Long Beach Police Department Claims Authority to Detain People for Taking Pictures “With No Apparent Aesthetic Value”

August 17th, 2011

The U.S. horror show is plumbing new depths of fascism now. This one will definitely cause you to skip a beat. Even I had to pause and re-read this one in disbelief.

Via: Long Beach Post:

Police Chief Jim McDonnell has confirmed that detaining photographers for taking pictures “with no apparent esthetic value” is within Long Beach Police Department policy.

McDonnell spoke for a follow-up story on a June 30 incident in which Sander Roscoe Wolff, a Long Beach resident and regular contributor to Long Beach Post, was detained by Officer Asif Kahn for taking pictures of
a North Long Beach refinery.

“If an officer sees someone taking pictures of something like a refinery,” says McDonnell, “it is incumbent upon the officer to make contact with the individual.” McDonnell went on to say that whether said contact becomes detainment depends on the circumstances the officer encounters.

McDonnell says that while there is no police training specific to determining whether a photographer’s subject has “apparent esthetic value,” officers make such judgments “based on their overall training and experience” and will generally approach photographers not engaging in “regular tourist behavior.”

6 Responses to “Long Beach Police Department Claims Authority to Detain People for Taking Pictures “With No Apparent Aesthetic Value””

  1. prov6yahoo Says:

    “regular tourist behavior.” – I Love it!

  2. AHuxley Says:

    I suggest a system of “Beriozka shop” (sp) like buildings for tourists to photograph.
    If a building has a “aesthetic value” sign on it – tourist safe.
    No sign, expect “contact” if you are seen with a camera.

  3. Miraculix Says:

    Refineries might be hazardous to your health and a less-than-safe place to hang out for any extended period of time, but they are also ideal places to explore the nature of perspective and composition as a photographer, what with all those long striaght lines-lines-lines running into each other and compound curvature literally all over the place.

    Just the sort of thing I used to shoot back in the day, simply out and about exploring the world with the old Contax and Nikon gear, a pocket full of hand-rolled mixed B/W stock and a wandering eye.

    Today, I would clearly be questioned and detained for much of the “industrial romanticism” material that filled out a large corner of my graduation portfolio. Had everything from military aviation and Boeing facilities to unusual facilities and structures directly alongside the more artsy bits.

    These days, most “public” architecture is anything but: “No photos of the building/grounds/whatever are allowed by management without prior permission for security reasons, sir…”

    Whatever happened to beauty being “in the eye of the beholder”…?

  4. JWSmythe Says:

    Here’s my story on this photo set…


    I happened to run into this in March of 3010. A friend and I were out near the local port. He had a client that wanted some stock footage of “boats and ships”. What better place than the port, right?

    We drove right up to the heavily guarded gate (on a weekend), and asked about taking pictures. We were told politely that without a prearranged tour, arranged through DHS, we were SOL. So we asked how to go about that, and … well … it sounded pretty much like, unless we were journalists with a larger publication, covering a very specific story that they approved of, we were still SOL.

    We asked about photos from the parking lot, which is before the gate. They said, “not unless you’d like to be arrested”. Well, they were a bit more polite than that, but the meaning was the same.

    So we said screw it, and drove off. I zoomed out my GPS to see where we were, and what was around us. There were public roads that we could venture on. One was bound to have a view of the water, where we could take pictures of a boat still out in the water.

    After wandering down a few roads, with absolutely no one around, we came on a longer road. We rolled down it until we saw a guard shack at the end. We stopped probably 1/4 mile from the shack, on the public right-of-way, on a public road. In any other circumstance, we were following the law perfectly. The stopped car wasn’t a hazard to motorists (which there were none). We hopped out, and took the photos you see in the link above.

    As you’ll see in the photos, they were taken for artistic value. Well, more of for the idea that they could be stock photos of almost anything. The converging lines of the railroad tracks are a classic photography student assignment. The flowers in the tracks? Well, it’s showing life and beauty overtaking the cold hard steel and gravel of industry. blah, blah, blah. It’s not always about the photographers feelings, it’s frequently about the viewer’s feelings. If it makes you feel warm and fuzzy, then it’s a good photo.

    Within a couple minutes, the county sheriff’s department, port police, and DHS were on us. WTF? I was kind enough to get out of the car when they pulled up. Obviously they wanted to talk. Out of habit (and knowing the law) I locked the car doors.

    They threatened all kinds of things. We were trespassing (on public property). We had illegally trespassed on commercial property (the driveway we turned around in). I reminded the officer that state law states any area designed for a conveyance (i.e., a car) attached to a public road is therefore public property. Law enforcement school taught me a few things. He, of course, already knew that. It’s the same reason you can get a ticket for speeding or running a stop sign in a grocery store parking lot.

    Then they asked to search my car. I asked “Do you have a warrant?” He avoided that, and asked why I locked the doors. I told him, “You never know who’s going to come around, trying to get into your car. It’s better to stay safe.”

    In this state, without a warrant, they cannot compel you to open your vehicle. An *unlocked* vehicle is a slightly different case.

    About 30 minutes later, they were done bothering us. We weren’t going to let them search the car. They didn’t have any reason to get a warrant, other than the fact that we existed. That’s not sufficient grounds for a warrant in this state. You have to have discernible probable cause. They wouldn’t find a judge to sign off on that. They did threaten to bring the drug dogs out. I told them that it would be a waste of time, but we’d happily wait.

    So they told us unless we wanted to be arrested, we should leave. So I asked “So we are free to go, correct?” There’s no need to misunderstand them, and get a fleeing and evading charge.


    This photo shows the *only* no trespassing sign to be seen in the area. It was on a fence, on the other side of the street. We hadn’t gone anywhere near it.

    Somewhere, there are photos of me on a military base. This was well before 9/11. I was in civilian clothes, leaning on a sign that says “any unauthorized individuals beyond this point will be shot.” Well, pretty much that. The reason for taking the picture is that one of the Space Shuttles was a couple thousand feet away from us, on top of it’s carrier jet. We had an MP come up to us that day too, but it was a much different story. He was friendly, and asked if we were ok. He had a call about a car that was stuck where we were. He was just checking to make sure we weren’t really stuck. It was a long walk back to the next building. We exchanged some kind words, and he left us alone. That’s how law enforcement should be. They protect. They serve. If we need help, they are around. If we aren’t causing trouble, leave us alone. But hey, what could I have done? Stolen the space shuttle? 🙂

  5. brandon Says:

    Good post JWSmythe

  6. neologiste Says:

    i’m sorry–isn’t it “regular tourist behavior” to take photos of every stupid little thing you see in a novel place? including quite a few things that have zero aesthetic (or other) value once reviewed on the slide presentation you make family sit through?

    what planet are we on and how the fuck did we get here?!

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