Los Angeles Cops "Special Order" Equates Photography With Criminality

Sep 21, 2012

by Alicia Calzada

Once again, a law enforcement agency has instructed its officers to equate photography with terrorism, and the NPPA has responded. The NPPA was joined by a coalition of other media and photography organizations this week in a letter to Chief Charles Beck, of the Los Angeles Police Department, including the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Los Angeles Times, the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), the Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles (PPAGLA), the Society of Professional Journalists – Greater Los Angeles Chapter (SPJ-LA) and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP).

The LAPD recently issued guidelines instructing their officers on “behavior/activity that may reveal a nexus to foreign or domestic terrorism.” Such behavior listed includes:

“Taking pictures or videos of facilities/buildings, infrastructures, or protected sites in a manner that would arouse suspicion in a reasonable person.  Examples include taking pictures or videos of ingress/egress, delivery locations, personnel performing security functions (e.g., patrol, badge/vehicle checking), security-related equipment (e.g., perimeter fencing, security cameras), etc”

In the letter, NPPA General Counsel, Mickey Osterreicher explained to Chief Beck:

“Photography is protected by the First Amendment, subject only to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. Unfortuately the reliance on policies such as the LAPD’s as the basis for law enforcement officers to question, detain and interfere with lawful activities by photographers under the guise of preventing terrotist activites has become a daily occurrence.”

Osterreicher added that this “erroneous belief is only reinforced by these specific references to photography as possibly being part of some sinister act,” noting that the guidelines are “overly broad and vague and helps foster a climate of fear and suspicion”

The NPPA offered to work with the law enforcement agency to help develop more reasonable policies regarding photography, asking that any reference to photography be removed from the guidelines.