Police chief says photographers can be detained for taking pictures ‘with no apparent esthetic value’

Long Beach Post | OC Weekly
Long Beach (Calif.) Police Chief Jim McDonnell is defending his officer who detained a Long Beach Post contributor for taking pictures of an oil refinery on June 30. “If an officer sees someone taking pictures of something like a refinery, it is incumbent upon the officer to make contact with the individual.” Detaining photographers for taking pictures “with no apparent esthetic value” is within Long Beach Police Department policy, the chief says. While there’s no training that helps officers to determine whether a photo subject has “apparent esthetic value,” police make such judgments “based on their overall training and experience” and will generally approach photographers not engaging in “regular tourist behavior,” says McDonnell.

OC Weekly’s take on the controversy:

The chief is right about this: those ugly, rusty, stinky refineries do have no apparent esthetic value. But they can obviously generate much public interest, which is why McDonnell recently received a letter from National Press Photographer’s Association stating it was perplexed the former LAPD official holds “the misplaced beliefs that photography is in and of itself a suspicious activity.”

Related: What to do when police tell you to stop taking photos, video.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1389564667 Jeff Fuchs

    I did a Google search for “refinery”, and about 20% of the images had some artistic value, and were photographed with aesthetics in mind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marc.awodey Marc Awodey

    i’m a genuine art critic with an MFA, does this mean i can arrest people now? i don’t do the cop’s job, he shouldn’t do mine…

  • Anonymous

    This is probably the most preposterous thing I’ve ever heard.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alfred.ingram Alfred Ingram

    Illinois passed its law when I was a teen. Pam Zekman and the Better Government Association  set up a business and taped Chicago city inspectors demanding bribes, then broadcast the results. The state legislature promptly made it illegal to record government workers or anyone else without the consent of all parties with particular emphasis on audio. Without audio of them demanding bribes you just had video of inspectors inspecting. I’m in my 60s now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=528171491 Anonymous

    Long Beach Ueber Alles!

    Oy vey.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=528171491 Anonymous

    Long Beach Ueber Alles!

    Oy vey.

  • Anonymous

    Police and security agencies have all used the era of, “Homeland Security” to push and expand their authority. All an police agency has to do anymore is simply make some tenuous connection to security and they can do what they want. These police abuses have been increasing since 9/11. We are watched, videotaped, questioned, fondled (airports) and treated with suspicion almost every place that we go.

    I’m not an “anti cop” type, but these creeping abuses are getting to be a bit much. It is the nature of police agencies to push for more security and authrority. They are in the security business and put security above all else. I hope there is some public push back at some point. They need to be tempered and restrained by the public. But sadly, there are too many that just accept it or actually think the growth of police authority and the constant monitoring of everything we do is a good thing and actually makes them more secure.

    You know the variation of the old Ben Franklin quote, “Give up your freedom for security and you will have neither……”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    Look not to the police chiefs nor the alt-weekly bloggers for esthetic judgments. http://www.amazon.com/OIL-EDWARD-BURTYNSKY/dp/3865219438/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1313763350&sr=8-1

  • http://www.catheycommunications.com/blog Robert.R.Cathey

    Police as art critics. Now THERE’S a headline. 

    Our national paranoia has put our law enforcement community in an un-winnable situation: treat people like they live in a free society, and 0.0000001% of the population will abuse it. Treat people like anyone’s a suspect, and Zezzy’s suspicion bears itself out.

  • http://twitter.com/ZezzyZ Zezzyy

    Damn!  Anyone see the Nazis around here yet?