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.

  • Jim Romenesko

    From 1999 to 2011, Jim Romenesko maintained the Romenesko page for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based non-profit school for journalists. Poynter hired him in August of 1999, after seeing his MediaGossip.com, a hobby site he started in May of 1999.


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