Rob Hurlbut was standing on the platform of the San Diego Trolley when he saw a group of armed security guards tackle a man for smoking a cigarette.
He began shooting video with his digital SLR, prompting a female guard to tell him he was not allowed to take photos.
Hurlbut continued shooting as three guards struggled to handcuff the man with one of them driving his knee into the man’s face.
The guards would tell the man to stop resisting but the man wasn’t resisting. He was, in fact, telling the guard that he was trying to cooperate, but they were hurting him.
As Hurlbut continued shooting, a couple of the guards positioned their bodies around the melee on the ground in an attempt to prevent him from filming it.
The guards finally handcuffed the man and walked him off. Hurlbut followed behind him with his camera.
One of the guards pointed at him and said, “Go over and get that guy right there.”
Another guard said, “Stop him from taking our picture.”
And another guard walked up to him and demanded to see his trolley ticket, which Hurlbut produced.
Here is the dialogue that took place between Hurlbut and the guard:
Guard: “All right, we’ve asked you not to take pictures, so no taking pictures.”
Hurlbut: “Am I in violation of the law?”
Guard: “Yeah, no pictures.
Hurlbut: “What about video?”
Guard: “No no video. Nothing.”
Hurlbut: “Is it against the law?”
Guard: “We don’t want it.”
Hurlbut: “But it’s not against the law.”
Guard: “It’s against our rights. Please stop.”
Hurlbut: “Should I go over there?”
Guard: “We don’t want pictures taken at all over here, sir.”
Hurlbut: “But it’s not illegal.”
Guard: “We don’t want you taking pictures.”
Hurlbut eventually stopped filming and that satisfied the guards for a few minutes. But then they got back on his case, as he explains on his website.
ANOTHER trolley cop approached me about three minutes later & asked for my trolley pass again. He actually took it from my hand because he wanted to “check the authenticity.”
He then said, “If you miss the next trolley…” and shrugged. Then added “Do you get what I mean?” I said I did and made damn sure I caught the next trolley.
The incident occurred September 5, 2009. By September 18, the head of Heritage Security Services, the company that employed the guards, issued a public apology.
The story was reported on the local NBC station, which you can see below. Here is the apology from Ken Moller, president of Heritage Security Services.
“We have no right to tell people they can’t shoot (video) down there. My officers were wrong in telling him that. And I put that word out as soon as I saw the video. It’s a public place and people can certainly shoot video down there if they want to.”
After seeing the video, it’s a little surprising that these security guards are not cops. In fact, they are known as “trolley cops.”
But according to a discussion on a police forum, they are not sworn officers and considered to be beneath cops. Or as one officer put it, “not of the highest caliber.”
That is probably the understatement of the year.