The Pariah Photographer – Part III

In the United States of America the Rights and Freedoms of its citizens are very similar to the Rights and Freedoms of citizens in Canada. The greatest difference between Canada and the USA isn’t in each countries laws, or rights and freedoms, but in the much greater number of incidents involving photographers and the authorities. It seems to me that there is a very large disconnect in the Police Officers understanding of the Law and the Bill of Rights in the USA, especially when it comes to the Rights & Freedoms of photographers in public.

With the inception of the Patriot Act, there seems to be more paranoia around terrorist activities and people with cameras taking pictures in public. There are increasing accounts of police officers and other law enforcement agencies harassing photographers for taking pictures in public, arresting them on concocted charges, confiscating their camera gear, erasing their memory cards, only to release them later after they have stepped all over their constitutional rights. In a very large number of these arrests in which charges are filed and court dates are set, the end result is that all charges are dropped and sadly nothing happens to the officer or police department for stepping all over the photographers rights and freedoms.

In some states, Maryland, Illinois, and Massachusetts for example, the authorities are charging individuals of illegal wire tapping for taking video of police arrests, police incidents or just individual discussions with members of the public during a conversation with the officer. These states, along with others, do have the two person consent rule, where all conversations require the consent of both parties to be recorded. The use of this law to arrest photographers and videographers seems like a very big stretch when it comes to the rights and freedoms of those being arrested, not to mention the 1st and 4th amendment rights all Americans are guaranteed under the “Bill of Rights” they seem to be ignoring by their actions.

This is just one type of incident that plagues photographers on our streets. We’ll be discussing many more of the issues in the coming months. Tell us your stories! We learn from each other.

Know your rights and educate those that don’t!

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