December 5th, 2012

Baltimore Police Continue Harassing Photographers Despite USDOJ Warning 27

By Carlos Miller

Baltimore police officer R. Tonks stares down photographer Kerron Fields before chasing him down the street and detaining him for snapping the photo (Photo by Kerron Fields).


After being warned by the U.S. Department of Justice not to violate the rights of citizens who record them in public, the Baltimore Police Department has found a new way to do just that.

And it’s not just threatening citizens with loitering as they have done in the past.

Now they’re detaining photographers under the guise of a “field interview,” which is a traditional method in questioning citizens whom police have a reasonable suspicion of committing a crime or at least have information about a crime.

But it is nothing more than a stop-and-frisk detainment where the citizen is forced to hand over his identification and empty his pockets.

And it is highly unconstitutional if the citizen has done nothing more than snap a photo of a police officer in public.

That’s what happened to Kerron Fields last September after he snapped a photo of a Baltimore police officer from across the street with his Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L IS lens.

After snapping the photo, Fields, 42, continued walking towards the Metro station to make his way back to Alexandria, Virginia.

The cop started chasing him down, yelling at him to stop, but Fields was listening to music and didn’t hear him.

However, he did notice other citizens in the area indicating to him that somebody was trying to get his attention.

But before he could figure out what was going on, the cop had caught up to him.

“I was at the top of the escalator and he grabbed my backpack,” Fields said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime Tuesday night.

“I pulled out my earphones and he asked for my ID.”

Instead of his identification, Fields pulled out his phone and began video recording.

The cop told him to turn the phone off, but Fields refused.

The cop, whose name is R. Tonks, told him he was not allowed to record the interaction because it was a “field interview.”

He then pulled the phone from Fields’ hand, turned it off and laid it down on the ground.

Fields continually asked if he was free to leave, but Tonks said no.

More cops arrived and Fields was forced to hand over his identification where they checked him out for warrants, telling him he was being detained because he was acting “suspicious.”

“He emptied my pockets, he searched my bags, he kept asking who do I work for. He kept asking if I was with the media trying to get dirt on them.”

After 20 minutes, they released him with a notice acknowledging that he had been detained in a field interview.

“I felt very humiliated,” he said. “I expected more from police than to run somebody down for taking photos.”

In the video below, Fields describes the incident before playing the video he recorded with the cop, which starts at 6:15.

Send stories, tips and videos to Carlos Miller.

To help support the blog, please click below to make a donation or purchase Photography is Not a Crime apparel on PINAC Nation.

  • Jude I⚡caяiot

    Fuck the police.

    My hometown sucks like that.

    • zapeee

      USA: of the government, by the governement, for the government. no wonder people in foreign countries want to blow us up!

  • Matthew Bradley

    Your papers, please. Ahhh… forget the please.

  • rick

    Lawsuit time–go get ‘em

  • rick

    Streaming apps need to incorporate a password to turn off the program

    • CitizenX

      the ACLU one does

  • Boomer

    Tonks question about Field attempting to “get dirt” on them is hysterical, particularly considering that Tonks provided more dirt than any muckraker could ever uncover. I was particularly entertained by Field’s comments in the video about Tonks behavior. If it wasn’t so serious and awful it would be have been hilarious.

    The best line in the whole video was “I know women taller than this bitch.”

    • Gregg Jones

      That’s one of the lines that made me not care that much that this juvenile, misogynistic idiot had his rights violated.

  • Wayne Rathbun

    I’m amazed they didn’t allege he was a terrorist and hold him under NDAA.

    • Fotaugrafee

      Hmmm, didn’t think they could “do that” to American citizens. I haven’t seen or heard of a single case of it at least, and I partake in a hobby that photographs TRAINS on our spare time!!!

  • Bill

    The error in most every American’s thinking, is that we believe that we still live in a free country. Actually, we do not, nor have we since 1913.

    • Jude I⚡caяiot

      Oh, you… How quaint.

  • steveo

    ACLU says that a field interview is no different than a Terry Stop, if the suspect asks if he is free to go, they have to acknowledge that and let the suspect leave, otherwise the suspect is under arrest, then the leos have to follow proper arrest procedures. Never sign anything leos give you to sign. Tell them you’ll mail it to them after you use it for wipeing after you take a dump.

    It is not a “field interview” if they say you are being lawfully detained.

  • Guy Dudebro

    Maryland is not a “Stop and Identify” state, is it? Does Baltimore somehow have its own ordinance? I’m guessing they had no power whatsoever to compel him to ID. And sure as hell no cause to search his pockets or bags without consent. Unlawful seizure of the phone, etc.

    Good luck with the lawsuit.

  • steveo

    Here’s how to do a heat strike. A heat strike is where you go to the top of the chain and a lightning strike goes right from the top to the leo who unlawfully detained you. Make an online complaint to the FBI, under the color of law complaint section and copy the complaint to the US attorney who is supervising the Sharpe v Baltimore case. Then send a copy to the Police Commissioner. That will definately cause a lightening strike.

    • Common Sense

      LOL, I LIKE that!!! Squeaky wheel gets the grease!

  • Gregg Jones

    Definitely had his rights violated. But with all the “bitch” and “dwarf” talk, the guy sounds like such a piece of walking fertilizer that it’s hard to really care that much.

    • Siggy Freuding

      It would be great if everyone was like Gandhi but that doesn’t make corrupt cops correct.

  • Fuck You Pigs

    the cops are another arm of a tyrannical govt who is hell bent on impeding on our rights…I feel Americans need to start standing up to this govt, whether it be the police or any other govt piece of shit…Time to revolt Americans ..time to give this govt a little taste of what they give to us…They cant stop all of us and they cant arrest of of us….when millions rise up, what is this govt going to do…The time to rise up is NOW…The time to realize that our biggest enemy is out own govt…FUCK THE GOVT….Dear Govt, Fuck you…Kiss my ass you thugs……we wont stand for you shit anymore and the time for reckoning is here….as Im writing this, Kerron calls that pig a dwarf w down syndrome…..hahahahahahaha!!!! Im a pissed off white man sick of this thuggery by our thuggish govt…. …I used to like this country but no more

  • Fuck You Pigs

    he said “if you were a bystander it would be fine”…werent you a bystander on the street when you snapped that photo? Well, it wasnt ok then…so this pig is full of shit and if you take his badge hed hget his ass beat so quick he wouldnt even know he was a dwarf with down syndrome…hahahahahahahahahaha! You trip me out bro

  • sfmc98

    Interesting how on the yellow form, the “Police/Citizen Contact” box is checked and NOT “Involuntary Detention” but the video clearly shows otherwise. There’s no way in the world he can claim this was a consensual encounter and even says so in the video.

  • steveo

    what a great picture of R. Tonks. We should put this one up for NPPA picture of the year. Maybe we should have a caption contest. “Hey, you can only take pictures if I’m getting a medal!”

  • Baron_of_Greymatter

    There is a hidden beauty
    to this. More people will be surrepticiously recording the cops, with
    zoom lenses or hidden cameras, and even more likely to catch police
    misconduct than when the officer knows that they are being filmed.

    The criminal cops that want this rule will be hoisted by their own petards.

  • Common Sense

    Wow, funny my first thought when I saw the photo for this article was he looks like a punk with a badge. Guess I was right!

    It is obvious this photog was not to close nor interfering with the arrest. Funny how one guy seems to be walking right through the scene without any concern by the officers.

    Yep I would dare venture that if you looked into this “officers” history, he probably has been in a couple of IA’s and has a problem with authority.

    Again I say the only way this is going to stop is to sue them! ALL!!!! When the cities can no longer find reasonable insurance to cover such things, will they begin to try and change this criminal act!

    • Common Sense

      Oh I almost forgot! Did anyone else find it odd the officer’s concern was who the photog worked for and that he was trying to get something on the cops to jam them up? Sounds a little like a guilty conscience to me. Might be worth it to look into why the officers were there in the first place and what exactly these two did, if anything, to be arrested.

  • Fotaugrafee

    Great, another dipshit cop with a Napoleon complex who doesn’t understand the laws with which he’s charged to protect. Oy.

    If that’s R. Tonks staring at us in the photo, I love how our narrator calls him “nigga” and uses the phrase, “ya ‘now mean?” :p

Javascript is currently disabled. This website functions better with Javascript. Please enable Javascript in your browser.
Internet Explorer is out-of-date. Please upgrade your browser or install Google Chrome Frame for an improved web browsing experience.
%d bloggers like this: