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Videotaped confrontation between LAPD officer, photographer prompts probe

Los Angeles police have opened an investigation into a confrontation between a photographer and a Hollywood Division officer after video of the incident was posted this week on YouTube, sources familiar with the case said.

The sources told The Times that the investigation is unrelated to another internal affairs probe launched this week in connection with a clash between four Hollywood officers and bicyclists, also caught on video. They said the department opened an investigation Wednesday after being informed about the video. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.

The footage was taken Feb. 21 and posted Tuesday on YouTube. It lasts over five minutes.

It opens with two LAPD officers conducting a traffic stop. At first, the exchange is cordial. An officer asks if everything is OK. The officer also asks if the man shooting the video knows the woman being stopped. The photographer says he does not know the woman and continues to shoot video.

The officer tells the photographer that he is making him nervous and asks him to "move along." The photographer tells the officer that the sidewalk is open to the public and that it's not against the law to shoot video. When the photographer continues to say he can take video on a public street, the officer begins to get angry and tells him he can't take a picture of him.

"I am a citizen of this country," the officer says. "I was in the Marine Corps a few years getting shot for you, you can move along. ... Start moving." The photographer asks for the officer's badge number. The officer tells him to "go ahead, saying he spent "two years in the desert, and I have to hear from your fruitcake ass."

The officer tells the man he is making a legal stop and asks the photographer for his identification and that the grounds for the stop is "taking a picture of me." The officer then tells the photographer, who is being detained and appears to be seated on the sidewalk, that he has a record of parking violations, which the man says he had paid.

They continue to argue about the law, the officer telling the man that he does not have a right to take a picture and the man saying it's not against the law to take photographs. He asks for the officer's card, and a short time later, the video ends.

-- Andrew Blankstein

 
Comments () | Archives (77)

The cop over-reacted and conducted himself unprofessionally. The officer detained the photographer because he was pissed off - not for any illegal offense. That's what is dangerous. This incident unfortunately gives the impression that most LAPD cops behave this way, and I don't think they do. As hard a job as it already is, keeping your cool is essential, particularly with people who try to antagonize.

Photography is not a crime and the police know this, that's why this is now an internal affairs investigation.

The police officer is clearly overreacting to the situation and illegally detains the photographer for no cause. It is not a crime to photograph or video tape the police, not is it a crime to stick up for your 1st Amendment rights.

What is most troubling to me about this is the fact that the officer not once, but twice, brings up his military service as some excuse for something. If this is now he reacts when confronted with something as innocuous as a street photographer, how is he going to react when confronted with something that is truly high stress and potentially life-or-death?

The LAPD is comprised of people who weren't smart enough to get into college, not tough enough to be a gang banger and not suave enough to get any romantic action on their own. They pass a test that a 10 year old can pass and swing on a few ropes they get a badge. The badge is their way of getting respect, dates and the right to do whatever they want to anyone they want. And the Police Chief? Well, he is too busy making stupid bets with an equally lazy Police Chief over a basketball game. Yes, the same game where the Mayor of a financially troubled city gets to sit courtside while we pay for his $3000 suits.

the "automobilists" often are trouble makers with nothing to lose and they block the entire wilshire blvd. they act like street gangs and taunt cyclists and create havoc. this is what sets these things off. they are not victims but trouble makers. basically they assualt cyclist if you are on the road and use bully tactics. this is the other point of view that is never represnted. people should put videos of this up too.

It might be annoying, but is it illegal? Look, you can do a ton of things to annoy a cop, all within the bounds of the law. The police officer is not allowed to use his authority for any other purpose than to uphold the law. They are public servants (meaning that we pay them to serve us).

Idiot or not, a photographer absolutely has the right to be in a public area and to be taking video footage. That is not obstruction of justice. Nobody, including law enforcement, has a legal basis to demand someone stop taking photographs or video in a public area. It's amazing how little this officer--who is supposed to be enforcing the law--actually knows about the law.

I have seen this video, and if a police officer is that aggravated by a simple photographer snapping shots, or even a bystander watching what is going on the officer shouldn't be on the force. There are laws now preventing an on-duty police officer from being videotaped and such. Our rights as citizens are being taken away more and more as time progresses, and this video just goes to show that if it pisses someone off its going to be illegal. A law is put in place to protect others, however when the law is being used to protect a police officer from being videotaped there is a flaw. An officer of the law shouldn't have a problem being filmed unless he has something to hide. Personally these new laws are pointless, and an exploitation of our rights, and a misinterpretation of current laws and regulations. For goodness sake a couple friends cannot simply eat cheeseburgers by the river on a nice day without 3 cops detaining us and asking questions like "where do you live" "how did you get here" "is any of this trash yours?" The photographer is one of the few who are fighting to keep our rights alive; he did not do anything except snap a shot of an officer. I don't want to be on camera, but I can't drive to work without being captured on camera UNKNOWINGLY about 20 times a day.

Are you people joking? The guy did nothing to harass the officer, the officer's response to the civilian sparked the harassment both ways and the officer's acknowledgment of the guy taking photographs was what wasted time. Had the officer just finished the stop and left, the photographer would have been left standing there going "damn" and it would have been the end of it. Of course he's looking for attention - he's trying to bring attention to the fact that someone in another state is facing 5-14 YEARS in prison for recording his own detainment on video (despite the police being able to record it at will). The charge he was being detained on carried a maximum sentence of a FINE and this man is facing YEARS in prison for recording his arrest. This has to stop.

Why did the police officer care that he was being photographed? He says himself that he is making a legal stop. The officer should have completed his business and been on his way without ever even acknowledging the photographer. EVERYONE has a right to take pictures on a public street. It is not up to the police to decide who can and can not take pictures in a public forum. The police need to concern themselves with enforcing the law in a lawful manner and stop worrying about what is being "Caught on video". If the officer is doing his job within the law, then he should not be worried about some punk who wants to video him while he does it.

There is no reasonable expectation of privacy on a public street. I assume the photographer is trying to prove a point, that photography is not a crime. Having onlookers should not affect the way an officer behaves. As the tax paying public, we have the expectation that whether being photographed, or on a dark street, an officer is performing his duties professionally and in accordance with the law. Instead of ignoring the photographer, which is what the officer should have done, he escalates it, embarrassing himself and his agency. I work with law enforcement officers albeit in a technology based capacity. There is supposed to be transparency (and there is, where I work). The American Public should expect no less.

"When the photographer continues to say he can take video on a public street"...

This blog post doesn’t even get it right – the police officer wasn’t aware of the videotaping – he was only frazzled about the photo-taking.

"The officer then tells the photographer, who is being detained and appears to be seated on the sidewalk, that he has a record of parking violations, which the man says he had paid."

The photographer says he contested them, and they were removed from his record.

Just think, if this particular police officer were educated about the laws of the country that whole interaction would have been like this:

"What are you doing?"

"Taking your picture."

"OK. Whatever." [turns back around, finishes traffic stop; photographer moves along]

Hopefully there will be some internal education at LAPD after these incidents...

Whether the photographer is an idiot for provoking the situation is a moot point. Nothing he did there is illegal. He didn't obstruct justice. He just took a picture. He didn't get in the way. He didn't prevent them from doing their job. He didn't arrest the kid because he knew that it would be baseless and lack merit...wasting more time. He was just trying to intimidate the photographer into getting what he wanted. When it didn't work, the situation (and the cops anger) escalated. This is the type of cop you don't want serving and protecting. If he can't keep his calm when a photographer annoys him, how is he going to do so when the situation is much worse?

Voyager and Waleed:

I'm curious - how, exactly did the photographer obstruct justice or interfere? He did not get in the way of the officer performing his duties. He was a sufficient amount of feet away to not be in the way of the officer's actions. What the officer was doing was not hindered in any way. The photographer didn't initiate any conversations and didn't say anything. No one, including the police, has an expectation of privacy when they are on a public sidewalk or roadway. Getting photographed is part of police's job and is a problem only if the officer makes it his/her problem.

Anybody notice how humiliated the policeman's partner was? Wonder how he got stuck working with this legal visionary.

Why do they hire these types to begin with... you'd think there'd be some sort of rudimentary initial screening process in place, but obviously not.

Losing the 'us against them' mentality/attitude would go a long way in gaining the law enforcement and legal industries some badly needed credibility.

Also, it would be most refreshing to learn of a department somewhere that actually cares about the community employing them.

Whoever says this picture-snapper was "obstructing justice" is way off-base. The photographer was rude and a little twerpy acting, but that's his right here in America!

The cop was just on a power trip and wanted to act like a big guy. If he truly had a reason to arrest the photographer, he would have, but he knew very well that he had no case and he was allowing his adrenaline to get the best of him.

It just scares me to hear police officers who appear to not have a concept of the laws they must enforce. Who has ever heard that a person cannot snap pictures on a public sidewalk? That's ridiculous.

First, I must say the photographer is right according to the law. If you are in a public place, you can be photograph and that's including public officials. Second, regardless of what and where the officer served, didn't have anything to do with the situation so why did he bring that up? Third, as a public official, he should know that that is the law.

I can understand the officer not wanting to be photographed and he did ask the photographer nicely to move along because that makes him nervous. The photographer should have had enough respect to move along.

The cool part is that cooler heads on both sides prevailed.

The photographer was not interfering with the police officers. What's the difference between the photographer and the woman or other people who were standing next to the photographer and watching also? The difference was the photographer had a camera and was taking pictures.

I think the officer didn't want his picture taken, because he knew that if he did anything inappropriate, it would be captured on film. (Which it was.)

Look I've known a lot of officers and deputies (when I worked for LA County). They are people like you and me. When you have any group of people there are good people and bad people in the group. Unfortunately, these are examples of the bad ones. To be fair, let's not forget there are good ones out there too.

Fred Goepfert

You sound like a 72 year old man who lives in the Carolina's....

The next progression if we let stuff like this continue is marshall law.

JDH- I'm with you. The photographer was a safe distance away and not interfering unless the cop spoke to him, that's when he responded. The cop was just annoyed and wanted to throw some words around. I don't think the word "fruitcake" is very appropriate to call the photographer though.

You think this was idiotic try being a journalist in Long Beach.

"provoke" "Asked for trouble" "interfered" "harassed" "attitude" "Goading" "civility" "polite"

ASTOUNDING the number of euphemism folks have for describing entirely legal behavior that THEY believe entitles police to violate the law.

The police have a tough job, and their reward for this is respect from many people - though not all, job security, excellent pay, extremely generous benefits, extremely generous pensions, the convenient hours their association has negotiated, and countless discounts and freebies around town. If that's not sufficient, or if they feel in too much danger, no one is compelled to remain in a job where they are not happy. They can quit.

Oh, and "LEGAL MAN" REALLY scares me because he's willing to contort the law he's sworn to uphold to maintain taking photos somehow "obstructs" the officer from performance of his duties. Because once the photog moved from behind the officer, there was no legitimate claim for obstruction.

"Goading" is not illegal. A "bad attitude" is not illegal. And "asking for trouble," at least as is supposedly seen in the video, is not illegal.

Being rude, wiping your nose on your arm, smelling bad, insulting a cop - all these and more may be obnoxious and discourteous behaviors. In the USA, no cop is entitled to use their powers or position to punish anyone for engaging for any of these in a public place.

If you want to live someplace the police ARE empowered to do something about such behaviors, move to Thailand, Somalia, China and the like. But not here in the United States, thank you. Even if you are really, really, REALLY offended.

I understand that it may be completely legal for this douche to take photos of people in public, but this why I absolutely hate photographers. If I don't want my photo taken, I have no right to request that. However, these photographers should be taken away on charges of harassment, because that's basically what it is. They walk around proudly with sticks up their asses assuming they have the right to do anything they want, and as a result, they go on a little power trip of taking it as far as it can go before they cross the line, thus harassing people like this police officer.

Granted, the police officer didn't necessarily handle it the best, but there should be some sort of responsibility on the part of the photographers as to avoid going on their stupid power plays and fulfilling that temptation to push it as far as it can go. Pure harassment, plain and simple.

Dear LAPD,
My thanks to the officers I've encountered who have treated me with courtesy and respect.

To ones who bully like this officer, may I remind you that we pay your wages?

If you're itching for something to do, why not pull over and ticket the people driving brand new cars without either a license plate or the temporary license displayed? That way when they hit cars stopped in traffic, we law-abiding citizens can get their plate numbers before they zoom off and leave me with a damaged car.

He didn't have a filming permit where you have to hire ten off-duty cops as film set security, #1 way to make LAPD jealous.

The officer certainly could have handled it better. But, why is this wise-ass liberal moron shooting video? Really? Nothing better to do than shoot video. He was being a smart ass and deserved to be hassled.

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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