Detained for “Photography” by Maryland Transit Police

by on June 1, 2011

in Legal

Train fanatic Christopher Fussell was shooting photos and video of Baltimore’s light rail train when he was stopped and detained by Maryland Transit Police.  The police insisted that it was illegal to take photos and video of the transit system telling him that he “need[s] to cease and desist with the photographing and continue on your way.”

When Fussell challenged the officers by requesting the statute that he was violating, they offered none.  Rather, the officers continually cited 9/11 and brought up Maryland’s anti-wiretap law, which is completely inapplicable in situations like this.

Fussell missed two trains during the half hour that he was detained.  He recorded the entire encounter on video and uploaded it to YouTube in a 2-part series (embedded top and below).

The ACLU is on Maryland Transit Authority’s tail for this kerfluffle, stating, “Photography is expressive activity that is protected by the First Amendment. If you are legally present, you have a right to take photographs.”  The ACLU has told the MTA that if it doesn’t satisfactorily resolve the misinformation among its officers by September 1 and make appropriate amends with Fussell, it will file suit and bring the Constitution with it.

As you watch the below videos, it’s pretty obvious where the officers were completely making stuff up – stuttering about the Patriot Act and 9/11.  For starters, perhaps it would be a good idea for the MTA to pass around a notice to its officers that cites pre-existing law (e.g., the Constitution) and explains that photography from a public area is not a crime (like the federal government did).

[via Baltimore Sun]

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{ 14 comments }

1 oh_fubar June 1, 2011 at 6:06 am

Apparently serious training isn’t required to be an MTA officer
Just be big and present.

2 TC June 1, 2011 at 9:22 am

I think the point you’re missing with all of these videos of police and other security types restricting people’s freedoms is that, rather than them being “misinformed” or “mistaken”, rather that the law and the constitution are simply much less relevant in the US these days since the authorities discovered that referring to “security” gave them unquestionable power.

3 GF June 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Gov’t official/Police handbook – “If there is any attempt to resist, just reference 9/11!”

4 Fried Toast June 1, 2011 at 10:34 am

http://www.copblock.org/cameramap/

It’s thing like this that reinforce my belief that the Patriot Act is anything BUT patriotic and nothing but a serious deterioration of our rights as Americans.

5 olehippy13 June 1, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Geesh……are these cops, renta-cops??? Just leave the dude alone…..Public property…..I’d have to sue the crap outof these jokers….
A_Sholes……

6 forkboy1965 June 2, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Friends in Britain complain about this sort of thing on a regular basis. Organized groups often get together for rallies centered around the idea “I’m not a terrorist. I’m a photographer.”

7 Hamdinger June 3, 2011 at 8:23 am

Good for you Christopher! You have much larger cajones than I would have had in this situation… I had a similar incident when visiting Boston, but the police there could clearly see I was a tourist and only asked me to stop taking pics, which I did. I appreciate that law enforcement struggles with finding a balance between the First Amendment and public safety, but this is clearly an example of poorly-trained and over zealous security looking to harass a citizen who was breaking no law. Thank you for bringing this incident to light and good luck in your legal battles.

8 Isis June 3, 2011 at 9:17 am

Interesting… Last week, I was taking photos of a fountain inside Town Center Mall in Port Charlotte, Florida. A security guard came over and told me that photography wasn’t allowed in the mall “because of terrorist concerns”. Not sure if the mall qualifies as a “private” or public space, but it’s unsettling that we now are considered “guilty” of something so many, many places without the due process of law or any way to “appeal” the guilty assumption.

9 Kevin Standlee June 3, 2011 at 11:04 am

Maddening. I, too, have been hassled by authority figures for the so-called “crime” of photographing trains. In my case, my wife and I were in Chicago in 2009 taking video of the train we were about to board, and when we boarded, the conductor insisted that “photography of trains is illegal,” but, like the people in this story, couldn’t cite an actual law. More details are in my LiveJournal, with a follow-up of the dangerous train video that aroused the conductor’s ire.

To their credit, Metra later apologized to me and one of their officials told me that there was nothing wrong with “being a tourist,” that being what I was doing, and that they’d so inform the crew in question.

10 Michael Levine June 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I was just up in New York city and Video taped / took pictures at empire state building/ subway/ central park with no hassles. These guys are GOOFBALLS with nothing better to do except try to throw there wait around. I LOVED the way Christopher talked to these guys. It was comical. They obviously had not pull because they could not arrest him. If this goes to court I hope photography bay sends out a mass e-mail to get all the photographers they can to the courthouse. AND take a million pictures of these guys.

11 Michael Levine June 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I also thought it funny he showed a woman walking across the tracks and pointed it out to the “officers” and none of them said anything to her. If any issues of saftey there it was. The should show that piece in court. Are these guys TSA? They probsbly only have to know how to spell it. Not even know what it means.

12 Leeroy June 3, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Officers tweedle dee and tweedle dumb obviously have nothing better to do.
Police / Security Officers ???…..naaah, just two boofheads flexing their puny muscles!!!

13 mezeus June 6, 2011 at 7:49 am

If you argue with a cop your going to loose. You will end up in jail, paying a bondsman, going to trial, paying a fine. All of that just to prove your right. Very expensive and time consuming.
The cop was very polite. And you can be arrested for refusing to show law enforcement identification if they request it.

14 mezeus June 6, 2011 at 7:52 am

I was taking pictures of a dam not far from where I live. A policemen came up and told me to stop. I did. No problem.

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