (he doesn't get along with my family). I told him I would call the fire chief he still said he didn't care. I knew his chief at the time so I asked if he would like me to call his chief. He didn't comment. Then the fire chief was called to the scene by command. As soon as the chief arrived, guess what the cop left in a hurry. Haven't had a problem with that cop since. Kinda Funny
Had the 2nd and 3rd fire problems last year. 2nd time: possible car fire where the owners didn't want me around, told them to talk to command. The owner instead talked to law enforcement on scene who said they couldn't do anything since I'm not with their dept. and talk to command. Command finally had me move but told me to still remain on scene incase needed more by them. 3rd time: Cop told me fire was out as soon as I stepped foot on the scene and said I wasn't needed (officer didn't care the dept. fire chief was on scene). I remained on scene and went right to command (dept. chief was on the engine that day) who in turn talked to all 3 officers on scene that day about me having access on all fire dept. scenes and to not interfere with my access. My city has a lot of new officers who are badge happy let me tell you. My 4th time wasn't so bad, it was actually funny. Happened just a few months ago. Responded to a structure fire. Pulled up right behind the trucks (since I followed 2 due to blocking traffic so they could get through downtown to get there) new cop tried to approach me to stop me when a veteran officer that I know (who was standing next to him) put his arm up and told him don't touch me or interfere with me. I just kept taking photos and said hi as I walked by them.
it seems that there is a "recent amount" of what you call correctly as "badge attacks" (i'm gonna use that by the way) by law enforcement on the media and civilians with cameras. i took the liberty of checking out police1.com and i was suprised at the amout of cops that think that they can "make up law" as they go along when it comes to anyone and cameras. i for one dont give a damn what the cops think about what i do. all i know is that i am within my rights to take pictures and have been for over 30 years. this recent slew of people being arrested for photography of the OUTSIDE of federal buildings, city and county buildings (post 911) and "because somebody thinks its suspicious or wrong is stupid. i have only had one bad encounter with law enforcement but based on how i was treated the last time, the next time, i'm pushing it all the way to the supreme court (oh yeah, they just ruled on that alredy) but i dont care. if somebody does not get the message to the law enforcement community, they will have to PAY and learn at the same time. in my case i'm not so pissed about being stopped in violation of my first and 4th constitutional rights, i'm pissed that the complaint i filed with internal affairs with an acreditated law enforcement agency was swept under the rug, i was lied to about the non existant invesigation and in its wake and the deputy sheriff got off scott free and the other officers in the department are to this day un educated about the law of the land they are sworn to uphold. i am a law enforcement supporter but when the cops become lawbreakers, it should be dealt with. if anyone thinks i'm being nuts, google it and check out you tube for yourselves. in some of those videos, the cops were out of controll, even arresting a woman while she was videoing IN HER OWN FRONT YARD! driving me to believe that the cop watch folks my not be the wackers they are portrayed to be.