6.21.2013

Man Arrested For Filming NYPD

Shawn Randall Thomas, 47, was arrested and charged on two counts of disorderly conduct after police observed him photographing and videotaping the Brooklyn housing police sub-station in Bushwick over the course of an hour's time. The charges against him allege that he used obscene language and that he blocked the driveway to the police station. Thomas has subsequently filed a complaint with Brooklyn District Attorney's Civil Rights Bureau claiming he was harassed by an officer.


This sort of situation is a delicate one, that stands on the front line of the debate between freedom and security in modern America.

On the one hand, we have a photographer exercising his rights as an American to film as he pleases in a public area. In this instance, the man claims to be filming in order to prepare for another court case stemming from an earlier arrest. Others might say he was clearly trying to annoy the police, and to make a political statement with his actions. Nevertheless, he was not breaking any law.

Even the disorderly conduct charges against him have no merit. He did not actually block traffic in any way, as you can clearly see in the video. He was not "blocking" the driveway any more than a woman with a baby carriage would walking down the sidewalk. He did not impede the flow of traffic, even if he did repeatedly cross back and forth across the entrance. As far as the language goes, it's almost laughable that such a law is even on the books. But even if he did drop a few curse words after police attacked him, it is hardly the same as screaming obscenities over a loudspeaker to disturb the general public by offending children and little old ladies. I am sure I would not have to do much digging at all to pull out some videos of police saying some pretty nasty things to people.

On the other hand, the supposed police officer (in plain clothes refusing to properly identify himself) was within his rights to approach the photographer, to ask questions, and even to maintain an "uncomfortable" level of surveillance on him. Up to that point, the actions by police were no more harassment than the actions of the photographer. Police have as much right as any civilian to go where they please, and to talk to whoever they please. Of course, a civilian is under no obligation to engage in conversation or to answer questions, but the police there were not forcing him to either.

But then we see the arrest go down. We have already established that the arrest was without merit, and therefore now becomes a clear case of harassment by police against a photographer.  Harassment by way of assault and kidnapping.

Let's also keep in mind here that the NYPD operates the most pervasive video and electronic surveillance program in the country. They can spy on citizens all day every day, but don't like it so much when the cameras are turned back on them it seems.

Read more about this case at:

Photography Is Not a Crime

DNAinfo New York

Also see:

An Inside Look at NYPD's 'Stop and Frisk' Policy (VIDEO)






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