San Diego Photojournalist Detained for Taking "Inappropriate Pictures" from Sidewalk


J.C. Playford, the San Diego photojournalist who was detained on a beach this month after a mother falsely accused him of video recording her son, was detained again over the weekend, this time on suspicion that he was taking “inappropriate pictures” in the heart of downtown.

When Playford asked the officer as to what constitutes inappropriate photography from a public sidewalk, the officer demanded to see his identification.

When Playford attempted to provide his press pass, which is issued by the San Diego Police Department, the officer still wasn’t happy because it did not include Playford’s date of birth.

The officer, however, had already acknowledged that Playford was not breaking the law. He said he merely needed Playford’s information to document that he had talked to him.

Meanwhile, the person who supposedly made the complaint, not only remained unidentified, but was never required to provide further details on Playford’s alleged inappropriate photography.

Of course, there is also the possibility there was no report it’s not like Southern Californians are unaccustomed to seeing videographers on public streets.

More cops ended up surrounding him but Playford stood his ground and finally the cops backed off.

In May, Playford was also detained at a U.S. Customs checkpoint near the Mexican border for shooting video as well as detained and handcuffed outside a nuclear power plant as you can see in the videos below.

Several readers in the past have accused Playford of being an asshole in dealing with cops, but as you can see, he has good reason to be an asshole.


About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

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  • rick

    Inappropriate photography? Ah! A PINAC reader must have seen him take pictures in the vertical orientation.

    • Proud GrandPa

      HaHa Good one, Rick.

    • HeyItsRaymond

      hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha (breath) hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha (Gasping for air while rolling on ground)

  • alexsmith

    After watching the “Inappropriate
    Pictures” video im impressed with the politeness of the police officers. They provided badge numbers, explained the situation and didn’t waist “too” much of Mr. Playfords time.

    I’m glad Mr. Playford did not give his
    ID. Its not in his best interest to have a complaint for
    “inappropriate pictures” associated with his name.

    I question why the person who made the
    complaint can remain anonymous.

    • Proud GrandPa

      I have mixed feelings about the video. True the police officers were polite and exercised admirable self-control. I respect that. After the photog provided his press id, but refused to provide a picture id or birthdate, they should have left him alone. There was no crime and no reason to continue to pressure him to reveal personal information.
      He accused them of wasting his time and the taxpayer’s dime. He was right.
      So who are the hidden villains in this story? See the last five seconds of the video. Hint: red t-shirts. They set this in motion by making these poor, good-natured police engage in their least favorite activity: asking honest citizens for id without cause. They didn’t enjoy the experience either. I betcha there won’t be a ‘next time’ when the red tees call with this same complaint. They will tell them to stop misusing 911. No crime here.

      • MooWoo

        > So who are the hidden villains in this story?

        [I agree about the red shirts, but also…]

        The training for police that when they fill out a “suspicious persons report” they need to include a warrant check.

        We see this over & over from departments all over the country: “I don’t know who you are”, “We got a call”. The careful distinction we make between consensual encounters and detainment is something that prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys seem familiar with, but police aren’t trained well on.

        Perhaps it’s willing or feigned ignorance so they can push the limits of a consensual encounter, but I think I see a pattern of pressure for complete paperwork.

    • James M Morriss

      Know your accuser? You mean Like a right to know and face your accuser or those that testify against you? Oh your thinking of the former USSR where the answer was always the same. “The State”. Here in America the cops have the right to ask anything from anyone at anytime for any reason. You don’t have to answer but they can ask.

  • MongoLikesCandy

    Can someone tell me why his birthdate is so important?

    • Jim

      Your name and birthdate links you as an individual to 1 singular SSN, possibly 2 if you have a really common name. But otherwise at that point they an include in their report that they stopped you for inappropriate photography (whatever the hell that means) and that stays on your record.

      The second the first cop said he had broken no laws he was no longer under suspicion of doing so and as such they had zero right to continue to harass him.

      Notice they never required anything, they asked, they needed, but they never ordered.

      • Guest

        “Notice they never required anything”

        Sure they did. They required that he not leave.

        Officer Riis stated: “You’re being detained. We have a radio call against you.”

        • Proud GrandPa

          I was in a similar situation recently only fortunately for me I was inside my home and controlled access. I had phoned the police about some property that had been lost in my front yard by unknown persons. Never mind the nature of the expensive property, but it could be traced. I did not attempt to do so, as that is the LEO’s duty.
          I called and the police picked up the goods. Then he asked for my driver’s id etc. as in this video. How smart was that? He knew my name and address from my phone call. Anyway I politely declined and reminded him that he already had it. He tried to argue the point, but I kindly reminded him that it was on file and on his computer, and that I had to go. Wished him a pleasant goodbye and closed the door. He looked confused and perplexed. Guess that was a new experience for him.
          Note: I am always kind and polite. I respect the good officer. He did not make bogus threats and, despite his confused look, maintained his composure. Always treat the law-abiding police with respect.

          • Fred

            New motto for the police…
            Always treat the law-abiding citizen with respect.

          • TheFlashingScotsman

            Gee Whiz! Mutual respect? What a novel concept.

      • steveo

        How many JC Playford’s are there in San Diego with a SDPD issued press pass?

    • tiny

      BIRTHDATE, oh ya, so after they arrest him, they can make sure he gets a birthday card on his birthday! of course, either that, or the COP is really a big fat porker! AKA/pig!

    • Carlos_Miller

      For one, it allow them to search for warrants on you

      • ∅GiaNt∅

        Hello there. Please check your e-mail. You got an article.

      • Fotaugrafee

        Exactly, which means you’re just making it easy for them to arrest you. There ARE instances where people have warrants against them, and do not know it. I prefer to make them work for it.

  • Sam I Am

    Welcome to the 4th Reich!

  • Kaemaril

    So, the response when somebody rings up and says ‘There’s somebody taking inappropriate pictures’ is to say ‘My gosh, we’d better send three police officers to investigate what could be completely and utterly legal activity’ instead of saying, oh I dunno, ‘Can you tell me what kind of photos this guy is taking? What’s inappropriate about them?’

    Wow. Seems like the police have just discovered a really inexpensive and fun way to harass people going about their legal business. Including, it would seem, people accredited with the police.

    • $58984987

      You have remarked on the most critical points as to when officers claim they got a call and now they are investigating and that is why your must provide ID and be detained when they have no right to do so.

      Without the name of my accuser, a report in writing of the exact and detailed allegations against me signed by that accuser who is also a witness…then it is all hearsay.

  • pete

    I live in the SD area and frequent the gaslamp district often. I noticed JC mentioned the Hard Rock Hotel security as the possible callers. My experience with that establishment and especially
    their security detail is not good. In fact, I know a lot of people who have had the same experience. They are abrasive, egotistical, in your face, rude, condescending, short tempered and it does not surprise me in the least if they were the one’s calling the police to complain. Hopefully, he can get a hold of the callers information. If it’s the Hard Rock Hotel, I hope he goes after them. This does not surprise me at all.

    • $58984987

      They look guilty when the journalist calls them out on it.

      And really…who else could it have likely been on a public street?

  • Triumph

    They are gunning for him and trying to build up a series of reports. Eventually they want to destroy his credibility by showing multiple reports in which he where he is causing trouble.

    • Proud GrandPa

      Perhaps for that very reason he should work with others including good police and other gov’t officials who support his right to photograph. Suppose he recruits half a dozen friends to video but does not do so himself. Eventually we the people will overwhelm the system with our numbers… of lawsuits and petitions to the courts for relief.

      • Fotaugrafee

        You’re WAY too positive in today’s light of things. It doesn’t quite work that way.

      • $58984987

        Well…of the five or so officers surrounding this guy to question him regarding a legal activity…one would be hard pressed to find, ahem…”good police” and “other government officials” that one could even take a gamble on by extending any kind of trust.

        Policing and the prison system is corporate governance…it is all commerce.

    • Elliott Whitlow

      That argument would have more traction if he didn’t have videos of the interactions. Wouldn’t that seem to HELP his credibility? This is also one of the reasons NOT to identify..

      • $58984987

        I haven’t seen a video yet where this journalist has truly done anything illegal and over-reacted to anyone in asserting his rights.

  • 1shotbob

    No one has an excuse to be an asshole. To say he has reason to be one is to agree that the cops also have a reason to be one because of the true idiots they deal with on a daily basis. They don’t. And neither does he.

    • Jon Quimbly

      Are you saying Playford was being an asshole in this? Do you know how many times SDPD have detained and arrested him?

      I think he was remarkably restrained in how he dealt with them. They wanted information they weren’t entitled to; he resisted. But they ended up detaining him while performing protected First Amendment activity. That’s just plain wrong.

    • Guest

      It’s not a crime to be an asshole. It is a crime, or two, for a cop to detain a person without reasonable suspicion. False imprisonment and violation of oath of office.

    • Difdi

      No one ever, in the entire history of humanity, needed a heavily protected right to say exactly what people want to hear in exactly the way they want to hear it.

      Obviously, the first amendment DOES protect the right to be an asshole.

      On the other hand, using official authority under color of law to violate a constitutional right is a federal crime (18USC242). It’s commonly called a criminal violation of civil rights.

    • Fotaugrafee

      Soooo, one doesn’t have the “right” to be an asshole after being harassed numerous times for engaging in perfectly legal activity, by the same law enforcement body no less?

    • TheFlashingScotsman

      Although I watched the entire video, I failed to see the part where J.C. was an asshole. Under the circumstances, I thought he was very polite and professional about having his rights violated.

  • Jon Quimbly

    J.C. Playford should end up one rich SOB after this is all said and done. He appears to be targeted by SDPD. I’m guessing they all know who he is.

  • Jon Quimbly

    And, how DO you “track” a 911 call? If someone calls 911 to report that I’m performing “inappropriate photography” in a public area, how can I get a copy of that phone call and any related police report?

    • REALConservative

      I do believe that 911 calls can become public record just like mugshots.

    • Difdi

      The Freedom of Information Act, and the state equivalents. Logs from 911 calls are public records.

    • Bill Jarett

      Call the NSA.

      • $58984987

        …no need…just enter your concern right here in your post…they are watching.

        Citizen Number: 68,768,765
        Action: public internet posting and discourse critical of law enforcement with some colorful use of profanity
        Code: yellow
        Defcon: 2
        DHS Response: Initiate IRS audit algorithms.

        • Bill Jarett

          LOL, good thing I am in bankruptcy already.

    • steveo

      In FL, you can do that by just making a public records request under Section 119 of the FL state statutes. The cost is the time it takes to locate the record and copy it, but if they can do it electronically, say copy it to a file and email it to you, you wouldn’t have to pay for the CD. They can charge you an hourly rate of the lowest paid assistant in the records department or 15 cents per printed page if its a document. For more information on FL public records go to, Joel Chandler’s web site.

      Here you would ask for a time period on 911 and the non-emergency line. If the security guards called then they would know enough to call on the non-emergency line.

      This is something else that perplexes me, because I’ve been called on for recording in public also and the leos did the same thing, except they didn’t say anything about “inappropriate”. I asked them why are they asking me? Am I just supposed to suddenly admit to breaking some law about taking pictures when I know that no such law exists? Why not talk to the magic caller? Well, they can’t talk to him/her because it was anonymous, so they figured they’d talk to me to get me to confess to something, so they could arrest me? Confess to what?

  • herc_rock

    100-1 says he made the “inappropriate pictures” call himself. Guy’s a fame whore.

    • LibertyEbbs

      I will take that bet. How much you want to wager? When the FOI request comes through we will know you are absolutely wrong.

      • Frodo

        So funny. Like a photographer actually needs to frame himself in order to have the police come down on him for taking pictures.

        • LibertyEbbs

          I know. Laughable. 100-1 says herc is a cop.

    • $58984987

      If cops weren’t so into attempting to violate people’s rights or harass then there would be nothing to film. But the videos on this site and copwatch and copblock and youtube seem to indicate otherwise. It would seem the only whores are those streetwalkers that wear blue.

  • Tijuana Joe

    George Zimmerman made the phone call.

    • Fotaugrafee

      And he’s in hot pursuit of him as we speak, gun-in-hand!!! 😮

  • Fotaugrafee

    He did kind of cross the boundary into “stupid ass” around the 3:30 mark. Just shut & remain silent before they push the disorderly conduct charge for shit’s sake.

    • Fotaugrafee

      That said, for once I’ll side with the professionalism of the cop. Their initial contact was bullshit. However, right around 4:50 I think the cop handled himself better than Playford did during the whole incident.

      Not saying I wouldn’t have done the same, because this kind of incident tends to get the best of us & get us hot under the collar. But the cop really turned the tide on Playford at that point & makes him look like a complete windbag.

      • $58984987

        But when you consider the premise upon which the encounter is taking place…

        …that three cops on scene know who the journalist is and the journalist presents police dept. press credentials. He and his purpose are not unknown but familiar to the officers.

        …by observing the journalist you can see, and they admit, that he is doing absolutely nothing resembling “inappropriate” picture taking or anything else wrong.

        …they have no reasonable suspicion or probable cause and no reason for the journalist to provide ID with date of birth.

        I would conclude that there was no professionalism regarding the cop…at all.
        It was harassment under the guise of professionalism and certainly not the law.
        So only the cop and his minion goons looked like windbags.

  • inforangel1948

    minions new world order dupes in police state garb brutalizing and arresting law abiding citizens

  • TimSnook

    Fuck the criminals with badges pigs…

  • steveo

    The “magic call” again. I’ve scoured the internet trying to find a law in any jurisdiction that requires a citizen to have a government iID withing the borders of the US when police investigate someone for the “magic call”. We got a call, now we need your government issued ID which is kind of interesting since I read that nearly 30% of kids 16 to 21 years old haven’t even bothered to apply for a drivers license yet. And isn’t this the big beef from groups about Voter ID laws? People shouldn’t need ID’s to vote, but you always need one when you are on the “butt end” of the magic call.

    • $58984987

      The dialogue from :34 to :44…doesn’t the cop pretty much negate any justifiable reason for officers to be there in the first place even if they got a call?


      “We got a call about you taking inappropriate pictures.”
      “What is an inappropriate picture taken from the sidewalk?”
      “Well that is not for me to determine and from what I know you haven’t broken any laws.”

      Isn’t the investigation is now over as declared by the officer himself?
      When they find out he has the pd press pass…doesn’t that offer an abundance of explanation as to why this guy could not be taking inappropriate pictures because he is a journalist registered with their department?
      This is pure gang-stalking and harassment.

      At this point I would look at the cop and tell him he just admitted he has no purpose to serve in this situation at all and that he just got bent over and ass-raped with an i-phone from some lying anonymous caller. Have nice day.

      Then upon refusal to submit a government ID the journalist is now told he is being detained at 1:22.

      If you compare the earlier statements at :34 to :44 with those at 1:22, we see the verbal jousting jumping all over the place in an effort to get someone to comply without reasonable and articulate suspicion or probable cause.

      Shameful behavior.

  • Frodo

    If he’s not doing anything wrong why is he under suspicion of a crime? That’s the number one requirement in order to be detained. People who are not under suspicion of a crime are not asked for ID. I shudder to think what would have happened if he had furnished his press pass.

  • TheFlashingScotsman

    In the opinion of one who has NOT had any formal legal education, but DOES pay attention whenever possible, it would seem that for JC to do any kind of “inappropriate” filming on the sidewalk in San Diego, someone would have had to be doing something inappropriate for him to film. Even then, if had nothing to do with the inappropriate action, other than filming it, he still did nothing wrong. I’ve seen some inappropriate activity on the sidewalk in San Diego, but didn’t have my camera with me.