I love watching these “true crimes” type videos of peaceful people pushing the alarm button on post-9/11 tyranny. It’s impossible to hold
cops thugs accountable anymore because you could be a terrorist doing video surveillance. So convenient. And the judges have their backs. In this video, secret service thugs outside the white house got so much mileage out of this, it looked like they trained some new apprentices too. But this is no fun for the photographer and, sadly, he was tricked. He didn’t have to talk to them or hand over his driver’s license papers.
Questioned, not Detained
At the very beginning, one thug says the photog is being detained. But when the photog asks the supervisor if he’s indeed being detained, he evasively replies, yes, “you are being questioned.” Aha! That is totally different. But the photog apparently didn’t notice. Who can blame him? Multiple cops moving around you and asking questions is very stressful. But that was the cue to walk away. That stop was entirely voluntary. Cops can ask questions of anyone, anytime. They can lie their asses off. If the subject thinks he’s being stopped, they don’t have to disabuse him of that notion. The photog could have left right then and there.
Don’t Talk to the Cops!
But he didn’t. That was a mistake. There is no reason to talk to cops. Talking to cops can not help you. It can only lead to you self-incriminating, giving them a reason to escalate the situation or filling their databases with your personal data. Don’t talk to the cops! This is a very hard rule to follow, because the cops are trained to get you to talk, but an important one nonetheless. I myself have stupidly broken this rule.
Skillful Use of the Streisand Effect
Here are some other interesting takeaways from the conversation:
- The photog claimed the thugs needed reasonable suspicion to talk to someone. This is incorrect. Cops can strike up conversation with anyone. If the person voluntarily complies (consents) to the convo, the cops can just keep on asking questions until they find something they can use to escalate the encounter to where they actually have legal power to do something to you.
- One of the thugs said the photog was acting in a suspicious manner and was going to ask some questions. But you have no obligation to stand there (as long as you are not formally detained), listen to them or answer them.
- They take pictures for their files and databases. Nothing good can come from it so under no circumstances should you cooperate. Sometimes, however it is unavoidable. Avoid attempts to sucker you into voluntarily complying by claiming some kind of moral equivalency (e.g., if I take off my glasses, will you take off yours?). They have radically more power than you do, so your photo in their hands is dangerous. Their photo in your hands is nowhere near as dangerous. In unusual cases it can cost them their job, but that’s it.
- The photog should be commended for continuing his photography during the encounter. The foolish thugs unwittingly played into the Streisand Effect. To wit, by harassing the photog, more video of the thugs was taken and it has reached more eyeballs.
- Never voluntarily confirm your current address. That makes it too easy for the thugs to mount a campaign of harassment where you are most vulnerable. If you’re in custody, you may be obligated to do this in order to be released. But on a voluntary stop like this, there is no good reason whatsoever to confirm your current address.
- Some states have stop and identify statues. Know which arbitrary rule they have in your area. According to Wikipedia, Washington, DC does not have this. In this case, assuming this was a voluntary stop (sure seems like it!), the photog voluntarily handed over his papers. Don’t do that. Of course, I was once arrested in Pennsylvania for refusing to hand over my papers to a thug in the absence of a stop and identify statute. So take my advice with a grain of salt. What is written on the books is not the law. The law is what cops say it is.
- “We’re not going to tell you what constitutes suspicious,” said one of the thugs. I ROFLed. This is straight out of Kafka! Can these people hear themselves?
- When a cop says, “I’m just askin’,” he is lying. Every time. When you hear a cop say that, raise shields big time.
- Notice how the cops got flustered when it looked like the photog was friends with someone important. They immediately broke off contact. This is not only entertaining to watch, but it’s further proof that the whole thing was voluntary. Notice where a thug says, “We haven’t kept you, you can walk away at any time.” The photog subjected himself to this hassle.
- The photog said to his friend on the phone that he was taking pictures of X, Y and Z. In a less obvious case of police harassment, that could have constituted self-incrimination. Don’t do that. Talk about what the thugs are doing, not what you are doing. The latter is reserved for known private spaces or conversations covered by attorney-client confidentiality.
Being a Hero is Expensive
The only reason to talk with LEOs is to get good video footage and become an internet hero. There is never any other reason to do it. And, frankly, the risk associated with doing it to become an internet hero is very high. Cops are human beings, just as fallible as any other. They are not held accountable for their actions and they know it. They will initiate a personal vendetta against you for any reason. Be careful.
Photog Provided a Public Service
Was the photog just being a pain in the ass? Did he instigate this encounter? (Don’t read the YouTube comments.) Of course not. He was providing a public service. Cops are out of control. Cops lie, trick and cheat. Cops are unaccountable. They’re drunk with power. And they avoid accountability by hiding behind the victims of 9/11. That’s not only cowardice, it’s plain stupid. Now, more than ever, when these thugs have reached the height of their power and the height of their unaccountability, good people like this photog need to hold them accountable with the camera. Will you join him?