Photographers “Banned for Life” for Taking Photos in Public Parking Lot

by on July 2, 2010

in Photographers

In the above video, you see that Carlos Miller (of Photography Is Not A Crime) and photojournalist Stretch Ledford were stopped while taking photos at Douglas Road Metro Station in Miami – before they even got into the station and while they were still in the parking lot.

While we’ve seen prior videos from other photographers that some readers have accused of baiting officers into a confrontation, Ledford actually contacted the Miami-Dade Transit Chief of Security to ascertain the actual rules for photography on the Metrorail premises before they ever set out to take any photos.  Miller was openly filming the encounter, and while Ledford appeared to remain cool-headed throughout the confrontation, the private security company seems to have stepped well beyond its legal boundaries.

This is yet another sad event in an ongoing trend of photographers’ confrontation with police and security.

There is an obvious disconnect between those who draft and quote policies and those who are on the street enforcing policies and attempting to keep the public safe.  Continually, it seems that the front line personnel are the ones facing criticism and ridicule on the Internet.  This entire dilemma is unfair in many ways.

It’s unfair to the photographers, who have every right to shoot video or photos in a public place.  The infringement of those Constitutional guarantees is troubling, to say the least.

It’s also unfair to those photographers who are ignorant of what level of rights they do have to use their cameras in public.  And, who will shy away when told they can no longer take photos due to “terrorism” laws.

Finally, it’s unfair to the front line police and security personnel.  Photographers are keyed-in to the specific Constitutional rights, and in the case above, the specific policies regarding photography in public or at a given location.  While we photographers are very aware of our rights, there is a good chance that the police and security personnel we encounter do not have anywhere near the same level of intimate knowledge that many photographers have – and certainly not the same level of those who prepare for First Amendment “sting” operations.

When was the last time, if ever, that you think any of the security officers received a training course on the First Amendment?  Now then, how much training do you think those same security officers received on dealing with suspicious packages?  Photographers are just not on the radar of their daily job description.

I feel that the root of the problem lies with those who make policy-level decisions – from training, to drafting the actual policies, to overseeing the implementation of those policies.  I also feel that the solution lies in activism at that level of authority, rather than risking one’s safety and challenging those who are ignorant of these laws on the street.

I would prefer to pass along a story about how a local photography club engaged a police department, armed with an authoritative knowledge and understanding of the law as it relates to photographers, and educated those front-line officers through either direct training, or by pushing policy-level changes from the top down.

While I don’t always agree with Miller and others’ methods in these confrontations, that’s not to say that I don’t respect them for standing up for their Constitutional rights.  Carlos Miller and many others are at least doing something to address a real problem.  If nothing else, it brings the issues to the table and, hopefully, pushes us all beyond a talking point and moving toward meaningful action.

[Photography Is Not A Crime and Stretch Photography via PetaPixel]

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{ 16 comments }

1 Marc453 July 2, 2010 at 10:55 am

This will not be solved until someone is arrested and the case goes to trial and up to the US supream court for a decision.

2 Mel July 2, 2010 at 11:48 am

I was once harassed by a security guard walking to work and photographing it he said i was taking pictures of the bank building which was on my right side all of the pictures i took that day none showed the name of the bank i was working out of town and wanted to show my family the walking route from where i parked my car. I even wanted to show the guard the pictures to show i was not photographing his building, he told me to stop or he would call the police i told him go right ahead, he didnt call and i continued on my way i took the rest to the photos of my walk to work.

3 TC July 2, 2010 at 1:05 pm

What a scary, stupid place the US has become.

4 RICHARD PERRIERA July 9, 2010 at 2:15 am

what is this country coming to???this is PLAIN STUPID…AND NONSENSE..what are these people afraid of????…gee

5 Titus July 9, 2010 at 2:28 am

Yes,it`s a legal situation and just the Supreme Court of US shall say the last word. Meanwhile it´s urgent more exposition of the rights of the photographers in newspapers, TV, radio and the web. Here in Peru, my country, the situation is so sad and stupid; so many times I have had to face an angry agent that has noticed my camera !!!! It´s imposible talk with them !!!

6 Bob July 9, 2010 at 6:10 am

I have had Park Rangers tell me the same thing,but most know that permission is needed for commercial use. It looks like a better job of educating all of these people that are being hired is needed and soon. This film could be a good one to show in that education course.

7 Carl July 9, 2010 at 8:06 am

While I am a photographer who enjoys the freedom to shoot photos anywhere and anyplace, as a traveler I must agree with law enforcement that after the attacks of 9-11 we as the public demand and have come to relax in the comfort afforded by the law enforcement agency’s responsible for such protection and should as good citizens abide by the rules. There is absolutely no way to confirm who are terrorists and who are average citizens out for a day of fun and travel or just commuting to work. Those two guys should have been arrested for harassing the officers in charge and disturbing the peace.

8 TN July 9, 2010 at 10:58 am

I’m just an amateur photogrpaher, but come on, really people? You all can’t be THAT immune to the terrorism threat that you can’t understand the reasons why photography is being restricted in some locations. Wake up and realize that the enemy is amongst us! Police and/or security officials may go overboard sometimes, but it’s for our own protection. How do you people not realize this?

9 Independent July 9, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Part, or most, of the the problem is the hiring of ignorant, power hungry people whose goal in life is to push others around. That is why they cannot conceive of someone standing up to them on facts and the LAW. The ones charged with enforcing the law, do not KNOW the law, and are deranged personalities to boot.

10 Keith July 9, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Carl and TN may be happy to give away their rights just because some figure of authority says they have to but that doesn’t make them or us any safer. A few points they forget.

1. Almost every square inch of every public space has been photographed already and these shots are easily available on the Internet. So terrorists don’t have to barge around carrying easy to see video equipment.

2. It extremely easy to get permission to film and shoot in public place. Most of these places are used for filming all the time. The authorities want you to film there, at a price. I’ve shot in many public spaces. I contact the public relations office of the authority and they usually put in in contact with the “Film Liaison” officer, who bends over backwards to help facilitate my shoot. The authority in charge wants to make the money and the municipality wants the publicity.

3. If a terrorist could not find the shots they need on the internet and were too stupid or cheap to buy permission for their “commercial shoot”, they can so easily shoot everything in sight with their cell phones. The shots might not win awards, however they would suffice for terrorism purposes.

The reason authorities insist on photographers seeking permission for shooting in these spaces has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with earning fees for giving permission.

11 Ashley Groome July 10, 2010 at 2:13 am

No offense intended, but a photographer was prevented from taking photos where? In the overall global scheme of things who cares? – no really, who gives a ****.

12 Ernie July 13, 2010 at 10:59 am

I agree with Carl above. The guys should have been arrested. What a childish event. These were the jokers in school who did the same stunts for attention. They do not cherish what our law enforcement is doing to keep America safe from the cloaked terrorists. If they want to be photographers then send them to Iraq or Afganistan to play their stupids games and see ahow far it goes there.

13 Josh July 19, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Bravo Keith!! Could’t of said it any better myself.

14 Thomas July 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm

I’m happy for these photographers. I hope they do file a lawsuit. What is the big deal about being filmed? One lady says well you didn’t get my permission to film me, blah, blah, blah, I’m gonna walk away. Alright lady. Get over it. You’re ugly and nobody wants to see you on camera anyway.

These law enforcement officers don’t even know the law, they make up laws as they go. And why are some folks so upset about what the photographers did? If it wasn’t for people like this, this country would make no progress, things would just stay the same. It’s important for people to express their minds and also make sure their voices are heard when laws are not being enforced properly. Great activism. Keep it up.

If being filmed is so bad, then laws need to be changed. Until then, if you are being filmed, get over it.

15 Robert July 27, 2010 at 3:32 am

The US Supreme Court has already ruled that the terrorist attacks of September 11th cannot be used to justify a protected first amendment activity such as photography. They have also ruled that you do not have to be a member of the media to able to enjoy the right to photography which is part of both freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which like free speech applies to everyone, not just the professional media.

16 mezeus August 1, 2010 at 4:54 pm

A few real good law suits should help to deter this nonsense.
That way we could at least get a court ruling.
If some tries to stop you just tell them you are Paparazzi.

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