August 16th, 2010

El Paso deputy believes citizens do not have the right to videotape buildings 0

By Carlos Miller

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.

August 16th, 2010

Another clip from the upcoming HDNet episode 0

By Carlos Miller

HDNet posted a preview of what we can expect in its 25-minute episode of photographers’ rights, which premieres tomorrow.

In the above clip, we can finally see what took place after I entered the Douglas Road Metrorail Station with a camera that fateful day.

We can see the female security guard immediately order me out of the station, even though I had paid my fare.

And we can see the beret-wearing male security guard slap the camera out of my hand and confiscate it, refusing to give it back after I repeatedly asked for it back.

Obviously, photography was really not banned at the Metrorail because nobody made an attempt to stop us from entering the station with cameras during our successful photo protest.

Tomorrow’s episode will feature an interview with Tasha Ford, the South Florida model who was arrested for videotaping cops arresting her son, as well as a segment on Anthony Graber, the Maryland man facing 16 years in prison for uploading a video clip of a cop pulling a gun on him.

Below is a cut-and-paste from HDNet correspondent Greg Dobbs detailing tomorrow’s episode.

Our program “World Report” airs tomorrow (Tuesday) night. As always it is on at 9pm Eastern time, 8 Central, 7 Mountain, and 6 Pacific. Then it airs again in each time zone three hours later. If you have a high def TV but don’t know where HDNet is on your set, you should get us if you’re on DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast (in most but not all of the country), AT&T Cable, and most smaller (but again, not all) cable systems in the US and Canada. Sometimes we’re listed in the on-screen guide as “HDNet,” sometimes shortened to just “HDN.”

If someone doesn’t have high def or otherwise can’t watch HDNet, here’s another way to see the piece: by each Wednesday morning after each Tuesday night, you can download our program to your computer (in fact you can download every World Report episode from the last two years) from the iTunes store for a buck-99; if you’ve never done that before, it’ll involve a one-time visit to a page where you put in secure credit card information. Here’s how to go about it:

1. Go to
2. Click on the logo on the right side of the page that says “Download on iTunes”
3. Once the store appears, don’t do anything; it should automatically go to a select number of episodes of World Report. You will see a small grey scroll-bar on the right side; scroll to the bottom where the latest episode should be listed.

August 13th, 2010

FBI police harass student for photographing "sensitive" area 0

By Carlos Miller

Jerome Vorus, who is becoming a full-fledged photo rights activist while still in his teens, had yet another confrontation Friday over his photography.

The 19-year-old college student was taking pictures outside the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington DC when an FBI police officer ordered him not to take her photo.

First he turned on the video camera on his cell phone. Then he informed her that that she didn’t have an expectation of privacy.

“I wasn’t even taking her photo in the first place,” he said in a phone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.

As he was walking away, another FBI cop pulled up in a car and ordered him to stop.

That cop told him he was not allowed to photograph a ramp that leads into a parking garage because it was somehow “sensitive” – even though it is not only visible from the public eye, it is off a public sidewalk.

The cop then demanded to see identification, prompting Vorus to ask if he was being detained.

At first, the cop said yes, he was being detained; for photographing this so-called sensitive area, the one in which groups of people are walking by nonchalantly in the above video as the two men debate.

The cop, who doesn’t appear much older than Vorus, appears at a loss of what to do. He ends up calling his supervisor while telling Vorus he is free to leave.

“I was followed for a block until I walked into an alleyway that is not accessible by vehicles,” he said.

Vorus is considering returning today.

“I’m really trying to stand up for photographers’ rights and make it aware to law enforcement agencies that photography is not a crime,” he said.

The female cop who did not want her picture taken is to the left. The ramp that is so "sensitive" that it cannot be photographed is to the right behind the concrete wall. The walkway in the middle is open to the public. (Photo by Jerome Vorus)

This cop at first "detained" Jerome Vorus but then he realized he had no grounds to do that. (Photo by Jerome Vorus)

August 13th, 2010

Deaf man placed in chokehold accused of violent robbery 0

By Carlos Miller

Update: Forever 21 released the following statement Friday, according to ABC: “We recognize that the security guard used excessive force, which is against our store policy and have suspended him indefinitely.”

Alejandro Rea, the deaf man who was placed in a violent chokehold by a Forever 21 security guard, was charged with felony robbery, according to an ABC report.

From what we’ve seen in the video, that is a little hard to believe because under the California Penal Code, robbery would have required him to have stolen merchandise from the store “by means of force or fear.”

But from the information that has surfaced so far, Rea was apprehended only after he failed to stop walking out of the store when the door alarms went off.

Witnesses say he may not have heard the alarms because he is deaf. And the video shows his deaf brother attempting to show security guards what appears to be a receipt.

But even if he did in fact steal anything, then he should be charged with shoplifting, which is a misdemeanor.

The penal code for robbery states the following:

211. Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property in the
possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and
against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.

212. The fear mentioned in Section 211 may be either:
1. The fear of an unlawful injury to the person or property of the
person robbed, or of any relative of his or member of his family;
2. The fear of an immediate and unlawful injury to the person or
property of anyone in the company of the person robbed at the time of the robbery

The ABC article also states that Rea has a prior criminal record, meaning he may be facing a felony because of California’s controversial “petty theft with a prior” law, which allows authorities to charge someone with a felony if they get arrested on a misdemeanor shoplifting charge. The law is covered in California Penal Code 666.

Forever 21 issued the following statement: “We are troubled by the video and do not condone the use of excessive physical force by our employees. We are investigating this matter and will take action once we have the full story.”

Regardless of company policy, how much physical force are security guards legally allowed to use to detain someone they suspect of shoplifting?

According to a Photography is Not a Crime reader who left a comment in the previous story under the username,  A Massachusetts Lawyer:

In the US, most states have a version of the “shopkeeper’s privilege.” It allows store employees who have a reasonable suspicion of theft to detain the person using reasonable force to take back merchandise or wait for the police.

Here, the security guards have a reasonable suspicion if the alarm goes off when you walk out the door. However, a choke hold is NOT reasonable force. Reasonable force is usually read to be: grappling, wrestling, pushing. The friend who got pushed aside doesn’t have a suit (he was merely pushed), but the man in the chokehold sure as hell does.

So now the most glaring question is, why wasn’t the security guard also jailed on felony charges?

August 12th, 2010

Video exposes abusive Forever 21 security guards 0

By Carlos Miller

Update: The deaf man in the chokehold is named Alejandro Rea, according to a PINAC reader who lives in Los Angeles. Rea is currently being held in the Los Angeles County Jail system on a felony charge, although it doesn’t say what. I posted a screen shot of that page below that you can click to enlarge but you can plug in his name here and check for yourself.

An appalling video shows a Forever 21 employee placing a deaf man in a tight chokehold as the man’s deaf companion tries to intervene, only to be pushed back by a second Forever 21 employee.

The Forever 21 employees were apparently security guards but they do not appear to have gone through a single minute of proper training. As if that’s a surprise.

The two deaf men were inside the store when they walked out, causing the alarm to go off, according to the Youtube description.

Because the men were unable to hear the alarm, they continued walking without stopping.

This prompted the security guards to tackle the one man outside the store, which apparently took place in Hollywood.

It turns out, the men did not shoplift anything.

Chokeholds were once very popular police tactics to restrain suspects, but because so many suspects died of strangulation, several departments have outlawed them, including the Los Angeles Police Department.

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