“I Am The Creepy Guy at the Park”

Great letter in Wicked Local Cambridge (as in outside of Boston) begins:

Dear Neighbor,

Yesterday was a beautiful day, I think you will agree. I decided to take a short walk from my house on Hamilton Street to Dana Park, which I have been coming to almost daily since 1989, the year my son was born. As I often do, I brought my camera, sat on a bench for about 10 minutes, did one lap around the park and headed home.

I had barely gotten across the street when three police cars pulled up: I was told to stop, and swiftly surrounded by six policemen. I was “detained” there for approximately 20 minutes and questioned; another officer returned to the park to find out why you had called them.

My suspected crime, apparently, was having a camera in a public park, and allegedly taking pictures of children. As it turned out, I had taken no pictures that day. But I have been photographing in this neighborhood for 30 years, and have published a children’s book of poems and photographs, always with permission.

The policeman returned and wanted to see my “flip phone,” and then asked me if I knew how he knew I had a flip phone: I didn’t. He knew, he told me, because the woman who called the police had taken a picture of ME, sitting on the bench, and shown him the picture. They then took away my phone, scrolled through the few pictures that were on it.

They continued to hover around me asking questions. As it happened, I was standing near the house where my son now lives, and when my wife appeared, walking down the street after work, and saw me standing in front of his house with six policemen, she instantly feared something terrible had happened to our son. She was shaking, and I explained the situation.

Even after it all got sorted out, I’d be shaking, too. What if the guy DID have pictures of kids on his phone? Would that make him a menace? A pornographer? An object suitable for stoning?

Right now I’m in London, where I will finally get to meet Josie Appleton, founder of the Manifesto Club. Her organization fights, among other outrages, Britain’s obsession with the “danger” of photographing other people’s children. This obsession is so over the top that some schools will not allow parents to take pictures of their own kids in the school play or on sports day, because OTHER children will be in the background. As Appleton wrote in The Guardian:

The spread of photo bans is not really a response to child abusers stalking school sports days. Instead, it reflects the contamination of everyday adult-child relations – and the new assumption, as the children’s author Philip Pullman put it, that “the default position of one human being to another is predatory rather than kindness”. Any adult looking through the viewfinder at a child is viewed as potentially sinister and in need of regulation.

I think we all agree it’s good to protect children from danger. But not from a danger that does not exist. – L

 

OMG! Why does the government still allow men to have cameras in public?!

OMG! Why does the government still allow men to have cameras?!

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116 Responses to “I Am The Creepy Guy at the Park”

  1. Diana Green October 15, 2015 at 10:10 am #

    Worst First Thinking. Knee-Jerk. Police State. Broken Windows.

    “It is darkest just before the dawn.”

    Those who profit from the Police State are threatened by all the adverse exposure they are getting these days. They know their days are numbered. These are peaceful times. Crime is down. Kids are safe. Parents are savvy. Health officials and mental health authorities are telling us to send our kids out to play. Alone.
    The hysteria of “Missing and Endangered” has popped like a fun fair balloon. A fascinating new study, WE BELIEVE THE CHILDREN, spotlights nation-wide paranoia (akin to the Salem Witch Trials) that lasted ten years and cost millions. “Frightening and High” by the team of Ellman and Ellman implicates the US Supreme Court in sloppy decision making for the purpose of perpetuating a flawed sex offender registry which has been proven not only ineffective but unnecessary and outrageously expensive..’And so on.

    What happened to the writer above also happened to someone I know, half a continent away. It is apparently a Modern Police State M.O. to obtain arrests to build the local fear of sex offenders. Had the man been detained, he’d have appeared on the local news for a hundred miles in every direction. And then, even if he were released from custody, his name and reputation would forever be ruined.

    We say this is a democracy. But we let this sort of policing go on. And we never say a word about it.

  2. John October 15, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    Back in 2003 when I visited Vietnam, I toured a beautiful Buddhist Temple just outside of Saigon. I mean, this temple looked like a giant piece of candy! Very multi-colored. So just outside the temple, 3 young Vietnamese children who looked between 8- an d 10-years-old (2 boys and a girl) actually asked ME if they could have their picture taken with me! Now that was a first. I then took their picture even as their parents were present and who didn’t mind one bit. The Philippines was also a child picture friendly place as I have some photographs of children on the street even with their parents present on the side and who did not care one bit that I took pictures of their kids. The Annapurna foothills of Nepal was another great place to photograph kids who would flock around us trekkers as we handed out pens. Parents there didn’t mind one bit. Now Egypt was another story. Taking pictures of kids on the street will draw the wrath of any adult present. NOT because of paranoia over pedophiles but because Egyptians have a kind of patriotic bravado of sorts and feel that any photograph of a poor kid on the streets will show the world how poverty stricken Egypt is and therefore, be demeaning to their culture. But I do have some classic pictures of children in Egypt (Coptic Christians) riding donkey carts while collecting trash.

  3. bob magee October 15, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    When I was 18 I agreed to manage a Little League team of 10-12 yr old boys (this was early ’70’s before girls were allowed to play Little League in our town). I did so because a neighbor, who was in charge of those things for the local LL, approached me to help out. The season was 1 week away and that team did not have a single coach.

    I am the oldest of 6 and had participated in LL, Babe Ruth League and had played on the HS team (at least until pitchers started throwing curves!), so my neighbor knew I loved baseball and had plenty of experience with younger kids.

    Today, if my 18 year old self were to volunteer, I would advise against it.

    Back then I had to deal with dad’s who were convinced I was derailing their son’s major league career by my managing acumen or style.

    Today, I suspect, I would have a different type of scrutiny unrelated to my ability to manage and organize a group of 10-12 year olds – especially with females on the team.

    And that makes me both sad and angry – mostly sad.

  4. Dhewco October 15, 2015 at 10:29 am #

    I used to do this, taking pictures of kids in the park. I’d see them horseplay and have it remind me of a favorite childhood memory. It cheered me up. I stopped doing this about ten years or so ago. Not because of anything that happened to me, exactly. Well, I did get tired of people asking me which kid was mine. They couldn’t understand nostalgia or being there just because it was a beautiful little park where the combo of fall wind and sunshine just made me feel better. I was there when kids were there and that must be why to these parents.

    If there were such a thing as adult only parks (you know for bird watchers or walkers), I probably wouldn’t go to those either. I am a writer (unpublished, but no less a fact) and people watching is one of my pleasures.

    Anyway, I don’t take pictures unless the subject doesn’t know they’re having their picture taken. I don’t care if this seems creepy to some; it’s the only way to take what I call ‘honest’ pictures. When someone knows they’re having a picture taken, they’re whole attitude changes…even if they’re trying to not pay attention to it. I believe it’s just human nature to change for a camera. I don’t want fake people in my photos. If you have to ask permission for photos, you’ve already lost the honesty battle. Even if it’s just the parents who know you’re taking pictures, it can change the shot because sometimes kids can pick up on unconscious cues.

    Of course, I don’t take pictures much anymore. I’m so nervous about over-cautious parents that I don’t bother. If I can take a quick shot with my cell while appearing to be texting, I might do that. Even that’s a risk.

  5. Dhewco October 15, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    ‘their whole attitude’, I mean. Grrr…oh for an edit function. LOL

  6. Brooks October 15, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    In our school district, any time a kid is in in an extra-curricular activity like band or football, students and parents sign an acknowledgement that photography is assumed and that being in the activity is an acceptance of that fact. Choosing to opt out means you just don’t participate in that activity. We do have some silly rules here, but I’ll give them an A for that one.

  7. Katie October 15, 2015 at 10:58 am #

    Our older daughter just started Girl Scouts and I was told at the first meeting that I could stay in the room for the first meeting because she was nervous, but that unless a parent fills out the volunteer paperwork to be a “troop helper” they cannot be in the meeting room or drive a carpool to events. The leader explained this apologetically, but “it’s policy and we have to follow it.”

    The volunteer vetting process requires that you become an adult Girl Scout member (to the tune of $30), provide your employer’s contact information and a 10 year history of volunteer experience, and provide several personal references who can vouch for you, plus having a complete criminal background check. Then once approved I would have to take orientation training and ongoing additional training – all so that I could be in a meeting room in a public place with my own child with multiple other adults present!

    Nah, I’m happy to sit in the adjacent room with a book or some knitting for an hour twice a month.

  8. Shannon October 15, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    The saddest thing of all might be that if it were a woman doing the exact same thing, no one would have batted an eye. This makes me angry, and I’m a mother of 3 girls.

  9. Warren October 15, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    Honestly I don’t know why in these situations people just do not respond with “Am I being detained, and if so what crime have I committed?”.

    Do not give them your camera, do not give them your phone. Stand up for yourself and your rights. As long as people keep allowing these intrusions it will only get worse.

  10. Shelly Stow October 15, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    This is so completely terrifying that it barely bears contemplation. HOW have we gotten to this point? Never mind; how can we get back?

  11. Papilio October 15, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    Have fun with our neighbors across the North Sea! 🙂

    “some schools will not allow parents to take pictures of their own kids in the school play or on sports day, because OTHER children will be in the background

    Oh nooooo! The horror, the horror! Surely all the other kids should be pixeled beyond recognition before giving the intended child the video! (Who wants memories of their classmates, right?)

    @Katie: Or an *audio* book AND some knitting 😉

  12. SOA October 15, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    I think he should write into the paper about it and talk to a lawyer. If you make a big fuss sometimes that enacts change.

  13. Kimberly October 15, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    A similar thing happened to a male friend of mine a few weeks back. He works for a tech company that delivers food (think Waiters on Wheels). Because we live in Silicon Valley, everything is done through an app on a smartphone. Deliveries come through via a text and when the delivery is complete, you hit a button and wait for the next delivery.

    While he was waiting for another delivery, he pulled over near a park and started to read a book. Yeah, like me, you know exactly where this story is going. It wasn’t long before two police cars showed up and he was forced to justify his actions and submit to extensive questioning.

    Personally, and maybe someone like Donna might be able to shed more light on it, this is beginning to border civil rights violations. After all, there is nothing illegal about being near or in a park without a child in tow. And there’s also the fact that this wouldn’t happen to a single woman.

    This is the pedophile version of “driving while black”.

    I am a huge supporter of the police. I have an uncle who just retired from the force and I have friends and ex-boyfriends who also are police officers. I support the “broken windows” theory and think that William Bracken and his Compstat policy is just what police departments need. But there are limitations. The NYPD is working to fine tune their procedures because of the community push-back against “stop and frisk”. Totally understandable because forcing someone to submit to a search of their person or their property with no probable cause isn’t acceptable.

    But that’s what’s going on here. Police aren’t just stopping with responding to a call and speaking to the person in question (all perfectly acceptable). They’ve gone a step further and are now searching these men and their belongings.

    As the mother of a tween son, this really needs to stop. Being near a park while having a penis is no different than walking or driving through a neighborhood with black skin. The only difference is that people are willing to ignore it because it’s all to protect the children.

    I will accept that as a white female, it’s really easy for me to say “fight back”, demand a supervisor, and defend your rights. After all, it’s not me that’s facing the stigma of being a child molester. But I fear the day that my 11-year-old son crosses the invisible line that divides being cute and lovable from being a threat to children.

  14. Allison October 15, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    Katie – just FYI, your daughter’s leader has the policy confused. You can stay in the room as a parent for a couple of meetings (I think up to 3). More than that and you have to register as a GS for insurance purposes. But that’s just registering as an adult member. Or, the leader can get supplemental insurance via our insurance provider – much cheaper but more of a pain and you have to give specific days and such.

    The background check is if you decide to become a regular, official volunteer – a leader or assistant leader. Then you have to “apply” (references and such), have the background check, and have some degree of training (the extent of which depends on what role you decide to take on).

    I think there’s a middle ground (maybe just registering and a background check?) if you’re going to drive for the troop or handle money (like a cookie mom), but don’t quote me on that one.

  15. Wendy Leibowitz October 15, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    Again, this kind of fear and immediate reporting to the police is reminiscent of the worst aspects of a police state. please continue your work.

  16. MichaelF October 15, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    For volunteering for Cub Scouts I basically volunteered and then did some online training. I keep it up every year, but maybe its our Pack, we are really laid back about it all. We like to have volunteers, and I go through that every fall as our fund raiser chairman, but its not much shaming or pushing for rules. Makes me glad I have boys.

    As to Cambridge, I am not surprised for their over reaction, Cambridge, MA cops tend to be a little strict and I have seen 3 or 4 cars at a situation that looked to have been handled by 2. This does not surprise me. Problem is, if you stand up for your rights they come after you for “hiding something” or can arrest you, or detain, simply for being non-cooperative. Even if you fight back later the strike to your reputation is done. It’s like shaming beforehand.

  17. Reziac October 15, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    If the danger doesn’t exist, they will create it.

    That is, after all, what they’re doing when they terrify normal adults into fearing any interaction with a stranger’s child… including perhaps rescuing that child at need.

    Personally, I can’t see what harm there is in some random stranger having a photo of an unnamed kid. It’s not like the photo will lure the kid away or something… nor can the kid be tracked down and *gasp* abducted from that photo.

    It’s all paranoia, which might be defined as fear with no practical source.

  18. Julie October 15, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    When I saw the title, I wondered how you had heard about what happened to my husband at the park recently!! His experience was a little different, and luckily not as severe.

    Our daughters are in middle school and run for the cross country team. They hold their practices at a local park. My husband decided that since it was a nice day he would pick up a slushy and sit at the park while the girls practiced. There is a covered pavilion with 4 picnic tables near the playground equipment. Since he has heart problems, he decided to sit in the shade of the pavilion with his drink at a picnic table. He sat facing the playground since some of the other team families were there with the younger sibs at the playground, and it made him feel connected to be able to see them.

    At a different picnic table, a group of 3 little girls were playing together. Their mother was apparently watching another child at the playground. When she saw him sitting there, at a different table, minding his own business, she rushed over in a huff and ushered the girls away saying loud enough for him to hear that she “didn’t want them near *that man*.” He hadn’t been talking to them, looking at them, or even paying the slightest attention to them. The woman couldn’t have had a clue if he was sitting there watching his own children on the playground or not.

    My sweet, loving, gentle, awesome-father husband was so hurt and embarrassed that she could think that of him that he shortly thereafter got up himself and went to stand with one of the team moms, in the sun, so that no one else would think that about him. Result was that he exhausted himself standing in the sun for so long, and it took him a few days to fully recover. He also no longer feels comfortable being able to be at the park while he is waiting for his children for fear that someone will call the police on him. It breaks my heart to know the pain this woman’s attitude has caused my dear hubby.

  19. Julie October 15, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    Katie – Allison is right.

    There may be some slight variations between Councils, but it shouldn’t be by that much. A parent that wants to be at meetings regularly should become a registered Girl Scout so that they are covered by the insurance policy (that registration should only be $15 unless your Council is charging a service fee – shame on them if they are charging that fee for adults!!) while at meetings and events. For a very small fee, the leader can also apply for insurance for 1-2 adults for each meeting – would likely come up to the minimum charge of $5 for the year and that would do the same.

    If you wish to drive or handle troop money, you will need a background check and whatever else your Council deems necessary, but that should not include ongoing training. That would apply to leaders and assistant leaders.

    Drop an email to Council! They can get the leader straightened around so that she is not running off potential help.

  20. Lyndsay October 15, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

    Just to chime in on the Girl Scout thing, our Daisy troop isn’t terribly strict and most of the moms stay just for convenience. We were all asked to register as adult members, mostly for the sake of attending larger events, no one checks for meetings. As cookie mom, I had to register as a volunteer and submit to a background check. No references or anything. Although a background check for a position where I am never even alone with the girls did seem a bit over the top. Especially since they are first graders and usually all of the moms stick around.

  21. lollipoplover October 15, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    “Suggestion: the next time you suspect someone is up to no good, perhaps you should say hello, speak to them first and, if still anxious, ask what they are taking pictures of. That’s what people do in a neighborhood park: talk to each other.”

    When you enter PUBLIC places like a community park, the basic understanding is there will be other people of varying ages, sexes, and most will have phones with cameras. You are probably being watched on CCTV too.
    Another camera image of your child won’t steal their soul. How insulting it is to the elders in our community to put them through this excessive police state for being in a park!

    I told this story before, but I once approached an older man who was off from the other families taking pictures at my daughter’s soccer game. Turns out, he was the grandfather of one of the girls on my daughter’s team. He had an incredible camera on a tripod and photography was his passion. He asked me what my daughter’s number was and promised to take some shots of her. The next game, I was handed an envelope of some incredible pictures of my daughter that I could have never captured. I still get pictures from him. He’s a great man and very talented. So please don’t call the police on men in parks just because they take pictures. I have probably dozens of amazing images of my daughter from a “stranger” who I now consider a good friend.

  22. david zaitzeff October 15, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    One question is whether or not the “Dana Park” is in Arizona or at least the USA or in another country.

    Lets assume that Dana Park is in the USA.

    What police did is called a Terry stop and is somewhat similar to a traffic stop. However, the Supreme court has ruled that in order to do a Terry stop that they must have articulable suspicion that a crime has been committed and furthermore, it appears from everything you have written that they did not have good grounds to seize and/or view the contents of your cell phone.

    Good god . . . even a person who is arrested and in custody for another offense continues to have a privacy expectation for his cell phone and electronics and police can’t search them or scroll through the photos on them without a warrant!

    May I encourage you to spend some hours reading about Terry stops on the Net and then send a note documenting you incident to the local police and ask them if this is normal police procedure for their town . . . and then, with either a yes or no answer, file a claim against your city or county or the local police or sheriffs for half a million dollars or whatever amount you choose?

    Their actions constitute an unreasonable and unconstitutional “Terry stop,” one that is in violation of the 4th amendment . . . and moreover, their actions are liable to suppress the free speech activities of yourself and perhaps others.

    Please “fight back” with every means at your disposal, including publicity, consultation with local lawyers and a lawsuit if necessary if no one makes any prompt apology to you!

  23. Puzzled October 15, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    I’d probably be the smart-alek (sp?) who would ask if the woman who took a picture of me was going to be arrested also. I’d probably also refuse to give over my phone without a warrant – perhaps drop it into the locking glove box “accidentally” and accidentally manage to leave my keys in the car with the door locked when I get out. I’m white, though, so I’d survive.

  24. Puzzled October 15, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

    David (or Donna) – it seems perfectly allowable, though, during a Terry stop to ask for permission to search, and it appears this person gave such consent. Granted, you can use careful language and body language to not fully convey that you are asking for consent, but, so long as the initial seizure is lawful, wouldn’t any consensual search be lawful also? Heck, post-Heien they only have to be reasonably suspicious that you’re doing something they reasonably think is a crime – it needn’t even be a crime.

  25. david zaitzeff October 15, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

    @Kimberly

    about the guy at the park between his 2 deliveries who was reading a book . . .

    Conversations can go like this:

    Police: “Hello, may I ask what you are doing here?”

    Person: “I am reading.” Set camera or cell phone to record . . . or not, as you wish. “This conversation is being recorded. Do you have grounds for a Terry stop? If I may ask, what are your grounds for this Terry stop?”

    Police: “We have received a call about you.”

    Person: “Please state the articulable reasons you have for suspecting that I am or about to be engaged in a crime.”

    Police: “Bye, we’ll chat another day . . .”

  26. Warren October 15, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    Puzzled,

    “They then took away my phone, scrolled through the few pictures that were on it.”

    How do you get that it seemed like he gave consent for the search, from his words?

    Even if he did have pictures with kids in them, it is not against the law. Therefore there is not even remotely reasonable to assume that reasonable suspicion of a crime exists, for a search.

  27. George October 15, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    German Police Warn Parents To Stop Posting Photos of Kids On Facebook

    A post on Facebook by German police advising parents not to post pictures of their children on the social media site has been shared more than 100,000 times and viewed by over seven million people. The Hagen Police left its warnings about paedophile interest with the suggestion that kids might not appreciate the early publicity after they have grown up a little.
    http://tech.slashdot.org/story/15/10/14/2140218/german-police-warn-parents-to-stop-posting-photos-of-kids-on-facebook

  28. LauraL October 15, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    David Zaitzeff, the very first line of this blog post is:

    “Great letter in Wicked Local Cambridge (as in outside of Boston) begins:”

    So my guess is this is in Massachusetts. 🙂

  29. Jennifer October 15, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

    This is so utterly disappointing to hear! I spent the last 6 years living just around the corner from Dana Park, and take my kids to play there on a regular basis. I actually had the naive perception that Cambridge was immune to the sort of ridiculous paranoia that leads to a man being questioned by police just for sitting in a park. Notably, Dana Park is not just a playground, but bigger community park that includes a large grassy area where plenty of adults and non-adults alike go to picnic, play soccer, walk their dogs, whatever, as well as a basketball court that is clearly designed for those of at least adult stature, if not age. I also wish that this person had done more to stand up for their rights, but… that’s exactly why we need to define such rights in the first place! I can imagine myself in the same situation, feeling scared and nervous just from the fact of being confronted by a number of police officers, and not being able to think rationally or clearly enough to remember that they are actually the ones acting illegally. Its only after the fact, when one’s brainstem has gone back into inactive mode, that you can actually stop and think about what you should have said and did, instead of what your body involuntarily did and said for you.

  30. lollipoplover October 15, 2015 at 2:03 pm #

    My son went fishing this summer with a friend at one of the water traps and was told to leave by a new employee of the golf course (he’s fished this same spot since he was 6). He knew to leave right away and told the employee he was sorry but his friend started talking back and acting like a punk. The employee took his phone out and took a picture of the boys- my son was mortified- and they both left.

    The mother of his friend came by our house a few hours later and was very concerned. She wanted to know what we planned to do about this strange man taking a picture of our boys! I told her he wouldn’t have needed to take the picture if your son didn’t mouth off and act like a jerk- they were on private property and they should have respectfully left when told to do so. She didn’t like my answer. I told my son to find better fishing buddies.
    What is it with pictures and kids? Why do we feel so threatened?

  31. Donna October 15, 2015 at 2:26 pm #

    I agree with Warren here. If approached by police in this way, ask if you are being detained. If they say no, say “excuse me” and walk away. If they say yes, ask why you are being detained and if you are under arrest. If they ask to see your cellphone/camera, tell them that they can certainly look at these things when they have obtained a warrant to do so.

    “What police did is called a Terry stop and is somewhat similar to a traffic stop.”

    Was it a Terry Stop or a 1st tier encounter? This is much more difficult to answer in the context of stopping someone from walking. However, when you ask the 1st question you should ask (am I being detained) you will have the answer. If the answer is no, this is a first tier encounter and you are able to walk away at any time. However, if you stay, it is considered a consensual encounter and they are allowed to ask you any questions that they want and keep you there until you do walk away or say you want to leave and they don’t need to justify it with any suspicion. If they say no, this is a Terry Stop.

    As to whether they had a reasonable articulable suspicion, this is really only relevant if they arrest you and you need to suppress evidence prior to trial. It is completely meaningless at the time. A judge is not going to stop by and say “officer, you have no reasonable articulably suspicion so let this man go.”

    “it seems perfectly allowable, though, during a Terry stop to ask for permission to search, and it appears this person gave such consent.”

    It is allowable during a Terry stop to ask for permission to search, however, the person must be asked and consent given, either verbally or by handing the item to them. The cop can’t just say “give me your phone” and take it out of your hand.

    “so long as the initial seizure is lawful, wouldn’t any consensual search be lawful also?”

    Yes. But again, this is all just academic unless they arrest you. I suppose that you could try to sue for a civil rights violation, but I am not sure what damages the jury would find to exist.

  32. hineata October 15, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

    The solution to this madness is simple…..become Asian. And buy an expensive-looking camera. Asians with expensive cameras can honestly stand anywhere and photograph anything.

    Or alternatively you could try to change the mindset of the egomaniacal, frankly stupid types who call the police on photographers. But honestly it would probably be faster just to become Asian.

  33. Donna October 15, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

    “about the guy at the park between his 2 deliveries who was reading a book . . .

    Conversations can go like this:

    ‘Do you have grounds for a Terry stop? If I may ask, what are your grounds for this Terry stop?'”

    Ummm, a cop walking up to someone in a parked car is not a Terry Stop. The person is already stopped. It only becomes a Terry Stop if you indicate that you don’t want to take part in the conversation and the cop takes some action compelling you to take part in the conversation, like stopping you from leaving.

    Police officers are allowed to talk to citizens without it being a stop or detention. If you take part in the conversation willingly, it is simply a consensual police-citizen encounter. If you choose to reveal that you kidnapped the Lindbergh baby and hand them your phone full or child porn when asked during such an encounter, that is your choice.

  34. Dhewco October 15, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

    Ummm, call me paranoid, but I’d be afraid that I’d say no to the wrong officer and become their official (insert expletive). There are several legal or quasi-legal ways police can eff you up without actually arresting you.

  35. deltaflute October 15, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    I’m probably the odd ball here. It’s not the “threat” of the pictures; it’s taking them without my permission and using them for whatever means they feel that bugs me. I’m not interested in my child being used as a piece of propaganda for a school or to for training/experiments or in one case to promote a nursing home the children were visiting. My child’s image shouldn’t be used as a form of free advertising without my permission. I don’t care if he ends up in the background shot of another mom snapping pictures of a sporting event. I assume that mom isn’t going to use my child’s image for advertising. I do care however if we pay to walk into a museum, and they snap photos and use it in the museum’s brochures without telling me. On some level adults and children have the right to go into places open to the public without being used as marketing tools later. It’s a violation of privacy. That’s what bugs me. So I’m kinda glad that they have to ask permission before using people. I like knowing that I can opt out. But not every one shares that opinion I’m sure. I certainly wouldn’t call the cops on the gentlemen simply for having a camera at a park. But if he’s actively taking photos of my children, then I’d like to know what he plans on using those images for. I don’t want to see my children’s photos plastered into some tv ad for someone running for mayor. That would imply that we support that person when we might not. And I think that as a parent I have a right to say “no.” It’s not based on a fear of pedophilia, but rather a right to a certain amount of privacy in public places.

  36. Warren October 15, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    deltaflute,

    What is it about “public places” you don’t understand? You want your privacy when you are out in the open? Not gonna happen. You don’t want pictures of you or your kids being taken while out in public, then don’t go out in public. That is life.

  37. James Pollock October 15, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

    While you have almost no legal basis to prevent someone from taking your picture in public, you absolutely have the right to keep someone from using your photo in advertisements without your permission. (Political campaigns are squishier).

  38. Jim Collins October 15, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    Background checks are becoming a big business. Usually there’s a kickback to the organization requesting them from the company that does them.

  39. hineata October 15, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

    @James –

    1/ How would you even know an image of you snapped while out in public was being used for marketing (or any other purpose ) and…

    2/ unless you have specifically commissioned someone to take photos of you, aren’t the photographs property of the photographer, regardless of subject?

  40. Beth October 15, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

    But deltaflute, you don’t have a right to privacy in public places. Do you get as upset about CCTV on streets and buildings as you do over someone in a museum snapping random photos? I bet there’s CCTV in that museum too.

  41. Donna October 15, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    Hineata – .

    The only way you would know if someone used your photo in marketing would be if you or someone you know saw it.

    Photographers do own the pictures but nobody can profit off your likeness without your permission. It isn’t the photographs that are protected, but your likeness that they contain.

  42. oncefallendotcom October 15, 2015 at 4:13 pm #

    I used to see this creepy guy in a mask and crown on TV sneaking up behind people to present them with a hamburger and I always wondered why no one ever comes up to me at the park offering me hamburgers.

    Has nothing much to do with this story except the creepy part.

  43. James Pollock October 15, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

    “1/ How would you even know an image of you snapped while out in public was being used for marketing (or any other purpose )”

    You would recognize yourself (or someone would recognize you and say, “Hey, I didn’t know you suffered from ‘ring around the collar'” or whatever.

    “2/ unless you have specifically commissioned someone to take photos of you, aren’t the photographs property of the photographer, regardless of subject?”

    The photographer owns the copyright, but that doesn’t equate to “can do whatever they feel like with the photo” (YMMV). There are multiple rights in play… the person pictured ALSO can’t do whatever they like with the photo, unless they have contracted for that. At present, the “interesting” explorations of law happening in this area are the attempts to regulate/eliminate “revenge porn” websites on the one hand, and the attempt to criminalize “upskirt” photography on the other. Both have proven troublesome.

  44. James Pollock October 15, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

    “I used to see this creepy guy in a mask and crown on TV sneaking up behind people to present them with a hamburger”

    As opposed to the creepy guy with a mask but no crown who’s always sneaking up behind people to try to take away the hamburger they already have.

    Robble-robble.

  45. EricS October 15, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

    I’ll reiterate again, technology and social or convetional media has made many people stupid and paranoid. They stopped thinking for themselves, and rely on what others tell them they should think. This is were common sense has been lost. And even people you’d think should have it, don’t. As in the Police officers. But you can also apply it to teachers, politicians, and social workers.

    We all have brains, and our brains are all wired the same way. But it’s up to us how we use it. If you use it properly you benefit in a positive way. You use it improperly, you become fearful and distrusting. Not really because of actual things happening, only the possibility of it happening. Media is what influences people, and technology has allowed media to get to more people in a shorter period of time. No couple that with being inundated with all these negative, and often unsubstantiated news, the ignorant would automatically assume it’s a rampant situation happening everywhere all the time. Which is NOT the case. But people just wire themselves to believe it does. Because it’s on the news or internet. lol

    I would challenge anyone and any law enforcement about taking pictures in a public place. Last I read, that’s NOT illegal. Again, I would fight fire with fire, just to help snuff it out. Make those responsible for spreading hysteria to think twice. Because there is consequence of action, regardless of who you are or what status you hold. There are those that will speak up and stand up for themselves and their rights. And if that means suing a Police Department for wrongful arrest, I will spend money on a lawyer to do just that.

    Fear is what go us to this point in the first place, let’s use fear to get back out of it. Fear of litigation. Most people will avoid it at all cost, especially when they know they are in the wrong. 😉

  46. James Pollock October 15, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

    “I would challenge anyone and any law enforcement about taking pictures in a public place. Last I read, that’s NOT illegal.”

    It can be, depending on the circumstances. Consult a professional if you need to.

  47. stephen October 15, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

    It’s legal to take all the pictures you want in a public place. The police like to spread fear about it cause fear brings them more of your tax dollars, and makes them feel more important.

  48. James Pollock October 15, 2015 at 6:22 pm #

    “It’s legal to take all the pictures you want in a public place.”

    It’s (mostly) legal to take all the pictures you want in a public place. Some exclusions apply. Consult a professional licensed in your jurisdiction if necessary.

  49. Lisa October 15, 2015 at 7:01 pm #

    I remain befuddled by a society that claims to have such concern for children that it criminalizes their photography in public spaces but has not problem with their military killing tens of thousands of them then all over the world. Except them we call them “Collateral Damage” and slap a “God Bless our Troops” on our trucks.

  50. Warren October 15, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

    Lisa,

    Please quote your source for the tens of thousands killed, and please do not use a Hollywood movie.

  51. Becky October 15, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    I live in an older neighborhood on the Westside of a major Midwestern city. My house is across the street from the playing field of a grade school. My sister usually parks her car in our garage off the back alley of our house so I park my car on the street directly in front of the end of our walk.

    Yesterday my sister needed a ride home from work; which occurs maybe twice a month. You absolutely cannot stop in front of her building so if you arrive before she is outside you must fight traffic to circle the building.

    Due to poor planning I found myself in my car too early. As I was parked in front of my house I decided to sit there for ten minutes and look at the news on my phone while I waited. School had been dismissed for 45 minutes but there were a handful of children and parents around the area. You guessed it. Two squad cars pulled in, one in front of and one behind my car. I cheerfully handed the Sergeant my license and registration and told him what I was doing there.

    He handed my stuff back and advised me not to do it in the future as my behavior had raised alarm. smh.

  52. Kimberly October 15, 2015 at 10:28 pm #

    I can totally understand why situations like this happen because you can understand and even support the police effort to protect society from the criminal element. It even happened to me once when a cop stopped me on the sidewalk and started asking me questions like if I lived in the neighborhood (no), where did I live (few miles away), who was I visiting (boyfriend), where was I coming from (just got off work). Then he wished me a good-night and I was on my way. It took all of five minutes, he was polite, and he was just making sure that the people on his beat were safe. As much as it’s about community policing on the part of the police, it was also great for me because I got to know the officers that patrolled the neighborhood which came in handy more times than once.

    But there is a fine line between being okay with having a quick conversation with a cop and doing the “prove your innocence” dance. I get it though, because if you have nothing to hide then it’s usually just easier to go along (especially if an officer is willing to push it) than to potentially stand around for a who knows how long while a situation escalates.

    The problem is that until people start making a concerted effort to not go along with stuff like this, then this won’t change.

  53. JKP October 16, 2015 at 12:01 am #

    “advised me not to do it in the future as my behavior had raised alarm”

    That’s the part I have a problem with. Why should you be prevented from sitting in your car in front of your own house when you need to just because it bothers some paranoid neighbors? I would have told the officer that I’ll sit in my car in front of my own house anytime I want, and if he gets sick of responding to paranoid callers, then he can educate them that there is nothing criminal or suspicious about someone sitting in a car for ten minutes and to stop calling.

    Why should everyone be expected to accommodate these paranoid people? It only feeds into their delusion, because then they believe, “Good, I called the cops and they stopped that creepy man from sitting in his car while the kids were coming home from school/sitting on the park bench near where kids are playing. I’ll make sure to be extra vigilant so it doesn’t happen again.” But instead, if their call does nothing, and you stay in the car/park after the cops leave, and you’re there again in the future, they have to accept that there’s nothing the police can do because there’s nothing criminal happening, so they should just stop calling.

  54. Warren October 16, 2015 at 12:16 am #

    “He handed my stuff back and advised me not to do it in the future as my behavior had raised alarm.”

    This is where the officer and I would have a problem. Advising me not to sit in my vehicle parked in front of my own property. Nope, I would have told the officer that he or she should advise those that are alarmed, that they are over reacting, and I really don’t give a crap what they think.

  55. Athena October 16, 2015 at 12:41 am #

    Hmmm. Makes me think what would the police have done had the man been a world-famous photographer like Joel Sartore or Steve McCurry … perhaps this also accounts for why the latter’s photographs are mostly taken in exotic (read: foreign) places?

    Then again, this incident would not have raised this kind of reaction where I live because here (desert town near the border of the UAE and Saudi Arabia), it’s taboo to take photos of other people’s faces (especially women whose faces are usually covered anyway and children) in public except when you’re at a party (expect to see your face on FB afterwards).

    Methinks it’s a cultural thing.

  56. david zaitzeff October 16, 2015 at 1:33 am #

    Yes . . . there are things about that indicate that this took place near Boston or in Boston . . .

    about the “terry stop,” according to the story:

    “I had barely gotten across the street when three police cars pulled up: I was told to stop,”

    being told to stop while walking is similar to being told to stop while driving by means of flashing lights. “I was told to stop,” means being given an authoritative instruction . . . that is more than a merely friendly conversation; that is a Terry stop–or so I think–and probably a very unconstitutional and unwarranted Terry stop.

    If and when that kind of thing happens, the police need to be sued . . .

  57. James Pollock October 16, 2015 at 2:29 am #

    “being told to stop while walking is similar to being told to stop while driving by means of flashing lights. “I was told to stop,” means being given an authoritative instruction . . . that is more than a merely friendly conversation; that is a Terry stop–or so I think–and probably a very unconstitutional and unwarranted Terry stop.”

    Today’s first lesson is about whether it’s a good idea to make legal determinations after hearing only one side of the story.

    No. (That was a short lesson).

    Today’s second lesson is on whether or not it is Constitutional for police to detain a person while they investigate whether a crime has been committed, or is about to be committed (yes). Even if there turns out to be no crime (still yes).

    Read Terry v. Ohio. Chief Justice Warren explains all the different arguments in the written opinion.
    http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/392/1.html
    A Terry stop is the appropriate response when the police have a report of “suspicious activity” that identifies a specific suspect. The stop would authorize detention of that suspect while they investigate what, if any, crimes have been committed or are likely to be committed in the near future. If the stop turns up evidence that does, indeed, suggest a crime, they may proceed to arrest, if it turns up no evidence of a crime, the detention must end immediately. The investigation may include asking for consent to search things that would require a warrant to search, absent consent. (Police can be expected to shade the line between truly asking for consent and suggesting that it is not actually optional, but a good defense counsel will call them on it if they cross the line and the matter proceeds to arrest and charges. If there is no arrest, no charges, and no defense lawyer, it likely goes unchallenged… but there is no arrest, no charges.)

    Short version: I don’t see anything here that suggests that a lawsuit against the police would be fruitful for anyone.

  58. James Pollock October 16, 2015 at 2:42 am #

    Also: being confrontational is probably not productive.
    Defense lawyers will tell you not to say a thing to police until you get a lawyer. This is because they deal regularly with people who don’t follow this advice, who discover that evidence against them has surfaced. (Yes, lawyers deal mostly with people who are guilty of what they are charged with, and guilty people talking to police usually are making the prosecutor’s job easier. I am OK with guilty people making it easier for the prosecutor to prove that they are guilty.)
    Sometimes people who aren’t actually guilty, look guilty. Sometimes people who aren’t actually guilty look guilty enough to convict. They assume that the fact that they are not guilty is, or will soon become, obvious. This is not the case. Once the police have a suspect, they stop trying to gather evidence that will tell them who did it, and they start trying to gather evidence that proves their suspect is guilty. Once they go into this mode, they tend to ignore problems in the evidence that suggest another suspect.
    Not cooperating and being confrontational are not the same thing. Being confrontational is one of those things that makes you look guilty, and causes the police to work harder at proving your guilt. This can prolong the time you are detained (by a substantial factor).
    Asking “am I being detained” and walking away if they say “no”… good idea. Asking “am I being detained” and trying to walk away if they say “yes”… very, very bad idea. Even if you’re innocent and they have no real reason to detain you.

  59. andy October 16, 2015 at 3:03 am #

    @Becky This is the sort of stuff that makes me angry. So, it is not like sitting in a car would be illegal, but if you do it cop will tell you not to do it in the future? Wtf, how is that not overreach or (ok small) abuse of power? This is something cops are not supposed to do and should be formally punished for doing.
    .
    I through cops are supposed to enforce existing laws, not to make up new ones as they wish.

  60. sexhysteria October 16, 2015 at 5:04 am #

    And some people swear there is no hysteria!!!

  61. Jessie Cooper October 16, 2015 at 5:49 am #

    We just had an email sent by my 9yr old daughters soccer coach about a man at the field taking pictures covertly of the girls playing. we were asked to keep watch and report to the police if we see him.

  62. Donna October 16, 2015 at 8:22 am #

    “Yes, lawyers deal mostly with people who are guilty of what they are charged with”

    No, criminal lawyers deal mostly with people who are guilty of something. It is often NOT what they are charged with due to overcharging of cases in order to plea bargain down.

    And the reason that lawyers generally don’t want people to speak to cops is that cops are very gifted at manipulating people to say what they want them to say. They lie, produce false evidence and twist their words. A conversation such as:

    Cop: Your buddy confessed to robbing the store and says that you were with him. In fact, he says you shot the clerk. (Buddy said no such thing and in fact was smart enough to not make a statement at all).
    Suspect: I wasn’t there.
    Cop: Yes, you were. We know you were there. We have your fingerprints on the door (no fingerprints were obtained).
    Suspect: I am in that store all the time. I might have been in there that night. It was before that clerk was shot. I didn’t have anything to do with this. (Suspect shaken by this information and not sure if he went into the store or not that night. He actually didn’t go in the store, but has now wrongfully placed himself at the scene. Much will be made at the trial about the fact that he admits to being in the store, but yet can’t be found on any of the security footage).
    Cop: We have it on video. We see you walking in, pointing the gun at the clerk and shooting him. You look right at the camera. (A perp does look at the security camera, but he is masked and can’t be identified)
    Suspect (now very frustrated) – Then I guess I did it.
    Cop: That’s right you shot that man.
    Suspect: If you say so.

    That is now considered a confession. He will be arrested. He will be indicted. Nobody will try to find the real perp. His only option is to go to trial and explain that he was being sarcastic and did not mean what he said. A difficult position to be in, especially if he is a convicted felon with a low IQ who will be easily confused on the stand by a decent prosecutor (most of our defendants).

  63. Puzzled October 16, 2015 at 8:34 am #

    Tens of thousands is inaccurate. Let Albright explain:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omnskeu-puE

    As for consent for the search, I read the line saying the police ‘wanted’ to see his phone, then the line saying the police flipped through his phone, and pictured them saying “we want to search your phone” and him saying “um, I guess” and handing it over. It could be that they reached into his pocket and grabbed it, or grabbed it out of his hand, but I would think that, if that happened, he’d have written that.

  64. James Pollock October 16, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    “No, criminal lawyers deal mostly with people who are guilty of something. It is often NOT what they are charged with due to overcharging of cases in order to plea bargain down. ”

    When they do that, do defense lawyers go along with tactic and proceed to the plea bargaining, or do they fight it?

  65. Crystal October 16, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    We are Americans living in England, and our son’s British school has this lame policy. God forbid I take pictures of my kid at his choir concert — gasp! There’s a friend next to him! We even had to sign a contract saying we would never share any pictures of ANY SCHOOL FUNCTION with ANYONE, even off of social media! Sorry, Grandma and Grandpa across the ocean.

  66. Papilio October 16, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    @Crystal: And how are they planning to find out if you haven’t e-mailed your parents some pictures? Hack your computer?

  67. James Pollock October 16, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    “And how are they planning to find out if you haven’t e-mailed your parents some pictures?”

    You’ve pounced on the wrong point.
    They’ll be pretty sure nobody’s emailed any parents any pictures, because taking pictures isn’t allowed in the first place.

  68. bsolar October 16, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    @James Pollock: “Today’s second lesson is on whether or not it is Constitutional for police to detain a person while they investigate whether a crime has been committed, or is about to be committed (yes).”

    Actually, no. Even to just detain someone to investigate the police needs to have a *reasonable suspicion* based on objective circumstances that the individual was committing or about to commit a crime.

    That’s the whole point of the discussion: should simply walking around in a public place with a camera be considered objective circumstance which justifies a reasonable suspicion of a crime being/about to be committed? The police would likely answer yes; I’d rather answer *no*. The interesting question is “what would a judge answer?”.

  69. Warren October 16, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    bsolar,
    Exactly on point. And that is why James is in IT, and not in court arguing cases.

  70. James Pollock October 16, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    “That’s the whole point of the discussion: should simply walking around in a public place with a camera be considered objective circumstance which justifies a reasonable suspicion of a crime being/about to be committed?”

    That’s not the point at all, because that’s not what happened. The police detained him because they had a report of a suspicious person. It’s reasonable to stop the person who matches the description of the person in the citizen report while the police find out exactly what it is that the citizen is reporting. When it becomes clear that the citizen is reporting a non-crime, the stop ends.

    “The police would likely answer yes”
    In this case, they answered “no”.

    The complaint here is with the person(s) who made the report. The police actions were Constitutional.

  71. Donna October 16, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

    “When they do that, do defense lawyers go along with tactic and proceed to the plea bargaining, or do they fight it?”

    Defense lawyers don’t get to make the decision. Their clients do.

    What I counsel a client to do depends on the charges, the facts of the case and the client. Ultimately most choose to take the plea bargain. It takes a lot of balls to go to trial facing a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison without parole when you are being offered 3 years with parole eligibility. Few of my clients have that kind of balls.

  72. Donna October 16, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

    “The police detained him because they had a report of a suspicious person. It’s reasonable to stop the person who matches the description of the person in the citizen report while the police find out exactly what it is that the citizen is reporting.”

    That is not true. If all you know is a suspicious person has been reported, you can’t detain everyone who looks like that suspicious person while the the reporter is interviewed to determine the validity of the report. You would have to have more details as to why this person is being reported as suspicious.

  73. sexhysteria October 16, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    Not only are Americans hysterical – even worse is that they’ve lost their sense of humor. If a child in an American park offered to pose for porn pictures, the average adult would say something like: “Oh my God! I can’t believe you said that! I must be having a bad dream!” But if a child in a European park made that offer, an unruffled Continental adult would probably reply: “Sorry but I’ve already spent my kiddy porn budget this week.”

  74. James Pollock October 16, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    “’When they do that, do defense lawyers go along with tactic and proceed to the plea bargaining, or do they fight it?’

    Defense lawyers don’t get to make the decision. Their clients do.”

    So sorry, didn’t realize you had no influence on the process.

  75. James Pollock October 16, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    “‘The police detained him because they had a report of a suspicious person’

    That is not true.”

    You may be right. Well, it’s what was reported:
    “I had barely gotten across the street when three police cars pulled up: I was told to stop, and swiftly surrounded by six policemen. I was “detained” there for approximately 20 minutes and questioned; another officer returned to the park to find out why you had called them.”

  76. Donna October 16, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

    I really thought you had gotten passed only selecting part of what someone said to try to boost your argument when proven wrong, but alas you have not. I guess hope strings eternal.

    By the way, it is clear to everyone else that there was another whole sentence of yours quoted and that, therefore, I was talking about your legal analysis of the whole thing and not disputing the facts that this person gave.

  77. James Pollock October 16, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

    “I really thought you had gotten passed only selecting part of what someone said to try to boost your argument when proven wrong”

    For future reference, being “proven wrong” involves presenting “proof”.

    Moving on.
    Am I to assume, then that you see a civil rights lawsuit here?

  78. Donna October 16, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

    You know what they say about assuming.

    I was speaking solely about the incorrectness of your analysis that a matching the description of a person reported as being “suspicious” with no more detail than that provides reasonable articulable suspicion. It doesn’t. The cop would need to have some facts as to WHY this person is considered suspicious and not just an assertion by a 911 caller that he is.

  79. James Pollock October 16, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

    So, this is just another case of you telling me I’m wrong before ultimately agreeing with me.

    Moving on (again.)

  80. Donna October 16, 2015 at 5:58 pm #

    No it is another instance of you insisting that I agree with you when I’ve done no such thing. Or changing your opinion to match mine and then insisting that that has been your opinion all along. I can’t tell which in this instance and you are so prone to do both that it is impossible to guess.

    I know better than to communicate with you in any fashion, but hate it when people falsely state the law and fell into the trap. My bad (communicating with you, not anything else).

  81. bsolar October 16, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

    @James Pollock: “The police detained him because they had a report of a suspicious person. It’s reasonable to stop the person who matches the description of the person in the citizen report while the police find out exactly what it is that the citizen is reporting. When it becomes clear that the citizen is reporting a non-crime, the stop ends.”

    No, it’s not. Even if the standard is less than “probable cause”, “reasonable suspicion” still needs to be pretty substantially articulated to justify a detainment. Just being reported as being “suspicious” per-se is not enough to justify a detainment.

    @James Pollock: “In this case, they answered “no”.”

    They definitely answered *yes*, since they actually detained him. Unless you are suggesting that they detained him wilfully knowing that they didn’t have “reasonable suspicion” to detain him legally.

  82. James Pollock October 16, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

    “@James Pollock: “In this case, they answered “no”.”
    They definitely answered *yes*, since they actually detained him. Unless you are suggesting that they detained him wilfully knowing that they didn’t have “reasonable suspicion” to detain him legally.”

    Again, they detained him to investigate a “suspicious person” call.
    When it turned out he’d been reported a “suspicious person” because he was walking around with a camera, they stopped detaining him.

    So, in this case, the police’s answer to ” should simply walking around in a public place with a camera be considered objective circumstance which justifies a reasonable suspicion of a crime being/about to be committed?” was “no”.

  83. James Pollock October 16, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    “Or changing your opinion to match mine and then insisting that that has been your opinion all along. I can’t tell which in this instance and you are so prone to do both”

    Sure. Regular readers here are sure to chime in with all the times my opinions have been wishy-washy and subject to change. If only I’d stick to my guns a little more!

  84. bsolar October 16, 2015 at 7:19 pm #

    @James Pollock: “Again, they detained him to investigate a “suspicious person” call.
    When it turned out he’d been reported a “suspicious person” because he was walking around with a camera, they stopped detaining him.”

    If they didn’t know what the report was about, they *definitely* didn’t have enough reason to believe he had committed or was about to commit a crime. “We just received a call about him being somewhat suspicious” doesn’t exactly satisfy the test of “specific and articulable facts describing suspicious behaviour distinguishing the subject from a law-abiding citizen”.

    Note that this doesn’t mean the police cannot start an investigation based on the call, just that unless something substantial makes them believe the subject might have committed a crime, they don’t have “reasonable suspicion” to detain him. They still can observe him and ask him questions, but to detain him they need more.

  85. James Pollock October 16, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

    “Note that this doesn’t mean the police cannot start an investigation based on the call, just that unless something substantial makes them believe the subject might have committed a crime, they don’t have “reasonable suspicion” to detain him. They still can observe him and ask him questions, but to detain him they need more.”

    This would be true, if a crime had to be committed in order for police to detain someone. But it doesn’t. (A crime WAS being committed in the Terry case, BUT the police didn’t know that until AFTER Terry and his compatriots were detained.) Terry and his compatriots were never charged with a crime for the acts which caused the detective to detain them… because the acts that caused the detective to detain them were not (and are not) a crime. One of the people detained in the Terry case was never charged with any crime in relation to the stop.

  86. Warren October 16, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    James,

    Do you ever get tired of being schooled by Donna? Dude, you are not even in her league. You have to omit parts of her comments in order to make your point. And when you are called on it, you run like a coward.

    No wonder your wife gave you the boot.

  87. bsolar October 17, 2015 at 2:39 am #

    @James Pollock: “This would be true, if a crime had to be committed in order for police to detain someone. But it doesn’t.”

    I’m not even sure how you logically infer such absurdity: “reasonable suspicion” of someone having commited a crime is per definition not *certainty* that such crime happened. The same applies even to the stronger standard of “probable cause” which is required to arrest: it doesn’t require the police to be 100% sure that a crime had been committed, nor that the subject was responsible. Still, both standards require definitely *more* than “he was reported as being suspect for no clear reason whatsoever”.

    The only standard which basically requires certainty is “beyond reasonable doubt”, which is required to validate a conviction.

  88. James Pollock October 17, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    “I’m not even sure how you logically infer such absurdity:”
    I’m not even sure what you’re babbling on about.

    “reasonable suspicion” of someone having commited a crime is per definition not *certainty* that such crime happened.”
    OK. How is this relevant?

    “The same applies even to the stronger standard of “probable cause” which is required to arrest:”
    Relevance?

    “it doesn’t require the police to be 100% sure that a crime had been committed, nor that the subject was responsible.”
    Relevance?

    “Still, both standards require definitely *more* than “he was reported as being suspect for no clear reason whatsoever”.
    Relevance?

    The only standard which basically requires certainty is “beyond reasonable doubt”, which is required to validate a conviction.
    Relevance?

    It looks like you looked up a bunch of legal terms on Wikipedia, but are unable to see how they apply. Read the Terry v. Ohio decision. It’s a good read, Justice Warren explains the competing legal theories, and it was written back before the Court needed 120 pages to decide everything..

  89. bsolar October 17, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    @James Pollock: “It looks like you looked up a bunch of legal terms on Wikipedia, but are unable to see how they apply.”

    Look, it’s easy:

    * You have “reasonable suspicion”? You can detain, but not arrest.
    * You have “probable cause”? You can arrest.

    So, to legally detain a subject, you don’t need “probable cause” but you *stil*l need at least “reasonable suspicion”.

    Now, the concept of “reasonable suspicion” is not something I invented, it comes from… you guessed it:

    Terry vs. Ohio, emphasis mine: “In justifying the particular intrusion, the police officer must be able to point to *specific and articulable facts* which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, *reasonably* warrant that intrusion”

    Terry vs. Ohio, emphasis mine: “In making that assessment, it is imperative that the facts be judged against an *objective standard*: would the facts available to the officer at the moment of the seizure or the search “warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief” that the action taken was appropriate? Anything less would invite intrusions upon constitutionally guaranteed rights based on *nothing more substantial than inarticulate hunches*, a result this Court has consistently refused to sanction.”

    TL;DR: Terry vs. Ohio states exactly what I wrote posts ago: the police doesn’t need to meet the standard of “probable cause” but still needs to meet the standard of “reasonable suspicion”, otherwise they cannot legally detain a subject.

  90. James Pollock October 17, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    “TL;DR: Terry vs. Ohio states exactly what I wrote posts ago: the police doesn’t need to meet the standard of “probable cause” but still needs to meet the standard of “reasonable suspicion”, otherwise they cannot legally detain a subject.”

    I’m sorry this is so difficult for you.
    When the detective detained Mr. Terry and his associates, what crime did the detective have a “reasonable suspicion” about regarding the men he detained? More specifically… when did that crime occur? (Hint: Not the crime they were convicted of.)

    Now, with the answers to those questions in hand:
    Do the police need a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred to detain a person?

    (actually, in some cases they don’t even need to suspect the person they are stopping was involved in the crime they are investigating. Illinois v. Lidster.)

    TL;DR. You’re still wrong.

  91. James Pollock October 17, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    Here, try a hypothetical:

    The 911 operator receives a hangup call. They call back, but no one answers the phone.

    When police roll up on the physical address, they find a person who is leaving. May police detain that person while they check inside the house?

    How about this one…
    A man is running down the sidewalk, in the general direction of a train station. As he nears a police officer, someone in the crowd yells “stop that man!” The police officer can’t see who yelled, or why. If he stops the running man, has he (or she) made an unlawful detention?

  92. bsolar October 17, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

    @James Pollock: “When the detective detained Mr. Terry and his associates, what crime did the detective have a “reasonable suspicion” about regarding the men he detained? More specifically… when did that crime occur? (Hint: Not the crime they were convicted of.)”

    It doesn’t matter. The officer had “reasonable suspicion” that the men were involved in committing some sort of crime. The officer doesn’t need to know exactly which one, but still needs to justify his suspicion with the standard explained in Terry vs. Ohio.

    @James Pollock: “actually, in some cases they don’t even need to suspect the person they are stopping was involved in the crime they are investigating. Illinois v. Lister.”

    As you said, “in some cases”, cases which are pretty different from the case at hand:

    Illinois vs. Lidster: “Most importantly, the stops interfered only minimally with liberty of the sort the Fourth Amendment seeks to protect. Viewed objectively, each stop required only a brief wait in line – a very few minutes at most. Contact with the police lasted only a few seconds. Police contact consisted simply of a request for information and the distribution of a flyer. Viewed subjectively, the contact provided little reason for anxiety or alarm. The police stopped all vehicles systematically. And there is no allegation here that the police acted in a discriminatory or otherwise unlawful manner while questioning motorists during stops.”

    So now you claim that the police had the right to surround him with 6 agents and detain him for 20 minutes, because in a completely different case involving a road block *if the stop is minimally invasive* and *provides little reason for anxiety or alarm*, the police can stop you to seek your *voluntary cooperation*.

  93. bsolar October 17, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    @James Pollock: “The 911 operator receives a hangup call. They call back, but no one answers the phone. When police roll up on the physical address, they find a person who is leaving. May police detain that person while they check inside the house?”

    This is not an hypothetical case, it’s exactly what happened in U.S. vs Cohen:

    “Almost four decades ago, the Supreme Court instructed that “in justifying the particular intrusion the police officer must be able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.” Terry, 392 U.S. at 21, 88 S.Ct. 1868. The Court further noted that “This demand for specificity in the information upon which police action is predicated is the central teaching of this Court’s Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.” Id. at 22 n. 18, 88 S.Ct. 1868. Those principles are no less true today. Given the almost complete absence of information communicated by the silent 911 hang-up call and the limited additional information known to Officer Pender when he stopped Cohen’s car, we conclude that the totality of the circumstances *did not provide reasonable suspicion for the police to make an investigatory stop*.”

  94. MaryPatShelby October 17, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

    Well, this conversation completely derailed. Success for James once again.

  95. James Pollock October 17, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

    “It doesn’t matter. The officer had “reasonable suspicion” that the men were involved in committing some sort of crime.”
    Except that he did not. Not a single one of the things cited as reasons for detaining the men was a crime. One of them, in fact, had not committed any crime. Had they not been packing, none of them could have been charged with a crime.

    You’re hung up on “reasonable suspicion”, and apparently unable to consider “of what?” The legal test is “a totality of circumstances” (and “need to act swiftly” is one of the circumstances that may be considered. Also, have you considered that “reasonable” is interpreted very strongly in the police’s favor?

    “So now you claim that the police had the right to surround him with 6 agents and detain him for 20 minutes, because in a completely different case involving a road block *if the stop is minimally invasive* and *provides little reason for anxiety or alarm*, the police can stop you to seek your *voluntary cooperation*.”
    I do? Thanks for telling me, I had no idea.
    C’mon back when you want to talk about what I actually claim(ed).. Or, you know, regurgitate something about “reasonable suspicion” again. It must be in that Wikipedia article for some reason, right?

  96. James Pollock October 17, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    “Well, this conversation completely derailed. Success for James once again.”

    This certainly contributed value.

  97. James Pollock October 17, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    “This is not an hypothetical case, it’s exactly what happened in U.S. vs Cohen:”

    Similar, yes, but “exactly what happened”?
    Finding someone driving in the neighborhood is exactly the same as seeing someone leaving the property?

  98. bsolar October 17, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

    @James Pollock: “Except that he did not. Not a single one of the things cited as reasons for detaining the men was a crime.”

    Terry v. Ohio: “By this time Officer McFadden had become thoroughly suspicious. He testified that after observing their elaborately casual and oft-repeated reconnaissance of the store window on Huron Road, *he suspected the two men of ‘casing a job, a stick-up,’*”

    So in your opinion he did not suspect them of being about to commit a crime, and that was not the reason he was able to legally detain them?

    @James Pollock: “You’re hung up on “reasonable suspicion”, and apparently unable to consider “of what?” The legal test is “a totality of circumstances” (and “need to act swiftly” is one of the circumstances that may be considered.”

    Not sure if you are still talking about Terry, but in Terry’s case the “need to act swiftly” was not part of the “totality of circumstances” which justified the suspicion of the officer. The need to act swiftly was a *consequence* of the officer’s suspicion.

    @James Pollock: “Also, have you considered that “reasonable” is interpreted very strongly in the police’s favor?”

    What makes you believe that? Actually it’s interpreted pretty strongly in favour of the 4th Amendment, as it should be. It’s not like cases invalidated due to unlawful detainment are rare.

    @James Pollock: “Similar, yes, but “exactly what happened”? Finding someone driving in the neighborhood is exactly the same as seeing someone leaving the property?”

    In your original post you never wrote about “leaving the property”, only about somebody “leaving”. That’s exactly what happened in the case I cited: the police received an hang-up call, went to the address (which is located in a cul-de-sac) and stopped a car leaving.

  99. James Pollock October 17, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    “So in your opinion he did not suspect them of being about to commit a crime, and that was not the reason he was able to legally detain them?”

    I’m sorry this is so difficult for you.
    When the detective detained Mr. Terry and his associates, what crime did the detective have a “reasonable suspicion” about regarding the men he detained? More specifically… when did that crime occur?

    Now, with the answers to those questions in hand:
    Do the police need a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred to detain a person?

  100. James Pollock October 17, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

    “@James Pollock: “Also, have you considered that “reasonable” is interpreted very strongly in the police’s favor?”

    What makes you believe that?”
    Besides the fact that it’s true?

    “Actually it’s interpreted pretty strongly in favour of the 4th Amendment, as it should be. It’s not like cases invalidated due to unlawful detainment are rare.”
    It’s EXACTLY like cases invalidated due to unlawful detainment are rare. What planet are you on? There’s 2 million Americans in jail or prison. How many cases are invalidated due to unlawful detainment? Millions? Thousands? Hundreds?

  101. James Pollock October 17, 2015 at 4:39 pm #

    “In your original post you never wrote about “leaving the property”, only about somebody “leaving”.”

    In the original post, the reference to “leaving” comes directly after a reference to “the physical address”, which most people would interpret as “the property”..

    Allow me to clarify:

    911 hangup call.
    911 operator unable to contact anyone at the address.
    Police are notified.
    The police drive up and physically see with their own unaided vision a person who is leaving the physical address of the 911 hangup call they are responding to. (The person is not in a motor vehicle.)
    May they detain the person leaving to investigate the hangup call?

  102. bsolar October 17, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    @James Pollock: “When the detective detained Mr. Terry and his associates, what crime did the detective have a “reasonable suspicion” about regarding the men he detained?”

    He had a “reasonable suspicion” that they were about to commit a robbery (as stated by the officer himself).

    @James Pollock: “More specifically… when did that crime occur?”

    The crime did not occur yet, the “reasonable suspicion” can also be about the subject being “about to commit a crime”.

    @James Pollock: “Now, with the answers to those questions in hand: Do the police need a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred to detain a person?”

    In Terry’s case the police was able to legally detain him because the officer had reasonable suspicion that he was about to commit a crime. Without that reasonable suspicion Terry could not have been legally detained.

    Back to the case in the article: if the police had reasonable suspicion that the guy at the park committed or was about to commit a crime the detainment was legal, otherwise the detainment was illegal.

  103. James Pollock October 17, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    Now that you’ve got that part straightened out, can the police have “reasonable suspicion” based on a tip?

  104. bsolar October 17, 2015 at 6:41 pm #

    @James Pollock: “Now that you’ve got that part straightened out, can the police have “reasonable suspicion” based on a tip?”

    Of course, but not necessarily.

  105. James Pollock October 17, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

    OK.

    So, if they have a tip, should they investigate, or not investigate? (A simple yes, or no, please. No time for proper analysis of multiple factor tests. The person identified in the tip is walking away. Either they stop him to investigate, or they don’t.)

  106. JP Merzetti October 17, 2015 at 7:23 pm #

    wow.
    There sure is a crapstorm of legalese going on it these here parts.
    The part I missed though…….was the silent observation that it sure looks like a male is supposed to win bread, scatter largesse far and wide, opt into the socio-economic construct with vigor and virility, but under no circumstances display anything remotely resembling positive child-nurturing activities and skills.

    Um, what I didn’t miss was this part: Photographing while male is I guess, some kind of backwash game-field leveling off for all the rest of us…….as driving while black. (Or shopping, walking…..basically, being alive with a pulse.)

    The story about the hubby with the bad heart really got to me.
    More sadness in that, than anger.

    I wonder now, if this is not kinda like what happened to a lot of good Aryans in Germany, roundabout 1932………
    Only that was a genocide.
    This is a gendercide…………….not literally of the corporal and physical…..as much as it is of the soul.

    Any male anywhere of any age, who truly loves kids, and would kill himself before hurting one….dies one more small death at the prospect of being taken for a monster……in that particular way.
    Makes me wonder what kind of war we are truly fighting now?
    For…..when warlike in our social philosophies……those consequences will come out.

    We no longer seem capable of just stopping and taking a deep breath, and just………….cooling down.
    We’re heating up like an overcooked globally warmed planet.

    Males really need to learn a whole lot more about how to love children enough to want to protect them.
    This planet isn’t really very good at that, you know?
    And we’re not being very smart at how we choose to go about changing that. No, we aren’t.

    So we continue to go about this with about as much intelligence as an average Fox telecast……………….
    (with typical results one would expect) and a whole lot of kids grow up wondering, what actually IS wrong with males, anyway?
    ……and often don’t really get a straight answer.
    And it is the crookedness of the answer they do get that winds up adding to a warped view of things.

    For a society that professes to believe that true guilt needs to be a proveable thing……I figure the thing has flipped backwards. And that must sure provide a police state with the terminal wet dream that keeps it snappy happy.

    Let’s just all walk softly now, and keep our eyes to the ground.
    And when Winston Smith really does show up…….we won’t even have a rear view mirror to consult.

  107. bsolar October 17, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

    @James Pollock: “So, if they have a tip, should they investigate, or not investigate? (A simple yes, or no, please. No time for proper analysis of multiple factor tests. The person identified in the tip is walking away. Either they stop him to investigate, or they don’t.”

    There is no “yes or no” answer: if they have reasonable suspicion they can detain, otherwise they might have to let the person leave.

  108. James Pollock October 17, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

    “There is no “yes or no” answer: if they have reasonable suspicion they can detain, otherwise they might have to let the person leave.”

    There IS a yes or no answer, and it’s either “Yes” or “No”. A “suspicious person” report comes in. The guy in front of you matches the description with specificity.

    Now, we know from caselaw that it’s NOT sufficient if the tip is telephonic, anonymous, and non-specific. That’s not what happened in this case. There’s caselaw that says if the report is specific enough, anonymous but face-to-face, or anonymous but the identify of the person can be determined and the caller knows this, that it is.

    If it’s reasonable to believe that the person in front of you is the person in the suspicious-person report, it’s reasonable to believe that there’s something suspicious about them.

    And we come back to my original point: The problem lies with the person who made the report, not the police.

  109. bsolar October 18, 2015 at 3:45 am #

    @James Pollock: “If it’s reasonable to believe that the person in front of you is the person in the suspicious-person report, it’s reasonable to believe that there’s something suspicious about them.”

    As the case law you cite argumented: “Even a reliable tip will justify an investigative stop only if it creates reasonable suspicion that “criminal activity may be afoot.””. The court had to evaluate not only whether the reporter was reliable and the information provided accurate, but also whether the specific behaviour reported created reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

  110. Papilio October 18, 2015 at 9:22 am #

    MaryPatShelby: “Well, this conversation completely derailed. Success for James once again.”

    But thank you Bsolar for making clear who you’re talking to! 🙂

  111. James Pollock October 18, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    “As the case law you cite argumented:”
    The verb you were looking for was “argued”, and “case laws” don’t “argue” anything. Trying to address what I think you meant to say (so I may have it wrong).

    First off, I’ve no idea what you’re referring to. I’ve cited two cases, Terry and Lidster.

    I think we’re making two different assumptions, which is causing us to reach different conclusions.
    I think you’re trying to apply 20/20 hindsight (we know NOW that there was no criminal activity (actually we DON’T know that, as we have only one side of the story, but that’s another issue entirely, so… accepting the story as given as true) but the cops didn’t know that. Of course, there’s a HUGE missing piece in the story… exactly what WAS reported to the cops? We know it described the suspect sufficiently well that the police stopped one person, and only one person, in response. We know that the caller thought the police should investigate the person (and it’s probable that the caller thought a law was being broken).

    If the caller called in and said “there’s a guy with a camera walking around breaking no laws!”, then you’d be right. I find that highly unlikely. What I find FAR more likely is that the tone, demeanor, and urgency of the message, as well as the words, implied a need for a police response, and they responded accordingly, until the investigation showed otherwise.

    Secondly, I think you’re assuming that “walking around with a camera in a public place” not only doesn’t, but CAN’T indicate possible criminal activity. Not so. There ARE crimes you can commit in a public place, with a camera.

  112. Paul Bearer October 18, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    I’ve gone from reading an article about a young black man who was questioned for standing near an ATM for too long to reading one about an adult white guy facing police scrutiny for having a camera in a park.

    What don’t people consider suspicious these days?

  113. BL October 18, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

    “What don’t people consider suspicious these days?”

    The police and CPS, apparently.

  114. E October 19, 2015 at 9:06 am #

    After reading this post a 2nd time, it reminded me of a man that is very frequently on a greeway path near my home. It doesn’t seem to matter what time or day I go for a walk, I come across him. The greenway circles a lake, it’s about 2 miles around and there is a playground back at the rec center (though I don’t go to the playground so have no idea if he does). The greenway is used for walkers, joggers, bikes, families feeding ducks, etc.

    I have never seen this man WITHOUT a camera around his neck and a long zoom lens. Granted I’ve never seen him taking photos of people, but it sounds like the man in the post didn’t take any photos either. I believe this guy takes photos of the birds, but I wonder if he’s ever been reported.

    We’re a bit of amateur birders and I spoke to him one day (to ask if he’d seen a certain type of waterfowl we thought we saw). I realized only after speaking to him that he might have some challenges (then again, maybe he just didn’t want to speak to me), so I’ve gone back to just saying hello and continuing.

    I’d hate to think that someone would make such assumptions and squelch his enjoyment of time spent on the greenway, just as it did the poster. Very sad.

  115. Maggie October 24, 2015 at 10:08 pm #

    I too am sometimes now afraid to venture into NYC’s park areas catering to children without a young child in my tow. I have neither a cell phone nor a camera but occasionally I reminisce about those days when my now adult children were young and when I pushed them upon the swings at Washington Square Park or at the park in Brooklyn Heights.

    I like children. I like to hear them laugh and to watch them play. Children are our future.

    When I was young playing in the City’s parks, there were often old people like me both women and men sitting on the park benches reading, feeding pigeons and just delighting in watching the youngsters getting along with each other.

    Now we need to be fearful of just being human beings.

  116. Tim October 25, 2015 at 12:54 am #

    So, I’ve been a hobby photographer for the last 5 years now and here are two things I have learned about this:

    – Never ever point a camera at a child or a police officer you don’t know. Both will result in police troubling you.

    – Get yourself a lanyard and put a laminated card on it. Make it kinda look like a press pass. It does not matter whats on there. I had a picture of sponge bob on there and some bullshit latin text.