Land Of The Free (Just Don’t Take Photos)
Saturday night. August 5, 2006. Approximately 10 PM. I’m hanging around a downtown coffeehouse when I noticed some activity across the street in the parking lot. So I walk over, just wondering what is going on. I stand on the sidewalk, out of the way, while the EMTs and city police do their jobs.
I had my small digital camera with me. I decided to take a few shots. I didn’t use flash (it was too weak to be useful from where I was standing.)
Suddenly an officer of the Plattsburgh Police Department came over and asked to see my photographs on my camera’s LCD screen. I changed the subject, replying that I didn’t know there was a law preventing me from taking any pictures. The officer replied that there wasn’t any law, but someone had been injured and that person wouldn’t want a photograph taken. Blocking my view of the injured person being loaded into the ambulance, he ordered me to move along.
So what’s the problem? Do a few crappy images undermine the investigation? If I had been working for the local newspaper, would I be treated the same way? Does a reporter have more rights than an average citizen?
This is the fourth time I’ve been hassled by the city police when taking photographs at night. On the other occasions I was just shooting scenery, one shot spotlighting an American flag.
What is the Plattsburgh PD afraid of? An amateur photographer with a small point-and-shoot digital camera is a threat?