It never fails to surprise and it never fails to anger me every time I hear another story about a photographer getting harassed by cops for doing nothing but taking photos in public.
The latest comes from South Miami, a municipality in Miami-Dade County – or as the national media would call it, “a Miami suburb”.
A local blogger named Lan Nghiem-Phu who operates Miami Every Day Photo said he had just parked his car in downtown South Miami where he was going to meet some friends for lunch. He arrived early so he snapped a couple of photos of a restaurant across the street.
Within seconds, a South Miami police car pulled up with lights flashing.
The police officer came directly to me and asked what I was doing there? I told him I took some photos. What for? For my MiamiEveryDay blog… What? Oh, that’s one of the City Daily Photo blog on the net. What? So I told him that I guess I know what’s happening, and he confirmed that someone had called the police and I was singled out!
The South Miami police officer, who apparently was a sergeant, asked for his identification. Then for his business card. Then, after calling his name into dispatch, asked Nghlem-Phu if he had ever been arrested.
After Nghlem-Phu told him no, he had never been arrested, the sergeant asked him again if he had ever been arrested.
This is the part that really pisses me off because had I been in that situation, I would have had to say yes, I’ve been arrested. For taking pictures of cops nonetheless. And no telling if the cop would have used that as an excuse to take me in.
The sergeant even asked if he made money off his blog. This could have just been out of curiosity, but after what he had just put Nghlem-Phu through, it sounds as if he were trying differentiate photographer’s rights based on whether or not they sell their photos.
This, as we all know, does not make a damn bit of difference.
I just hope that this wasn’t a case of racial profiling.