Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Photography's not a crime (through the eyes of a former rent-a-cop).

Police Chief Confirms Detaining Photographers Within Departmental Policy

For a brief period of time (about a year) I worked as mall security for one of the largest malls in my area.  One of the biggest things I had to deal with was people taking pictures in the mall.  We (the security guards) were explicitly told that it was the mall's policy that none of the store fronts could be photographed.  This really didn't leave any place where you could take photographs so every time someone was seen taking a picture we were supposed to approach them and ask them to stop.  Some people got really bent out of shape and angry while others got really scared and actually deleted all the photographs in front of me without me even asking.  The worst part though was when people asked you why.

The mall wanted people to come and enjoy there experience there.  Telling them "the mall dosen't want you to take pictures and share your experience here with other potential customers" isn't the most effective way to go about that.  So what did we, the security guards, tell people instead?  "I'm sorry but the malls policy dosen't allow photographs due to security concerns after 9/11."

It was essentially bull shit.  Yes, there is a small chance that a terrorist (domestic or international) would use the photographs to plan out a disastrous attack.  In fact the mall was vandalized during construction by a group of eco-terrorists.  However if someone was going to sabotage the mall or harm its patrons denying them photographs isn't going to stop them.  You could spend a day in the mall taking notes on a pad of paper and come off with more than enough information than you could with a few photographs.

I'm not saying that the police shouldn't keep an eye out for suspicious activity, and honestly its just easier for a photographer to cooperate and be cool about things if a police officer does approach you.  Neither parties want the hassle that comes with fighting things like this.  Lets all just be cool and let police be police and photographers be photographers.

Originally seen on Gizmodo.

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