An El Paso County sheriff’s deputy proved to be clueless about public photography laws when confronting a TV news reporter a couple of weeks ago.
At first, the deputy figured the reporter was up to criminal mischief because he was videotaping a public building.
But when learning he was a news reporter, the deputy informed him that he was safe from arrest.
Anybody else, however, would be subject to harassment, arrest and false imprisonment.
This is what the deputy told the KTSM reporter:
“As long as you’re with the news no problem, but if you’re an ordinary civilian out here that has no reason to really record the building then that becomes an issue.”
Normally, this would have resulted in the reporter going about his business without further thinking about the absurd statement he had just heard.
But because the issue of cops vs photographers is such a hot topic in the country right now, they ended up doing a news segment on it.
And they got the district attorney to confirm that public photography is, in fact, legal.
“If you’re in a public place where you have a right to be you can take photographs whether you’re a news agency or a private person,” said El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza.
“Our right to public safety and security, unless it can be clearly described, is going to take a backseat to our right to take photographs and video.”
They also confronted Sheriff Richard Wiles about the incident, who, of course, brought up 9/11 as a reason to harass photographers.
But the sheriff also acknowledged that perhaps this might be a good opportunity to retrain his deputies regarding public photography laws.
“You know, we’ve had this talk before and we have to remind our people from time to time, and again this may be an area where we have to re-educate our workforce here.”
So lets’ hope KTSM does some follow-ups on that idea.