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VIDEO: LA Sheriffs Unlawfully Detain Photographer

On October 31, 2009 while on my way home from the Hollywood and Highland area, I was unlawfully detained for 25 minutes by LASD Officers Richard Gylfie #2955 and Bayes #456 for taking two photographs of the turnstiles located at the Hollywood and Western Metro Station — an act that is completely legal and occurred in public space.discarted

Sheriff: Why are you taking pictures?
Photographer: Because I want to.

Apparently that answer isn’t good enough for the LA sheriffs. I respect that the sheriffs have a tough job but they do not have the right to harass people who are not doing anything illegal. Tell everyone you know. This is important.

Click here to get more information about the incident and to get contact information for agencies that should be able to do something about this.

Click here for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s online complaint form.

John Watson

John is the original founder of Photodoto, but after running it for 4 years he had to focus on different things. If you're interested in what John has been up to recently, you can check is personal blog or browse his photo blog.
  • Brian Melancon

    The photographer in this instance was appeared to be unnecessarily confrontational. This is never a good idea when dealing with the police. It doesn’t prove anything except you’re a jerk. It doesn’t help your side, it hurts it. The best thing to do is cooperate even if you feel the officer is in the wrong, perhaps ESPECIALLY if you think the officer is in the wrong. Just cooperate and if you think you have a valid complaint, do something about it later with the appropriate agency. Being confrontational to a police officer is all they need to LEGALLY detain you while they do whatever checks they feel they can or should. Use some common sense.

    • I disagree. I didn’t see anything confrontational from the photographer, just a citizen asserting his rights. The police officers overstepped their authority and, possibly more importantly, weren’t protecting anyone from anything.

  • Mikel Daniel

    The photographer answered the officers questions, and the officer obviously felt he had gone down the wrong way by his incessant need to overly explain his actions as a police officer…after threatening to put the guy on the “hit” list.

    Huh?

    Unfortunately, I can see both sides of this case. The photographer whose civil liberties was infringed upon, and the police officer who was simply trying to ensure safety.

    That being said, they were both quite polite despite what was a heated exchange.

  • Kevin

    I am glad to see that the police officer asked questions and stopped someone who is taking photos of a mass transit location. Granted, it is a fine line between our rights as individuals and the need to give up rights for the protection of our society. I would hope that people would understand that along with our right to photograph in public places also comes the responsibility to understand that some individuals (terrorists) would use these rights to their advantage. Therefore, we as conscious citizens should tolerate questioning from authority when we are photographing mass transit and other terrorist targets. How hard would it have been to answer the questions show him the camera and move on. Instead he feels the need to prove how much knowledge he has about photographer’s rights and films it and posts it. Annoying.

    • But isn’t it silly to assume that outlawing photography will stop terrorist bombings? Won’t terrorists just use hidden cameras? Or sketchbooks? Or their memory? Should we stop and question everyone on the metro with a sketchbook? A tape measure? Eyes?

      • Brian Melancon

        It’s true that taking photographs is perfectly legal, and so would be making sketches, and even roaming around closely examining articles and structures in the subway. But don’t you think in a day and age where we have to worry about things like this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/6529436/British-spies-help-prevent-al-Qaeda-inspired-attack-on-New-York-subway.html that someone who is innocently taking photographs in a subway should be understanding enough to answer a few questions from a police officer without getting offended and defensive? Judging from what was said in the video, this is not his first incident with the police. This photographer seems to be trying to push the buttons of the police, “Every time I photograph a crime scene I get detained.” And for someone who claims to be a photographer’s rights advocate, he sure seems to be clueless about the -legal- authority of the police to detain someone for questioning. On top of that, he just happened to be rolling video? And the officer didn’t seem to notice the video camera? And the clip starts just seconds before the police office comes up to the photographer? What happened before that? Frankly, this looks to me like the photographer set the whole thing up with the intention of creating a confrontation. This sort of zealotry only makes it harder for the rest of us. Had the photographer just politely answered the initial questions, he would have probably only been out a minute or two of his time. Instead he chose to be a jerk because he had an agenda. And you see the results of being a jerk to a police officer.

  • I made an official complaint about the officers. The bottom line is that the officer knew the guy wasn’t breaking any laws. He also knew (or should’ve known) that the guy wasn’t breaking any transit rules. Certainly, if he didn’t know, he knew that he was making it up when he said it was against the rules.

    This is not a police state. We have something called a Constitution in this country. People are innocent until proven guilty in court. And most importantly, in public areas, we can make audio recordings as well as photographs (or video).

  • Al Ky-Duh

    Tell Officer Gylfie all us Terrists are coming to get his TURNSTILE (at Hollywood & Highland)! Be afraid. Be very afraid~!!! In the meantime, keep disregarding the US Constitution and look out for our next fake Bin Laden tape to make you more paranoid. American sheeple are so funny, especially dumb ones with badges.

    Al Ky-Duh
    c/o Terrist Camp
    Sandy Desert Caves, Eye-Rack

    PS: Please put us on the FBI most-wanted list. It’s so nice to be wanted.

  • Actually, we have a Bill of Rights that protect us from the actions of over zealous “protectors” of liberty. This officer is, in my opinion, like many police officers in the United States. This type of police officer feel that they are the only person who can protect the public, because they will be the “hero” at the end of the day.

    The ultimate reality is that near the end of the video the officer is double talking around and around the true issue a law or rule must be broken, or a reasonable suspicion thereof, for a person to be detained. So, the only excuse for this officer’s action is that he thought (or did not know what rules/laws he was paid to enforce) that it was against the law to take photographs inside a metro station, which is the only way that he could have a reasonable suspicion that a law was broken.

    The possibility that an object (photograph) will be sold to another individual (al queda) for a nefarious purpose (terrorism) is not against any law in the United States.

    With all that said, this is clearly a staged situation to intentionally antagonize police officers, which could potentially have serious negative consequences if the officers are any more over-zealous. In my home town, people are routinely beaten by the police for public disorderly conduct that is perfectly within their rights (based on the Bill of Rights). But that has never stopped a man in a blue uniform with a billy club who did not stop to think.

    Just some thoughts.

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