July 3, 2010 7:30pm
So, there I was, cigar in hand with camera in tote. I was walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, in the Georgetown section of the District of Columbia. After a fun and fulfilled day of taking pictures in DC, I was heading home and observed a traffic stop. I put out my cigar and started to take pictures from across the street.
I was to take a few shots and move on, but that’s not what happened, far from that. I was asked for “security reasons” why I was taking pictures. I told the officer that I just wanted to collect pictures of the traffic stop for a collection, he asked for ID and in return I asked “am I being detained or am I free to leave” after dancing around the question, he finally stated that I was free to go. As he walked away another officer stated that I was being detained and that I needed to provide identification. She told me to put me camera away and stop recoding.
WAIT, all of the premise that I was taking pictures of a traffic stop?
I was told by four officers that it is “illegal and unlawful” to take pictures of people without prior consent on a public street, and unlawful to take pictures of the police without authorization from the DCPD PIO (Public Information Officer).
That of course is false, in public people do not have an expectation of privacy.
I was also told that I could not “record people, you need permission first” and one officer was quick to say “you don’t have mine”. Whats funny is the officer that informed me that I could not record people, pulled out her camera phone and started to audio and video recorded me. So, did she break the “law” that does not exist? The reality is , Washington, DC is a one party consent “state” in accordance with D.C. Code Ann. § 23-542. In a nut shell, this means as long as one party consents to the conversation being recorded (self) you can record.
Even supervisors were on the wagon, not knowing the laws that they swore to in force.
When all said and done I was detained, my information ran through NCIC and publicly embarrassed, by 4 police vehicles, and 10 officers. Oh, did I mention that DC has a extremely high crime rate? Four of the six officers that we hanging out could have been responding to calls for assistance, yet they were wasting time and tax payer dollars.