M.G. Bralley, a retired police officer and regular reader of Photography is Not a Crime (not to mention occasional fact-checker for this site), was kicked out of a John McCain rally in New Mexico last month after photographing a Secret Service officer.
A uniformed Secret Service officer, that is, which strikes me as an oxymoron but what do I know?
Bralley, who spent 24 years as an Albuquerque police officer but has been a photographer much longer than that, now blogs about politics in New Mexico where he is a self-described watchdog on government officials, especially when they violate the Constitutional rights of civilians.
On Oct. 8, he was trying to get into a McCain rally at the University of New Mexico when he snapped the following photo of three uniformed Secret Service officers.
This is how he describes what happened on his lengthy analysis titled Why John McCain lost New Mexico (if you click on his blog, scroll way down until you see the photo for the story).
While waiting for a call back, I raised my camera and photographed three USSS uniformed officers, above. The officer in the center raised his hand just above his belt and waved it back and forth three times. I took it to mean, not to take pictures. I lowered my camera.
The officer approached me and said, “Don’t take any pictures.”
“This is America; First Amendment and all,” I asked?
“Oh, I’m not telling you that you can’t take pictures,” he said. “Just don’t take my picture.”
As a journalist, a member of the fourth estate, a watchdog on government, I’m required to confront such a statement, which is a form of censorship.
“You’re a uniformed agent of the United States,” I said. “You may not ask me that.”
“You can take pictures,” he repeated. “Just don’t take my picture! OK?” The officer used the verbal demand utilized to intimidate the unknowing citizen.
I told him if he didn’t want his picture taken, then step out of the line of the camera’s lens.
Bralley was then escorted off the grounds by the following two University of New Mexico police officers, whom he describes as Officer Christopher Crespin and Sergeant Jeremy Parrish.
Bralley asked why he was being kicked out.
He and Parrish wouldn’t engage in much discussion and certainly weren’t going to admit that they had no idea why the Secret Service officer wanted me removed.
Listening to only one side of a story, even if it is from another law enforcement officer, is an improper police procedure.
I wonder why an officer would be so willing to risk becoming part of a violation of civil rights complaint, by not even listening to the facts.
I’m thinking Bralley needs to launch a business where he offers training sessions to officers in how to deal with the media. Maybe I can even partner with him because there is desperately a need for this training throughout the country.