How Stupid Can Cops Be?

Some cops apparently still haven't figured out that it's legal to take pictures in public places -- even of cops.

Pretty damned stupid apparently.

We had planned to ride the Metrorail through three stations to see if anybody would try to stop us from taking pictures of the trains.

We didn’t even make it inside the first station.

By the time it was over, three hours after a security guard told us it was against the law to take pictures in the parking lot of the Douglas Road Metro Station in Miami, a 50 State Security Captain had banned us for life from ever setting foot on the Metrorail again.

All because we took photos in the parking lot.

Yeah, its a private security firm so far, but here is the fun part,

Ledford was photographing one of those Coral Gables trolleys when the guard told him it was against the law due to terrorism reasons.

Ledford attempted to show him the email from Muntan, but the security guard was agitated that I would not stop filming him, so he walked away and called the cops. And then he punched out for the day. Seriously.

So then Ledford showed the email to a female security guard who still insisted that we needed prior permission. When we told her that the email proves she was wrong, she barred us from entering the station until a 50 State Security supervisor arrived. And this after we had already purchased our tickets.

Then a Miami police officer arrived and he said there was nothing he could do about it, so Ledford asked him to call a sergeant, who arrived but said there was nothing he could do about it because the Metrorail station falls under county jurisdiction, not city.

So Miami-Dade cops were dispatched to the scene, who in turn called a “Homeland Security” cop to the scene, but it turned out, he was really a Miami-Dade cop who only worked in the Homeland Security Bureau, whatever that means.

Every single one of those cops ceded their authority to the security guards, informing us that if the guards didn’t want us taking photos or riding the Metrorail, then there was nothing they could do to supercede that authority.

At one point, after waiting for the 50 State Security supervisor for an hour, Ledford was about to walk right in and allow the security guard to detain him as she threatened she would, but then the supervisor finally showed.

Captain Elliot Gelber of 50 State had no idea who Muntan was and he didn’t seem to understand the county code that stated we were allowed to take photos.

Stupidity this bad should hurt a lot.

So moral of the story, next time you are in a parking lot be careful taking pictures because then you are clearly pro-terrorist…or something.

More here.

And for those of you who aren’t familiar with how these things work, if you are taking a picture of something that is easily visible from public space then it is almost surely not illegal. This includes people. If you are out in public then you have no expectation of privacy because you are not on private property or a situation where privacy can reasonably be expected (e.g. a public restroom). Not that hard, but apparently lots of people think that they have special rights in this regard.

FILED UNDER: Bureaucracy, Government, Law and the Courts, National Security, Terrorism, US Politics
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. DreamLiner says:
  2. PD Shaw says:

    I know an environemtnal activist that testified before Congress against factory farms. Her presentation included photos of manure lagoons and she carefully introduced blow-ups by stating that they were taken before 9/11 since such pictures are now illegal under anti-terrorism laws. She says that Tom Harkin interjected incredulously, “We did that?”

  3. Steve Verdon says:

    She says that Tom Harkin interjected incredulously, “We did that?”

    Yeah, Tom, you did…dumb f***.

  4. JKB says:

    Ledford was photographing one of those Coral Gables trolleys when the guard told him it was against the law due to terrorism reasons.

    Okay, here’s the problem. Wrong POV. See it isn’t about stopping terrorists, it is about terrorizing the citizenry. It’s not out of malevolence but bureaucratic evil.

  5. floyd says:

    Good grief, anybody own a cell phone? GEEESSHHH!

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    Really? This is an example of police stupidity? Would you expect them to override the security guys so some dude can take pictures?

    This is a civil case. If they want to take pictures and feel the security guys were overstepping, then sue the company.

    But to pull actual cops off their beats to get involved in something this trivial? Guess what, the cops also won’t enforce your right to get an extra free barbecue sauce at Wendy’s. Maybe I should call the cops next time the cashier at Ralph’s overcharges me for peaches. Good grief.

  7. Joe says:

    This is why everyone hates bureaucracy.

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    This is news?

  9. wr says:

    That’s funny, I seem to recall that when Obama had the gall to criticize a police decision a few months ago, the entire right wing rose up en masse to tell us that the cops are completely infallible, and the very notion that the president might suggest otherwise was proof that he was an Islamic commie out to kill us all.

  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    WR:

    Still hoping for Republican intellectual consistency?

    I assume you’ve read Waiting for Godot?

  11. Steve Verdon says:

    Michael,

    1. The police threatened to arrest them if they entered the station and the security guards detained them.

    2. There is no such law backing up either the security guard or police.

    3. The basic take on photography is if you can see it from a public space its legal to take pictures unless a specific law prohibits it or you are using special equipment (i.e. a long lens).

    As such both the security guards and cops are being stupid. Very stupid as this will likely result in a lawsuit that could cost the county money.

    But to pull actual cops off their beats to get involved in something this trivial? Guess what, the cops also won’t enforce your right to get an extra free barbecue sauce at Wendy’s. Maybe I should call the cops next time the cashier at Ralph’s overcharges me for peaches. Good grief.

    That would have been the security guards who called the cops. Please pay attention. Just to be clear neither Miller nor Ledford called the cops. For a writer your reading comprehension really really sucks.

  12. Steve Verdon says:

    wr,

    I hope you are not confusing me with someone on the Right. I’m in favor of abortion being legal, gay marriage is fine with me, legalize drugs, and highly critical of cops. I was also on the side of criticizing the officer in the mess with the Harvard professor. That cop arrested the professor for contempt of cop and made up the other charges to justify the arrest, IMO.

  13. wr says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Steve. I was mostly referring to certain regulars commenters on this forum.

  14. […] How Stupid Can Cops Be? […]

  15. Trumwill says:

    Given how many jurisdictions are trying to declare recording interactions with the police illegal (even when in public places), they’re lucky they didn’t get arrested and put on trial for wiretapping.

  16. Chinh Le says:

    This country more and more like freak’in North Korea. Citizens being harassed by bunch of dump f***. So what about 911 we chicken out because of that. Everything we do know being watch, being harass, being labeled as a terrorist. I don’t mind the watch but stop the f***ing harassment.
    “Serve and Harass” now is on every cop’s vehicle.