Oblivious to its own photo policy, Amtrak police threatened to arrest a reporter for having recorded a video of a TSA checkpoint at Chicago’s Union Station.
Julio Rausseo of We Are Change had video recorded Transportation Security Administration screeners setting up a checkpoint at the train station on July 5.
He uploaded the video, then returned to the station a week later where he sat in a restaurant video recording TSA screeners ordering their food.
That was when he was approached by an Amtrak police officer who recognized him from the previous encounter as you can see in the above video. Unfortunately, Rausseo never dared record the faces of the two cops who ended up harassing him.
And then the cop suggested that his video could have been used for “terrorist activity.”
When Rausseo asked him to elaborate, the cop explained that “people know the time, the date, you gave an explanation about TSA.”
Never mind the fact that thousands of people must have seen the TSA screeners setting up the checkpoint that day as you can see in the video below.
The cop then demanded to see his identification. When Rausseo protested, a second cop showed up, explaining that they were conducting a Terry stop.
By law, a Terry stop requires the officers to have a reasonable suspicion or “specific and articulable facts” that a crime has just been committed or about to be committed.
In this case, the only “crime” that was committed was Rausseo having video recorded a security checkpoint and uploading the video to Youtube, which are not crimes, especially considering he made no indication in the video that he had committed a crime or was planning to commit a crime.
The second cop pointed out that Union Station is a privately owned building, which he said meant that Rausseo was required to get a permit before he was allowed to utilize his First Amendment rights to record.
“You’re obviously a rookie journalist ’cause any seasoned journalist would know that you follow policy and procedure,” the cop told him.
“A normal journalist and a professional journalist would know to go to management office, get a permit, who you are, what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Then they escort you, and you are able to execute your First Amendment rights.”
Of course, a seasoned cop would also know that there is no requirement for reporters to get a permit.
And while it’s true that Union Station is owned by Amtrak, it is also true that Amtrak is a government-owned corporation, meaning it is funded by taxpayers.
Amtrak also has very clear photo policy listed on its website, thanks to its embarrassing flap in 2008 involving PINAC reader Duane Kerzic, who was arrested by Amtrak police for taking photos he planned to use in an Amtrak photo contest.
As a result of Kerzic’s arrest, Amtrak revised its photo policy in March 2009.
The policy, which I’ve posted below in its entirety, is no different than what you encounter at other transportation hubs, including the New York subway or the Miami-Dade Metrorail, in that allows photography and videography within public accessible areas, but not within restricted areas, which are not open to the public anyway.
It limits photography to hand-held cameras because tripods and lights would impede traffic. And while it recommends that reporters go through a formalized administrative procedure before conducting their work, it does not require them to do so.
It also requires commercial photographers, meaning photographers shooting ads or commercials, to get special permission.
The policy does give Amtrak police some leeway in harassing photographers if their “activity is suspicious in nature or inconsistent with this policy,” but the fact that Amtrak police had already viewed Rausseo’s video should have been an indicator that he was acting as a journalist, merely reporting his observations and his opinions.
The policy is pretty standard and not a very difficult to understand, but apparently the cops are having trouble with it.
“You can’t argue law with me, ok, because I’m competent and I know the law,” the second cop told Rausseo. “I’ve studied this ok and I know the way it works.”
Here’s giving that cop a second chance to study it because it obviously didn’t sink in the first time.
Please send stories, tips and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CARLOS MILLER’S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
I am immersed in a legal case where I not only want to clear my criminal charges stemming from my arrest in January, but I want to sue the Miami-Dade Police Department for deleting my footage, which I was able to recover.
My goal is to set some type of precedent to ensure this does not happen as often as it does today where cops simply get away with it.
So if you would like to contribute, please click on the “donate” button below and contribute whatever you can afford.
Facebook PINAC Page
Also, in an unrelated PINAC matter, I recently went through a hair transplant operation and I’m documenting my recovery on this blog if you are interested. I did not pay for this transplant, which is why I’m promoting the doctor through the hair transplant blog.