Interesting viewpoints

It is interesting how little law enforcement officers actually know about the law.

I was in Toronto today to shoot a law firm event. I also took a few street shots, and these show that it appears that Toronto Police, of which right now there are about five million in the streets in gaggles of ten or so, are mistakenly under the impression that:

  1. I took pictures of them from the back but not the front (false, as the pictures below show).
  2. This is somehow not allowed (false).
  3. They should have editorial control over what I photograph (false).
  4. They are allowed to see my camera’s pictures (false).
  5. It is only OK for “legitimate” photographers to take photos of things, what with terrorism and so on (false).
  6. Taking photos for “illegitimate” purposes is illegal (um, a truism, but not a useful one).
  7. Terrorists use cameras just like mine (false).
  8. Taking a picture for a legitimate purpose is OK, but taking a picture if you are a protester is not OK (false).
  9. You need a release to take a photo of a police officer or anyone else (false).
  10. If I take a picture of a cop I need to show ID, tell them who I am, tell them why I am taking those pictures (false), tell them who I work for (four or five times), and give them a business card (false).

I took this snap of some police officers today:

Toronto officers about to interrogate a photographer

Toronto officers about to interrogate a photographer

So these officers did not see me take that picture, but they saw me take the next one:

Toronto officers about to interrogate a photographer

Toronto G20 police officers

Next they interrogated me “because I only took a picture from them from the back but not the front”.

Since these officers have my business card, I assume CSIS (Canada’s secret service) also does, now. So, CSIS and Toronto police, please note: I have spent time in Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, East Germany, and many other such places. They are different from Canada because:

  • Unlike in Canada, Big brother is always watching. Police everywhere.
  • Unlike in Canada, in those countries authorities can do (mean, restrict) pretty much what they want, whatever the “law” says. Impromptu interrogations are common: “it’s not allowed unless you prove why it should be”. Law, schmaw.
  • We here, on the other hand, have the rule of law. Law, not whatever a cop thinks.

Alas, Toronto today felt just like those countries. The officers were courteous, but they were wrong – very wrong.  I am a fervent capitalist, CSIS and Toronto Police, but you have just made me into a G20 protestor. Get lost, G20, if my civil liberties need to be trampled upon because of a visit by a bunch of stupid foreign bigwigs, and Mr Harper’s need to spend $1m to impress them with horses, fake lakes, and four-wheel bikes.

G20 police presence

G20 police presence

And no, officers, I am afraid that you are wrong in all the above points. I do not need a release to take a picture, you cannot see my pictures unless I have done something wrong, photography is not only allowed for “legitimate” photographers, and I am allowed to photograph security fences and cops. Whose salary, incidentally, my taxes pay.

Of course I cooperated, not wishing to be arrested just before an event I was shooting.  And alas, I shall not have time to go back downtown while the G20 is on. I wish I could, because our civil liberties, including the right to take photographs without permission, really should be defended, and restrictions should be questioned. Apparently, it’s needed.

0 thoughts on “Interesting viewpoints

  1. Pingback: The Unreasonable Man » Blog Archive » And the G20 is making Toronto Cops into…

  2. It’s a dilemma. I’m sure I’d show the pictures and try to respond as best I could to any questions. However, I wouldn’t like what’s happening to the rule of law in our country either.

    There’s no way I would ask, but I think the right thing to ask an officer who is asking questions or making demands is whether this is just friendly conversation, or is it part of an investigation. I’d be afraid that would escalate things, but it also would inform the officer to follow proper procedure in the questioning.

    It seems the problem is that our society has been making up stories about bad guys such as them photographing the target prior to the actual evil event. After all, don’t all bad guys have high quality pictures in their rooms of the target? At least that’s the way it is in a Clint Eastwood movie. Our officers are just responding to that false movie view of how bad guys operate. I’d rather they respond to proper studies of multiple profiles, not just movies and outliers.

    In your case, the problem is that these guys are there with really no threat to mitigate, so they have to respond to everything in case something really does happen. They can’t just say that the people they run into are doing normal daily stuff, because the whole situation is totally abnormal.

    • Wellsaid. The way I see it, these gaggles of cops in groups of ten are designed merely to intimidate. I am amazed that these guys have not been briefed on the law. “Don’t you need a release to photograph me”. – amazing. Upholders of the law don’t know the law.

  3. As a criminal lawyer, it is both appalling and amazing to me how far we have allowed basic civil liberties to slip in the face the mere potential for civil unrest during the G8/G20 . At this moment, as Toronto hosts the eyes of the world, it is more important than ever to clearly demonstrate that we can deal with dissent and protest (both lawful and violent) without abandoning our our human it.

    Michael’s experience yesterday does not bode well for the week ahead.

  4. Indeed not. And while I am not intimidated by being questioned by around ten officers in flakjackets and helmets crowding around me all at once, all explaining why i need to give them all this info, most people would be.

  5. From a purely photographic viewpoint, I’m admiring Michael’s skill! Under pressure, yet top shot has that foreground framing interest; centre conveys power – zoomed in I guess,rule of thirds in action; bottom is a classic of blurry background, crisp foreground. And, honestly, I just want everyone safe this w/e.

  6. By the way look at the first shot: four of them are looking straight at me. Amazing that they then came back to me after the second shot and crowed around me, all of them, as they insisted that I only shot them from the back later, and not from the front (as though that is forbidden, btw!). Reflecting on this, I think they must have been totally making that up as an excuse to interrogate me and see my pictures etc.

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