Never stop fighting the good fight. Well, I guess the good fight is somewhat subjective depending on what side of the fence you stand. While we may be divided in our methods, our choice of equipment camps, our idea of beauty, and in just about any conceivable way, we tend to stand united on when it comes to freedom of our craft – specifically the freedom to record, photograph, and express ourselves in keeping with constitutional rights; rights which have been challenged and flat-out bulldozed by a post 9/11 mind-set, and law enforcement that acts under the ambiguity of the law.
Well that ambiguity is a little more clear these days, and especially for LA County Sheriffs. Three photographers, Shan Nee, Greggory Moore, and Shane Quentin have been successfully represented by the ACLU Foundation for Southern California, who won suit against the county and certain deputies in 2011. In what is essentially a landmark case, the suit was based around the violation of the First and Fourth Amendment rights by searching, questioning, and detaining the three men without due cause. The photographers involved in the suit were photographing metro-rail turnstiles, refiners, and another was photographing traffic for a news story.
The settlement will include $50,000 in damages, and will stipulate training for deputies who are interacting with the photographers and other members of the public who happen to be photographing in public areas.
The training established by this settlement should ensure that photographers around Los Angeles County — as well as the general public — can exercise their right to free expression without unnecessary harassment.
The training will be supplied through a newsletter and will detail the LASD policy, and clearly state that members of the public, “have a First Amendment right to observe, take photographs, and record video in any public place where they are lawfully present.” It will specifically prohibit, “….interfering, threatening, intimidating, blocking or otherwise discouraging” photographers from taking photos or video unless they are violating a law.
Essentially, it’s training for deputies that will assure them they can do their jobs without limiting the rights of the public. In a nutshell, this is what photographers have been arguing should be done for ages, and hopefully, this ruling will carry weight in future conflicts and suits which will surely arise across the country, and the world, until the vilification of photographers is done with. Maybe this is the start of recognition, as the LA Weekly titled their coverage of the event, that “Photography Is No Longer A Crime In LA.”