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05 April, 2006

Vigilance Run Amok


As a freelance photographer, Ben Hider carries his camera with him just about everywhere, and so it was on Friday, as he was heading to the train station in White Plains he stopped to snap some beauty shots on the flags in front of the court house. That's when his trouble began.

Ben Hider, Photographer: "Three police officers ran at me, immediately, telling me to stop where I was."

And that's exactly what Ben Hider did. He even showed the court officers the pictures he took and offered to delete them. Moments later they escorted him inside the courthouse for two hours of questioning.
Here is the photo that got Hider in trouble. The shot he took is very similar to the ones I’ve taken of buildings around town lately; what happened to him could’ve easily happened to me.

That's not the first time I’ve heard of such an incident; it’s unsettling to know that like Hider, any photographer could be detained and harassed for doing something perfectly legal.

The police association blamed the lack of a clear directive for the incident. I say that’s a lame excuse. Overzealousness is a lazy substitute for exercising sound judgment and common sense. Sure, terrorism is a major concern and law enforcement has to be vigilant, but I doubt restricting photography would prevent terrorism and other crimes.

Instead, these incidents discourage an activity that is both artistic and socially relevant. Photography, especially of a journalistic nature, plays a significant role in our society. Professional or amateur, planned or incidental, it has exposed problems and issues that otherwise would go unnoticed. Letting incidents like this go unchallenged can lead to government and private entities restricting it indiscriminately in the name of national security.

As always, information is the key. If you’re a shutterbug like me, knowing your rights and carrying a list like this can be our best defense.

(Link courtesy of Boing Boing).

posted at 11:26 PM by City Muse


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