One photographer was detained for photographing a subway turnstile and accused of being in cahoots with Al-Qaeda.
Another photographer was detained for photographing a courthouse and investigated for terrorist activity.
And another photographer was detained for photographing refineries at night and placed in the back of a police car for 45 minutes.
Now all three men are suing the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for unlawfully detaining them for the legal act of taking photos.
The ACLU filed the suit today on behalf of photographers Shawn Nee, Greggory Moore and Shane Quentin, who were detained in the above incidents.
Nee, who has had several run-ins with Los Angeles law enforcement officers as well as security guards over his photography, had another run-in with the sheriff’s department this year who told him he was not allowed to take photos from a public sidewalk (video below).
Unbeknown to the deputies who harassed him, Nee was wearing a Vievu camera around his neck, which recorded their harassment.
Ironically, Vievu markets its cameras to police departments around the country so they can record their interactions with suspects.
The suit, which also mentions several other photographers who received similar harassment, seeks to stop this ongoing and illegal harassment as well as statutory damages for the plaintiffs to be determined during the trial.
UPDATE: Nee, who posts under Discarted on Photography is Not a Crime, stated the following about the Vievu cameras and his lawsuit in response to some of my questions.
Yes that’s true, more and more police officers are wearing body cameras like Vievu or Axon. Which is a good thing because video evidence is a powerful tool to hold police accountable for their actions when they break the law or violate a person’s civil rights.
However, the problem with these cameras is the fact that the police officer has the ability to turn the camera on and off at his leisure, which defeats the purpose of police even wearing them. For instance, some of the police officers involved in the death of Kelly Thomas turned off their DARs during the incident, which is unacceptable and should not have been an option for them to do that. These devices should always be recording.
In other cases, the police refuse to release the video, such as in the recent Oakland Police Department shooting where there are conflicting reports of what happened.
So the next step regarding police officers wearing cameras for accountability purposes is toward requiring all officers to have their camera(s) turned on and recording the entire time they’re in uniform. More important, there should be a third-party that is completely independent of law enforcement agencies responsible for storing the recordings so they’re not accidentally deleted or simply vanish from servers.
I’ve been using a Vievu for about 2 or 3 years and always have it with me now whenever I leave the house, and I especially use it when I’m doing street photography, or working on a documentary project.
I’m an ethical and law-abiding person who is well aware of what I can and can not do who just wants to express himself via photography, and my Vievu allows me to protect myself by providing me with video evidence in case I’m assaulted, someone makes a false accusation against me, or I’m harassed by police while taking pictures in public space.
In regards to the lawsuit, my videos certainly help build a case against the Sheriff’s department, however, I don’t believe they’re absolutely necessary to prove that the LA County Sheriff’s office has a history of unlawfully detaining and harassing photographers who are exercising their constitutional rights in public space. And now that the lawsuit has been filed we might starting hearing more and more stories about other photographers being detained by the Sheriff’s department.