Officer: What you got in your bag?
Citizen: None of your f***ing business. That’s what I got in the bag.
Officer: Alright. (turns to leave)
Citizen: Honor your oath, scumbag.
Really? That’s the dialog we want with police now? Watch the video below to see that in a real life situation. (**Language warning**)[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEmgSetYK2M&w=700]
Listen. I get it.
I appreciate the need to exercise our rights, especially when we are talking about the ability to record video or take photos in a public place.
The officers in this video did nothing wrong in spite of this guy’s video title – Unlawful Search Defeated in 7 Seconds.
It is not unconstitutional for a police officer to ask what is in your bag or what you are doing. In fact, acting militant to the officers like the guy in this video did is a great way to send up red flags to the officers that something might up with you. Why? Why would someone act like this?
Maybe he just wants YouTube views. If that’s the case, he’s doing fine then.
At what expense though?
What happens when he actually runs into a really bad cop (unlike the guys in this video) someday? The kind of bad cop that makes national news for doing bad things?
The overwhelming majority of police officers are the good guys and they are all just as human as you and me. They spend their days working accident scenes, answering calls on domestic violence, child abuse, robberies and other real problems in society.
You know what police officers don’t want to deal with?
Noise complaints, parking violations and calls about some guy taking photos of a building, subway or strangers in the park. But that have to respond to calls on photographers because some nosey Nancy called 911 to tell them that a terrorist is plotting their next attack with a DSLR and a large white lens.
And then, they get this guy.
An encounter with the police can be a scary thing. But maybe, just being human can make it a positive encounter for both you and the officer before they head back to someone who really needs their attention.
Save the outrage for the bad apples who are actually violating people’s rights. If a police officer asks you what you are taking photos of, chances are that he doesn’t really care. Feel free to share your passion about photography. If he tries to shut you down from a totally legal action, feel free to stand up for your rights.
I still recommend remaining respectful. If need be, ask for the officer’s supervisor. And, if push comes to shove, you alone have to decide whether it is worth it to go to jail for disorderly conduct – even if the officer is completely in the wrong by ordering you to stop photographing and/or leave.
Just don’t be the guy who is such a jerk that you give everyone holding a camera a bad name.