View Full Version : Run in with the police

04-01-2009, 06:52 PM
Just had my first photography related incident with the police. After coming home from work tonight my wife wanted to run a couple of errands (she doesn't drive) so I drove her down to the drug store and while I was waiting in the car I pulled out my camera (always have it on me) and took a few snaps.

My wife came out and we drove off to run a few more errands. When I pulled into my driveway a police car pulled in behind me and the officer asked to talk with me. Someone, apparently, had written down my license plate and called the police with a report that I was taking pictures of women bending over.

The officer was polite and I answered his questions - gave him one of my Moo cards. We had a little laugh about the crazy things people call them about and after he made a few notes he drove away.

I chose not to get belligerent but I do have to wonder why the police would not have simply told the woman that there is nothing illegal about taking pictures in a public place - regardless of the subject. And no, MA, before you ask, I was not taking pictures of women bending over! :eek:

04-01-2009, 07:08 PM
Wow. I do that too when we go places and the husband has to go in!!! Kind of shocked in a way but then again. You know what though..Dr Phil had a show about people taking photos of peoples butts this week (or late last week) wouldn't surprise me if this person watched that show!!!

04-01-2009, 08:25 PM
Not too long ago a dude was arrested at The Bay for taking pictures up womens' skirts in the shoe aisle. He had a miniature camera and was perusing the shoes. A women reported him to security when she noticed his odd behavior of trying to get close to her and manoevering his shoe close to her dress.

I'm not saying you were doing anything suspicious Iggy and I'm not even remotely trying to compare you to this creep at The Bay.
However I can sort of understand why someone might in this day of perverts, wierdos, mini and cell phone cameras call the cops if they thought they saw something that looked suspicious in their opinion.

Just my 2/100 of a $1.

04-01-2009, 08:48 PM
And that's one of the reason's why I was co-operative rather than being an a-hole. I don't quite understand how I am compared with people like that though when I'm sitting in a car 40 feet from my nearest possible "victim" with a little point and shoot camera.

I agree with kat. This person is a Dr. Phil fan! :wall-an:

04-01-2009, 09:03 PM
Gosh..I hope you don't think I was trying to compare you....:eek: Honestly....I wasn't.

People are people and who knows what they're reasoning was...I know I've called the cops in my neighbourhood for all sorts of things...cars parked and running in my parkade at 2am (turns out it was prostitutes and Johns in the midst of transactions).... people openly dealing and smoking crack and meth in the park across the street...if it looks suspicious, I call....but that's me.

I find tho' with the cops, you're right..it's best just to cooperate and be cool...being an a** hole will usually turn them into the same.

04-01-2009, 09:08 PM
Gosh..I hope you don't think I was trying to compare you....:eek: Honestly....I wasn't.

No. Not at all - rest assured. I'm just saying that I don't even understand why the person who called was so suspicious of me. If I was behaving a bit strange and hiding in the bushes (or sneaking my foot underneath a dress) then I would understand it. I was simply sitting in the car shooting a few pics through the windshield.

04-01-2009, 09:18 PM
I have a picture in my head of the person...some eighty year old blue-haired spinster nosey parker type...probably calls the cops on a daily basis.

OMG sounds like me in about 40 years...lol! :evil2: :eek:

04-01-2009, 09:26 PM
Ha ha. :)

Mad Aussie
04-02-2009, 01:46 AM
Wow. I do that too when we go places and the husband has to go in!!!
If Iggy isn't allowed to shoot people bending over then neither are you! :eek: http://www.mtbdirt.com.au/home/smf/Smileys/classic/hihi.gif

If you too must shoot bums do what Michael and I do ... shoot birdies butts so nobody thinks you are weird!! http://www.mtbdirt.com.au/home/smf/Smileys/classic/getdown.gif

04-02-2009, 11:13 AM
At least the officer understood. I have been in an incident that led to a formal apology, twice. Once because of a security guard and the other time, very recently, because of a police officer. I always carry a copy of my rights as a photographer so I can hand them to people that question what I am doing and to inform them of my rights.

Let us say you were taking pictures of the woman bending over. In the United States, that would be legal. You can take a picture of the person running down the road naked. I think the one stipulation in this case would be if you were trying to portray her as something she was not.

I walk around with my camera everywhere. My wife is even worse, my wife loves taking pictures of people on the street doing stuff. I was downtown the other day taking pictures of people and I was approached by a police officer that asked that I stop because people think I am taking pictures of young girls. One, I wanted to ask "What's wrong with that?" But, I was not taking pictures of young girls, I love taking pictures of kids at play, it is difficult to capture true happiness in an image but you can with a couple of kids at play. But, there were no kids where I was, I was actually looking for someone to shadow for a couple blocks. I wanted to start a series where I followed someone for 5-10 minutes with a camera each day.

Ok. So, the police officer. He asks to see my images, I told him it was a film camera. It was. He wanted to take my film or my camera. So I set my bag down and asked him if I could go into my bag, he said yes. I got a copy of my photographers rights...

He wanted to confiscate my film or my camera, my choice. So, I rewound my film, took it out, labeled it and asked him to make sure he took care of it. I also asked for his card and a way to contact his superiors about a violation of my constitutional rights. I did not threaten a lawsuit or anything, I was just getting the information I needed. He looked a little worried. I also talked to the people nearby that witnessed it and got names and numbers of three of them.

When I got home, I contacted the newspaper. Then I started calling police phone numbers. Two days later the article ran in the smaller newspaper in town, not the main one. I was contacted by phone the next day and on the other end was the community liaison for the police. He apologized, asked how he could return the film to me. At the time, I had talked to one lawyer, he is my friend. We had talked and I was thinking of suing the police department for a violation of my constitutional rights. The community liaison asked me if I had contacted or wanted to take legal action. I said I was currently talking to a lawyer about how to go about this issue.

To shorten the story, I got a full apology from the officer and my son got to ride around in a cop car, with me in the back. No lawsuit. Didn't want to waste the energy. I have talked to that officer a couple more times, alright guy. Come to find out, he walks his patrol, is really into environmental issues and likes art a lot.

Do one thing. Carry a copy (several) of the photographers rights with your camera bag.

04-02-2009, 11:50 AM
Where do you find such "rights". ?

04-02-2009, 11:53 AM
Here's a very good and thorough summary of the Canadian laws, rights and freedoms as related to photography for those of you interested. We don't actually have a specific set of rights and laws.

http://ambientlight.ca/laws.php#You_are_guaranteed_the_right_to_take_phot ographs

Here's the American version also in PDF


Hope that helps...great suggestion MF! :highfive:

04-02-2009, 11:54 AM
I just Googled it Kat.

04-02-2009, 11:58 AM
Do you have a copy of those rights? Or a link to those rights?

I'd like to post these documents in a sticky.

Anyone got something very current (and preferably short and sweet)for Canada?

This link is Very good for Canada

But I'd love a really short 10 point list or something like that....

04-02-2009, 12:07 PM
Here's a recap and what to do if confronted form that website...I thought it was pretty good.

Recap / Myths dispelled
You can not be fined or charged by a private citizen, property owner, or security guard, but they have every right to sue you if they believe you have done damage to them.
Nobody can threaten to destroy your camera, lenses, film, other property, nor can they threaten you with physical harm. Nobody can actually destroy your property, forcibly delete photos, expose your film, or harm you.
Police can not interfere with your lawful enjoyment of property.
Nobody can force you to delete photos. They are your private property, and willful destruction of private property falls under the Criminal Mischief.
Nobody can search you, your bags, car, etc. However, being searched may be a condition of entrance to private property or an event.


What should I do when confronted?
If you are confronted by a security guard, a private citizen, or a police officer, there will be a conversation. Assuming you have done nothing wrong, most of these conversations will follow similar lines, either: you took a photo of someone or something and they don't appreciate it, or an authority (police officer, security guard, or property owner) believes you are causing trouble, or could cause trouble and wants to assess the situation. Regardless of the situation, there are some things that you can do to help the situation:

Smile and be jovial. Doesn't hurt, and eases the mood.
If applicable, apologize for not knowing the policy. (See above Trespassing section: Unless there is a sign posted, the property is of a specific type, or you have been told previously, you have not broken any laws. If you are on private property and the land owner or their security guards are telling you not to take photos, or to leave, you must comply)
Be clear-headed. Use common sense.
Understand exactly what authority they have, and what rights you have. If they are owners of the property, they can limit your activities or presence on their property, just by telling you. (See the Trespassing section)
Try to figure out why they singled you out. Chances are that they're picking on you because you have a huge SLR, which may be disruptive, and chances are that they leave everyone with point&shoot cameras, or camera phones alone. It is not uncommon for police or security guards to stop and ask you questions to gauge whether you are going to cause trouble.
If you are being confronted, there is a problem... solve the problem. If it's something obvious, (Flash photography distracting others, or your photography interfering with the normal operations), then work with them to find a solution. Keep searching, a "no-photography" policy may not be the reason they are confronting you, but rather an easy reason to get you to stop without much trouble. Although you must stop taking photos if they ask you to, you can always talk to them and see if you can be granted an exception.
Be specific in your wording. Taking a few more seconds to think up the right word is much better than eating your words later.
Do not:

Make a scene. The worst thing you can do is to call attention to the confrontation, that will force them to take more drastic measures, such as kicking you off the premises. If it's a busy area, take the conversation to a more private area, where there is less pressure to solve the confrontation quickly, and a better possibility of reasoning with them.
Apologize for taking the photo. There's no reason you should, you did nothing wrong.
Delete the photo. No reason you should. (This can defuse the situation, but implies to the other person that they have that authority over you, and they will expect the next photographer that comes along to delete their photo too.)
Be defensive or offensive. Defensiveness implies that you think you have done something wrong and are trying to back out of it, Offensiveness will put them on the defensive, neither will help in reaching a positive solution.
Tell them they can't do something (like a private citizen kicking you out of a public park)
Blow things out of proportion, embellish, bend the truth or lie.
Be hysterical. Even if everyone else has a camera, there is no reason they should apply this rule to everyone else, but there is a reason they're picking on you. Find out why. Property owners (and security guards working for them) can enforce rules on a per-person basis, as they please.
Be accusing. There is no reason they should put up a "no photography" sign, this is not their fault. Telling you is just as effective as putting up a sign in the eyes of the law, however, prior to them telling you that photography is not allowed, it was implied that photography was allowed, so legally, you are on solid ground, as long as you don't take a photo after they tell you not to.
Trespass to Property Act, 4.(2):
Where entry on premises is not prohibited under section 3 or by notice that one or more particular activities are permitted under subsection (1), and notice is given that a particular activity is prohibited, that activity and entry for the purpose is prohibited and all other activities and entry for the purpose are not prohibited. R.S.O. 1990, c. T.21, s. 4 (2).
Stay in a situation which could cause you or your equipment harm. It's assault, but it's assault that you can avoid.
Criminal Code, 264.1 (1) ("Assault"):
Every one commits an offence who, in any manner, knowingly utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat
(a) to cause death or bodily harm to any person;
(b) to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property;

Answer unnecessary questions or accusations. eg: "Do you go around taking photos of children everywhere?" Answering this will do you no good. Refusing to answer this will do you no good. Change the line of questioning.
Say "No". Try proposing alternatives, and steering the conversation into something that benefits you. Saying "No" will make you seem uncooperative and standoffish.
Ignore them. Stopping the conversation will not get you anywhere.
If the situation develops into something more serious: (If you are asked to leave the property, leave, and ask the following information as you are leaving.)

Get their full name, and if applicable, employee or badge number.
Their manager's or supervisor's name, contact information, and hours
Find out as much as possible about why: Is it a policy? What does the policy say? Who created it, why was it created, and when?
The time and date
From there, follow up and call the manager or property owner, and tell them what happened. If other people were there taking photos with point&shoot cameras, mention it, and say that you feel discriminated against. It is likely that they won't know the exact details about the event, however, most security guards are required to keep notes and file reports, so it can be looked up, if it matters. See if you can come to an understanding with the manager or property owner and arrange permission.


The following individuals have kindly contributed quotes that provide further insight into the laws surrounding photography:

Superintendent Dave Pickford, Windsor Police Service "I am unaware of any laws that prohibit the taking of pictures of anything that is viewable in a public venue. The only restriction that I would see if a person was to take photographs of the interior of a private dwelling or business while on the public right of way. There is nothing to prohibit the taking of photos of buildings, public transit vehicles or even accidents. Although some people may find it distasteful in having their picture taken in public, I am unaware of anything that would prohibit it. The exception would be of course if someone is physically accosted or obstructed so that a picture can be taken.

There may be restrictions on persons taking pictures where the public is welcome but the property is private, such as a mall or a sporting complex. Although the public is welcome, there may be restrictions on the taking of pictures.... it is best to check with the administrative staff that owns or controls the property.

With that said, there is nothing to prohibit a person from taking civil action against a person for taking a picture especially if the picture is subsequently published in a less than favourable light. Whether or not the person succeeds is dependent on the courts.

Bottom line......... if it is viewable to the public, I see nothing wrong with taking a picture of it."


04-02-2009, 12:13 PM
Here's a Canadian Wallet version to copy and carry around.


This website also carries model releases in PDF as well:


04-03-2009, 10:35 AM
Well, you have some very cautious people/police there and these police encounters might have been unpleasant.
But think about all the weirdo in the world. I can understand people if they want to be cautious – even if you are not behaving crazy.
But that’s the point: You can’t find out on first sight, if a person is acting normal or will misuse the pictures later - maybe on porn-sites. Would you like to find there a picture of your child or friend? This happens often, I’ve heard. And the police has to act, if they get such informations. Otherwise, should there a child disappear afterwards, who would be blamed for not checking? Just my two cents (I guess I won’t get into a situation like this – I am not very often photographing people ;-)).

04-03-2009, 10:55 AM
Not too long ago a dude was arrested at The Bay for taking pictures up womens' skirts in the shoe aisle. He had a miniature camera and was perusing the shoes. A women reported him to security when she noticed his odd behavior of trying to get close to her and manoevering his shoe close to her dress.

Apparently in the states they are trying to legislate point and shoot cameras and camera phones must make a sound when shooting. I hate the fake shutter sounds! It is usually the first thing I turn off. :wall-an:

Photographer rights is an interesting topic in such a global forum. For example, it is illegal to take pictures of government buildings in some countries!

04-03-2009, 12:20 PM
Like everything else it's a matter of education. I remember hearing not too long ago about a fellow who got arrested for taking pictures of AmTrak trains. What made it really interesting was that he was taking the photos for an AmTrak photo contest!


There's a bunch of videos on YouTube as well about people filming or taking pictures and being spoken to by the police.

I am glad my incident was extremely tame but at the same time disappointed that it happened at all.

04-04-2009, 07:53 AM
Thanks casil!

I posted the info here as a resource http://www.photography.ca/Forums/showthread.php?p=18638

members from other countries that know of similar texts that should be included should PM me.

Thanks all!

04-04-2009, 07:57 AM
Apparently in the states they are trying to legislate point and shoot cameras and camera phones must make a sound when shooting. I hate the fake shutter sounds! It is usually the first thing I turn off. :wall-an:

One of the reasons for this is people where using cell phone cameras to steal credit card information. It's very easy to fake making a call/text message while you photograph the credit card.

04-04-2009, 08:09 AM
Like everything else it's a matter of education. I remember hearing not too long ago about a fellow who got arrested for taking pictures of AmTrak trains. What made it really interesting was that he was taking the photos for an AmTrak photo contest!

The good news is he received a 5 figure settlement from AmTrack over the incident, at least 10 times the value of the competition.

04-05-2009, 06:24 AM
I think the police is smart enought to reason with reasonable people, which, in the case is you. BTW they didnt want to lose your track in case you were a felon.