LA County Sheriffs Hassle Photographer, Trample Constitution, Get Lauded by BossesReason
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In October 2009, Shawn Nee, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and photographer in Hollywood, California, was stopped by members of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD) while taking pictures at a stop on the L.A. subway system.
Disturbing information about the police stop reveals startling and troubling information about how the Sheriff's Department reports on what it considers suspicious terrorist activity. And what's happening in L.A. is almost certainly happening everywhere across the country.
The encounter was recorded on a body camera Nee wore for protection. A video of the event went viral as viewers watched Deputy Richard Gylfie ask Nee if he was in "cahoots with Al Qaeda" to sell his pictures "for a terrorist purpose." After detaining Nee with the assistance of his partner Deputy Roberto Bayes, searching through the contents of Nee's pockets, and holding Nee's hands behind his back, Gylfie threatened to put him on "the FBI's hit list."
"On one level you're thinking, is this really happening? And then on another level you're thinking, this shouldn't be happening," says Nee of the incident. Nee became a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the sheriff's department along with two other photographers and the National Photographer's Rights Organization. Nee is represented by Peter Bibring at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
"Photography is not a crime, it's artistic expression," says Bibring. "There is no reason to believe that just [because] he's taking photographs he's engaged in any kind of criminal or terrorist activity."
Bibring says that millions of people every day use their cell phones, point-and-shoot cameras, and even professional-grade cameras to document their lives and the world around them. "In public areas, on public streets, no law bars people from taking photographs," says Bibring.
For the rest of the story:
About 10 minutes.
Written and produced by Paul Detrick. Camera by Tracy Oppenheimer, Zach Weissmuller, Alex Manning and Detrick. Graphics and associate producing by Will Neff.