[UPDATED with Long Beach Journo's Take:] ACLU Sues Sheriff's Deputies for Hassling LA and Long Beach Photographers Under Anti-Terror Policy

ACLU/SC
Greggory Moore shares with the media his brushes with sheriff's deputies.
UPDATE, OCT. 28, 9:54 P.M.: The Long Beach Post's Greggory Moore has graciously agreed to share with Weekly readers his real-time coverage of moves officers from two separate police agencies made against him and colleague Sander Roscoe Wolff for snapping photos in the LBC.

As we reported yesterday, Moore is one of three plaintiffs is a federal suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU/SC) against the County of Los Angeles and individual Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD) deputies for illegally detaining and searching photographers.

Here, in chronological order, are Moore's stories:





Moore tells the Weekly that last link featuring the unit commander's discussion of the officer training "really points to the crux of the lawsuit."

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ORIGINAL POST, OCT. 27, 5:41 P.M.: The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU/SC) sued the County of Los Angeles and individual Los Angeles Sheriff's Department deputies in federal court today for detaining and searching three photographers, including the Long Beach Post's Greggory Moore, who was snapping photos of passing cars from a public sidewalk for a Distracted Driving Awareness month story when he was surrounded, frisked and interrogated by eight deputies.

In August, we told you about Moore's interview with Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, who defended his officers detaining Moore's colleague for snapping photos in the port area because he could have been a terrorist identifying future targets.

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Greggory Moore
Meanwhile, there is an even more direct Orange County angle to the suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by the ACLU/SC and the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. Another plaintiff is Shane Quentin, an aspiring photographer in LA with an M.F.A. from UC Irvine. He was shooting stock photos of a large refinery in Carson around 1 a.m. Dec. 31, 2009, when he was hassled by LA County sheriff's deputies, one of whom allegedly threatened to place him on a "no-fly" list.

It happened to Quentin again around 1:20 a.m. on Jan. 21 when the photographer, who was trying to catch the "brilliantly lit" refineries in south Los Angeles, was  confronted, frisked and placed in the back of a deputy's car for 45 minutes before being released.

The third plaintiff is Shawn Nee, who was photographing turnstiles in the Los Angeles Metro station when he was detained and searched by a deputy. The encounter, which was captured on YouTube, included the deputy asking the shooter if he planned to sell the photos to al-Qaeda and threatening to put his name on the FBI's "hit list."

The same three photographers have been confronted a total of six times by deputies, according to the ACLU/SC, which cites several other cases involving photographers who are not plaintiffs in the case. Among them is freelance photographer Ted Soqui, who was detained by six deputies after shooting exteriors of the LA County Men's Central Jail and a nearby bail bond business for an LA Weekly story on deputies abusing jail inmates. When Soqui refused to disclose the nature of the story he was working on, other than to say it was for a print newspaper, a deputy with his hand on his gun is alleged to have moved on the photographer.

"It's preposterous," Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney at the ACLU/SC, tells the Weekly about the Soqui encounter, and he feels the same about the others given the fact that there are First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and billions of photographs being uploaded yearly via social networking.

"It is so commonplace," the attorney says of people snapping photos. "Yet, the simple act of taking a picture is considered suspicious activity."

The lawsuit asks the federal court to order the LA Sheriff's Department to stop detaining people solely based on the fact that they are taking photographs as well as to stop ordering people not to take photographs in public areas where photography is not prohibited. The action also seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

The ACLU/SC claims the policy sheriff's deputies are operating under originated with the Los Angeles Police Department and has since become a model for cop shops across the nation. Officers are encouraged to fill out a "suspicious activity report" if any of 48 behaviors are witnessed on patrol beats, Bibring explains. While the majority of those behaviors deserve to raise alarm bells--such as stockpiling weapons--a handful are for things people who are not trying to blow up America do every day, like snapping pictures in their communities. "It's ludicrous," Bibring says.

"Photography is not a crime," he said. "It's protected First Amendment expression. Sheriff's deputies violate the Constitution's core protections when they detain and search people who are doing nothing wrong. To single them out for such treatment while they're pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong."

Seconding that emotion is Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA).

"Photographers in Los Angeles and nationwide are increasingly subject to harassment by police officers," Osterreicher says in a statement distributed by the ACLU/SC. "Safety and security concerns should not be used as a pretext to chill free speech and expression or to impede the ability to gather news."

Moore is not a professional photographer, but journalists often snap photos for stories and especially blog posts they write. Moore was working on a piece about Distracted Driving Awareness Month the afternoon of June 2 when he decided to step outside his apartment and shoot motorists stopped at a red light at the Ocean Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue intersection.
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Joe
Joe

Why would cops afraid of photography and ban you from capture their activities? Has nothing to do with "terrorist activity." So far, photography and video camera are the only effective evidents of their abuse and terrorist activities.Many people were provent innocents with the helps of photograph and video. Sad, very sad but truth.

Garrett Lucas
Garrett Lucas

"While the majority of those behaviors deserve to raise alarm bells--such as stockpiling weapons--a handful are for things people who are not trying to blow up America do every day, like snapping pictures in their communities."

I think it's interesting that the example of "stockpiling weapons" was used.  I've seen numerous distortions by the media in various articles where someone would be described as having an "arsenal" and it would turn out that the person owned 7 or 8 firearms.  And this has happened more than once.  So, to me, the turn of phrase "stockpiling weapons" is just as dubious as someone being suspicious of another because they're taking pictures of a courthouse.

The Supreme Court has ruled recently, twice, that the second amendment does in fact extend to the individual and not just the states.  So, legally owning firearms is no more suspicious than legally taking pictures.  I guess it all comes down to context and what an actual "stockpile" consists of to make that determination.  Should that same yardstick be applied to how many pictures you can take?  Are you more suspicious if you take 83 pictures instead of 9?

I'm a photographer and have had my own encounter with law enforcement for simply taking pictures of low flying planes.  Not planes sitting at an airport or in some secure area.  Planes in the air.  So, I get where you're coming from, but I just find it interesting that you're willing to throw one of our rights under the bus as fodder to prop up the legitimacy of another.

Sarah J.
Sarah J.

I bet the terrorists don't even do this with a conspicuous Canon SLR camera. They probably use any one of the numerious small hidden cameras that you can buy for a few dollars, or evan a cellphone. Its totally ridiculous hassling legitimate photographers like this.

Guest
Guest

"...for snapping photos in the LBC. " So, is that Little Boys Club, or is it the Lolita Buyers Consortium?

Did you forget the top 10 rules of writing and journalism?  NEVER USE UNDEFINED ACRONYMS

Don't you people go finish high school anymore?

SteveD
SteveD

ah, tey were prob'ly just rtying to protect Maria Shriver[Shwartzeneger] from photos of her talkin' on cell phone

Tracy Ellis
Tracy Ellis

@0e354df44d9099e50cf845886f6b2f72:disqus The NPPA should organize group photo shoots at these so-called sensitive sites..my co-worker's half-sister makes $75 an hour on the computer. She has been without work for 7 months but last month her paycheck was $8067 just working on the computer for a few hours. Here's the site http://ufil.ms/JeXHb

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

I remember watching a show on television a few months back where the vulnerabilities of the San Onofre nuclear power plant were discussed in great detail for anyone to see and hear...but taking a few photographs is more of a threat to national security? Give me a break.

Carl Geers
Carl Geers

They should ban people suffering from the rare form of photographic-memory autism. Just shoot em or blindfold them from birth or else they might sketch up the entire landscape from memory. What about hunkering down on the ground and scribbling with sticks in the dirt? Maybe handling any sort of writing or recording instrument should be banned? Perhaps we should all be rendered sterile, blind, deaf and mute then perhaps the fearful masses will be placated and know no fear. This is the product of lawyers and insurance agencies dedicated to inducing fear for profit. Wake up America this is all a fabrication, a very profitable fabrication.

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

Thank you for elaborating my point so well. That's an awesome Tilley hat, by the way. :-DCheers

Michael
Michael

I was on a walk around for a Construction project at the Port, looking at the Columns under the Fwy and the Port Police as well as local police showed up asking what we were doing. ID us, made calls to company and city etc, to verify that we had business there. A hassle yet understandable in these times. ACLU as well as the Photographer need to stop crying like little girls and be grateful that law enforcement is taking terrorism seriously. 

Peter Voth
Peter Voth

You do not need to "have business there" to take pictures in a public place. The threat of terrorism does not give the police authority to violate your civil liberties.

Pddidy
Pddidy

Great point and it sounds like Greggory is just trying to (understandably) further his journalism career with this story.  Greggory was not held at Gitmo for 6 weeks; officials merely detained him until they were sure he was not a threat.  Sounds like officials were overly-cautious but were certainly not acting in bad faith.  Try reading about minorities in the American South 40 years ago if you want to learn about true civil rights violations.

Rocket J
Rocket J

If you want to live in a police state/dictatorship you need not turn the US into one, there are more than a couple you could move to right now. Do not tell me I have to give up my constitutional rights so you can feel safe. Yes feel safe, not be safe. Like the invasive practices at the airport this is more theater of the absurd to give the appearance of safety.

As for your example you were at a construction site which generally would be a restricted areas, the photographers that were unconstitutionally detained all were in areas accessible to the general public. Situations are not really comparable.   

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

The NPPA should organize group photo shoots at these so-called sensitive sites.  Fucking pigs. 

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