Follow-Up on the SWAT Office and Little Boy Photo

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After I posted the image of the SWAT officer and the little boy on Monday (with comments at The Agitator), the photographer who snapped the picture, Justin Cook, sent me an angry email. I called him, and we chatted for about an hour. His contention was that I and many other people around the Internet had taken the picture out of context. He said the moment he captured was a tender, humane one. I replied that my original post drew no conclusions about what happened on that particular raid, only that the picture effectively captured many of the absurdities of the drug war, and the increasingly militaristic way we police it.

Though our phone conversation did at least end cordially after beginning somewhat hostilely, it's safe to say that we still disagree. Cook initially accused me of libeling him and violating his copyright. The former is absurd. The latter is bit more murky, so I agreed to take the image down from the Reason site and from my personal blog, and to replace it with a link to the photography competition that's hosting it.

I also invited Cook to write a response that I promised I would post here and at The Agitator, with an ensuing response from me. Here it is:

As a photojournalist there will always be criticism, wild distortion and gross speculation over the content of my images. While I must have a thick skin, I feel it necessary share my side of the story at times. There is not much for me to say other than that during a chaotic day, this one moment was an ironic sliver of compassion and humanity. You were not there for this event and simply the reality of what this image stands for is not congruent with your stance. While I do not want my image associated with your views and opinions, that seems inescapable at this point. I do however completely support your freedom of speech.

 

I am not going to argue with you further. I see your point and consider your efforts admirable. However my real, authentic experiences (which you seem to disregard) lead me to disagree whole-heartedly with your own conclusions. I feel that no matter what I say here you will use it to further assert your point and diminish my image and the events I witnessed. This is a losing battle for me and I am gracefully bowing out. But I do want to thank you for numerous things. Thank you for taking the image down – the use was unauthorized and likely falls under copyright infringement. In the future if you continue to champion the cause of the common man, remember to respect the laws that protect my rights as a photographer as well. Thank you for unknowingly increasing my notoriety as a photojournalist; creating an uproar like this means that I must be doing meaningful work. And finally, thank you for your efforts at being a watchdog even though we agree to disagree.

From our conversation, I surmised that part of Cook's concern was that he was given some pretty remarkable access to the Durham SWAT team, particularly for a college student. And he's still quite supportive of what they do. As the person who took the picture, he feared that people, including his contacts at the police department, might mistakenly attribute my and others' comments on the picture for his opinion. So I'm happy to give him the opportunity to say he doesn't agree with the way I see that picture.

He saw it as a tender moment, where a SWAT officer took a little boy in to pee after a raid on a suspected drug dealer. I made no judgments about the particular officer in the picture, and I didn't make any conclusions about the merits of this particular raid, except for the usual objections to dynamic entry raids for nonviolent drug offenses, particularly when there's a child inside (I did note that the Durham police department has been involved with mistaken raids in the past, and I commented on one particularly disturbing sentence in the description that went along with the picture -- both fair game, I think). I thought the picture was a striking example of just how far the government will go to stop people from getting high, and that the image more generally wasn't one I associate with a free society.

As for the specific raid that led to that photo, Cook says he doesn't remember if any drugs or weapons were seized. He says he seems to remember a woman being taken to jail, but he isn't sure. He says the little boy and his mother were inside at the time of the raid, but didn't live in the home. The boy's mother was not the woman arrested. I did make efforts to contact Cook to get those details prior to posting the picture, including emailing the editor of the college paper he worked for, checking Internet phone listings, and checking information for the state of North Carolina. Turns out, he's currently in Florida, interning with the St. Petersburg Times.

Finally, I would certainly agree that Cook has done some meaningful work, even if in ways he doesn't necessarily intend. It's really an amazing picture. He also has an impressive portfolio, particularly for someone just out of college.

NOTE:  Here's the original set of photos , when they first appeared on Cook's blog.

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  1. His work is very impressive!

    I wonder how tender of a moment the boy is going to remember it when he grows up?

  2. “I do however completely support your freedom of speech.”

    How magnanimous! It drives me nuts when folks saw shit like this. Even more so given this is how the man would make his living. Idiot.

  3. This guy sounds like a typical college-daily douchebag to me, frankly. “How dare you use my image for something I don’t agree with, but only because it would limit my access to future photo-snapping opportunities of the power-hungry petty tyrants in the police department! I need them to like me! I want them to like me so I can keep going on cool raids with big guns and taking photos!”

    Has to keep access above all else, good photos or not. It’s pretty sad when the fourth estate becomes a tool of the other three in order to maintain its precious, precious access. And violate his copyright? Not likely, criticism and commentary fall squarely into fair use.

  4. I wonder how tender of a moment the boy is going to remember it when he grows up?

    Exactly. Even under the photographer’s version of events, the photo strikes me the same way an abusive husband and father apologizing to his family post-rampage would.

  5. Why the fuck does he care how you interpret the photo? He just took it… he didn’t break down the door or even give his approval for the raid. I think he’s gotten way too close to a story he’s covering if he’s this sensitive. Or maybe they did let him break down the door.

    Also, this sentence doesn’t make sense: My real, authentic experiences (which you seem to disregard) [blah blah blah whiny fucking blah]. You commented on a picture and a vague story that clearly wasn’t written by the photog in question. How did you manage to disregard (much less even know about) his “authentic experiences?” Are you some kind of Libertarian mind reader? Did you gain this skill through rampant drug use and goat fucking, like all the other evil Libertarians?

  6. Radley,

    In talking to Cook, did you find out who was responsible for the nauseating comment that accompanied the image?

  7. He should have pissed on the cops leg…or the military grade rifle that was being pointed at him.

  8. In my “non-authentic experience” take on the photo, this is what it says to me:

    Despite accounting for only 5% of the world’s population we have the most people in prison. I million more then the most populated country – communist China.

  9. errr…”cop’s”…damn forgotten apostrophe…

  10. I wonder how tender of a moment the boy is going to remember it when he grows up?

    Like this, maybe?
    “Dude! He was like, a giant! And he was head-to-toe with bitchin’ armor and he showed me his rifle and cool assault shit! Damn, right then and there I decided I wanted to be on the SWAT!”

  11. What a self-righteous tool.

  12. I wonder how horrified that guy will be when he realizes that there are tens of thousands of copies of his image in browser caches.

  13. “Like this, maybe?
    “Dude! He was like, a giant! And he was head-to-toe with bitchin’ armor and he showed me his rifle and cool assault shit! Damn, right then and there I decided I wanted to be on the SWAT!”

    Perhaps the ol’ SWAT should start sporting nunchucks to win over the hearts and minds of the next gen.

  14. Cook describes it as a “tender moment”. The cops were probably very nice and very correct. Maybe having a photographer along had something to do with it?

    I wonder how Cook would have felt if it had been a botched raid? Suppose the kid had been playing with a toy gun at the time of the entry? ‘Course the photos would have been ‘evidence’ then, and hence unavailable.

  15. I wasn’t there and so I must give the photographer the benefit of the doubt as to the “tenderness” of the situation.

    But next time the cops get tender with a little boy, could they at least put the f**king machine gun away?

  16. So the big bad criminals that required a SWAT raid were… two ladies and a 5 year old?

  17. Turns out, he’s currently in Florida, interning with the St. Petersburg Times.

    That pretty much tells you all you need to know. The Times runs rings around the other Tampa Bay area daily with regards to stringing together words to form sentences, but if you are to the right of Ralph Nader you need not apply.

  18. Poor Justin Cook. What the hell trauma did he suffer in his life, to make him think the image in the photo was tender and humane?

    “My new boyfriend is the kindest and most wonderful man on earth. He only beats me when I deserve it!” How tender. How humane.

  19. It is pretty risky to post a picture without any context. Balko could have been really burned on this one by sheer turn of luck.

  20. How’s the kid going to like knowing that the image of him pissing in front of a SWAT agent not only got published but won some self-righteous college journalist some award?

  21. It is pretty risky to post a picture without any context.

    So let’s have a contest: invent a context in which this photo captures a tender and humane moment. Here’s my entry:

    Once upon a time there lived a little boy who was afraid of the monster under his bed. Then the monster moved into the toilet. “Boo-hoo!” cried the little boy. “I have to make pee-pee, but I’m afwaid the big scawy monster will get me!”

    Meanwhile, a brave handsome member of the SWAT team walked by and heard the sad little boy. “There, there,” said the brave handsome SWAT team member. “I’ll bring my gun into the bathroom with you while you make pee-pee, and if that mean ole monster shows up I’ll shoot him!”

    “Oh, thank you, Mr. SWAT Team Guy!” said the happy little boy, who emptied his bladder and lived happily ever after until a few hours later when he had to go to the bathroom again.

    The End.

  22. To describe this photo as tender and humane strikes me as pretty bizarre. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the raid was done with proper probable cause and the circumstances really did warrant the use of a SWAT team (a pretty big assumption granted). Even then, the cop is somehow tender hearted for letting the poor kid go to the bathroom while he followed closely with an assault rifle? As opposed to what, making him pee his pants? At best this is a photo of a really sad and horrible situation, a young child victimized by the criminality of his parents. Granted, the guy is right that the photo says nothing one way or another about the validity of cops’ actions. There is nothing tender or humane about it.

    I would have to ask, however, what Balko’s point was in putting the photo up without any context. I didn’t consider it interesting enough to comment on, but I certainly got the impression that the reason he put the photo up was to say “look at our Nazi cops holding a gun on some five year old while he is peeing.” The photo with no context does seem pretty unfair to the cops when the truth is we don’t know anything about the raid or the circumstances around it.

    Also, I think both the photographer and Balko are pretty sleazy for publishing the photo to begin with. What about this poor kid? How would one of you like to be stuck in a situation like that through no fault of your own and have some jackass snap a picture and plaster it all over the internet?

  23. While I have little use for Stanely Fish or Jaques Derida, I think this guy needs to understand that what people see in his image and what his image ‘means’ are not absolute. If you take an image of a man holding a submachinegun next to a little boy who’s peeing,* people are going to have wildly different interpretations of that photo. They have NOT spent that day with those cops, and as with any photo, they may come across it competely out of context. This is a cross that, as an aspiring (and from his portfolio, quite talented) photojournalist, he will need to learn to bear. Photojournalism, even more than print or broadcast journalism, is a single moment in time that carries little or no context outside the visuals it contains. But beyond that, his full commentary was included in Radley’s Agitator post, so if we’re not getting his happy message of police-state hope, he can only blame himself. He provided commentary and context and they still didn’t convince us of his interpretation.

    The notion that artists ‘own’ their works has grown far beyond its utility. In a commercial sense, they own the rights to exploit the work for money, and some reasonable control over whom they allow to use their photo. However, they do not own the ideas that they communicate. They cannot mandate that we feel when we see their art what they felt when they created their art. This is the fallacy of intent in art. What a novel means is largely independent of what the author meant when he wrote it.

    If you write something unintentionally funny, it’s a hilarious joke. The fact that you were serious when you wrote it does nothing to negate the hilarity of your writing. If you take a photo of little boy being taken to use the bathroom not by his mother or father, but by a heavily armed, heavily armored shock trooper holding a submachinegun, you should understand that not everyone is going to be comforted by the fact that the shock troop in question was nice to the little boy. Some people might just be disturbed that, in America – the America that liberated Western Europe from fascism and liberated Eastern Europe from Stalinism – that we have men with submachineguns battering down doors to people’s homes with little children inside in the middle of the night, looking for contraband.

    Anyway, hopefully this will be a good lesson that while he can effect the world with a powerful image, some of those effects will be different from his intentions. He is a journalist, not a propagandist, and he needs to understand that he cannot control the truth he reports.

    *(and again, they couldn’t let the kid close the door and have some privacy? Seriously,

  24. Justin Cook should stop trying to be a part of history and just photograph it history. Sorry Justin, you’ll learn that once shot, a photo is bigger than the context. Does it matter that the flag raised on Iwo Jima wasn’t the first flag raised? That is wasn’t the flag that buoyed the spirits of the marines on the battlefield? No, the second photo matters because it says something the first one didn’t. The photo is always bigger than the context. Pointing a gun looked bad in the Elian Gonzalez episode, and it sure looks bad here. I just put it down to lack of training. When I go shooting, I generally don’t have my gun in a dangerous position.

  25. What about this poor kid? How would one of you like to be stuck in a situation like that through no fault of your own and have some jackass snap a picture and plaster it all over the internet?

    You think the world would be a better place if nobody knew about the cops’ treatment of this poor kid?

  26. How tender — the barrel of a gun inches from a child’s face as he pisses in front of a armed stranger staring over his shoulder. Real f***ing Hallmark!

  27. WTF is “tender and humane” about a paramilitary accompanying anyone on a trip to the bathroom? Much less a five year old boy?

  28. “You think the world would be a better place if nobody knew about the cops’ treatment of this poor kid?”

    You can raise awarness of it without snapping a picture. If the cops raped you Jennifer and I had a videotape of it, would you want me to put it on the internet because I didn’t think “the world would be a better place if nobody knew” the cops had raped you?

  29. Actually, if the kid didn’t suffer from the worst stage fright ever to strike a mammal, I’d describe the photo’s context as “impressive and notable” rather than “tender and humane.”

    I have a problem going when one of my firm’s partners insists on talking to me at the urinal. I can’t even imagine what I’d do if he put a gun to my head. Have I shared too much? Hmm. Probably.

  30. You can raise awarness of it without snapping a picture. If the cops raped you Jennifer and I had a videotape of it, would you want me to put it on the internet

    Hell, yes! The more people are horrified by what happened to me, the more money I get when I sue, and the greater the chance that the cop goes to jail, takes a shower and learns firsthand why it sucks to be raped. Pictures and images have a much bigger effect than mere words ever could. Abu Ghraib would not have been such a scandal if the pictures remained hidden and we were merely told “some naked guys made a pyramid while Lynndie England pointed at them and smiled.” So yes, go ahead and publish that videotape. Let everyone see just how vile the cop was.

    As for the little boy, chances are very high that once he reaches adolescence and then adulthood, his face will have changed enough that nobody will be able to look at him and say “Hey, I recognize you from that profile shot taken of you when you were a toddler!”

  31. Hell, yes!

    I think you might be in the minority on that one. I don’t mean to imply the kid is perminantly damaged by the photo, I just think it was sleazy and voyeristic to take it.

  32. i don’t think it was sleazy – if anything it is a valuable piece of agit-prop.

    and i can sort of see, if i squint real hard, how that moment could have been far more tender than the guns drawn through the door DOWN DOWN DOWN scene that preceded it.

  33. I just think it was sleazy and voyeristic to take it.

    The SWAT team guys would agree with you.

  34. “*(and again, they couldn’t let the kid close the door and have some privacy? Seriously,”

    What? And risk the possibility that that kid might be some sort of superninja sleeper cell? What would you tell Trooper Belsen’s wife?

    “Jesus! they were only in there a minute; the kid said he had to take a leak. Next thing we knew, the kid had disarmed Belsen and turned the weapon on him. Blood everywhere! We still don’t know how he jumped out the window from that high without killing himself. We’re lucky to be alive!”

  35. “Jesus! they were only in there a minute; the kid said he had to take a leak. Next thing we knew, the kid had disarmed Belsen and turned the weapon on him. Blood everywhere! We still don’t know how he jumped out the window from that high without killing himself. We’re lucky to be alive!””

    Well, considering the fact that at that failed raid in Atlanta, the woman only got off one round, yet three cops were shot, meaning the cops are more of a danger to themselves than they are to criminals, that may be a valid concern. My guess is that “Belsen” probably isn’t too hard to disarm and is more likly to kill his buddy “Pyle” than he is anyone else.

  36. Warrant judges should start requiring police to video their no knocks. hopefully the whole Kathryn Johnston mess will start to yield these kinds of reforms.

  37. Dennis

    I don’t think I’d have any trouble at all peeing if someone put a gun to my head.

    Quite the opposite, in fact.

  38. I’m struck by how Cook’s response is two long paragraphs that manage to contain no actual content whatsoever. I guess he hasn’t figured out that you can get away with that shit in college but in the real world.

  39. er, but NOT in the real world.

  40. Too bad Norman Rockwell isn’t still with us. This would be perfect.

  41. I will say this: the kid is a good photographer. Damn good.

  42. lunchstealer said it perfectly.

  43. “As a photojournalist there will always be criticism, wild distortion and gross speculation over the content of my images…You were not there for this event and simply the reality of what this image stands for is not congruent with your stance. While I do not want my image associated with your views and opinions…”

    I’m glad to see the kids coming out of journalism school are unencumbered by quaint, antiquated notions of what constitutes journalism. People don’t want to just be shown what happens–they want to be told what to think of it, too!

    Justin: call me.

  44. Lunchstealer said……this guy needs to understand that what people see in his image and what his image ‘means’ are not absolute…

    So, while a picture may paint a thousand words, the viewer gets to decide which thousand…

  45. To quote Cook himself:

    “There is not much for me to say other than that during a chaotic day, this one moment was an ironic sliver of compassion and humanity. You were not there for this event and simply the reality of what this image stands for is not congruent with your stance.”

    Got it? You were not there. But the photo does serve to bring knee-jerk weenies out of the woodwork. The dearth of reasoning-ability demonstrated in the comments above is as breathtaking as it is hilarious.

  46. Well, I’m not an aspiring photojournalist, so maybe there are aspects to this I just don’t ‘get’…but it seems to me the proper response would have been “gee, Radley, thanks for giving my career a boost by drawing attention to my work!”

    And that’s it.

    In a few years, he’ll probably be embarassed for being such a dick about it. Or at least he ought to be.

    That aside, his stuff is quite remarkable.

  47. Radley,
    Looks like he has pulled the images off of his Blogspot account. Clicking through to the November 2005 archives doesn’t show them either.

  48. Also, the link to the portfolio is 404’d. But Cook hasn’t quite gotten around yet to revising all of his truthiness.

  49. “The dearth of reasoning-ability demonstrated in the comments above is as breathtaking as it is hilarious.”

    I noticed you didn’t address my comments. I’ll assume that was an intentional dodge. Face it, a picture is worth a thousand words, and Justin Cook thinks he can frame his picture with less than 300. It’s like Anne Geddes trying to tell us that we’re supposed to hate children.

  50. Y’know, until just now, I thought the little boy was being forced to provide a urine sample!

    larry

  51. “Face it, a picture is worth a thousand words, and Justin Cook thinks he can frame his picture with less than 300. It’s like Anne Geddes trying to tell us that we’re supposed to hate children.”

    I totally agree Lamar. Doesn’t that though make it really disengenious of Balko to claim “I made no judgments about the particular officer in the picture, and I didn’t make any conclusions about the merits of this particular raid”? He knew what the picture implied and the conclusions that his readers would draw.

  52. John

    When I first saw the picture, my assumption was that there was a perfectly innocent explanation, such as a posed photo with a friend of the family who was about to go on duty. [As I recall, the officer was black and the kid was white, so I was fairly certain it wasn’t father & son.]

    It was a shock to find out that the photo was taken on an actual SWAT raid and that a cop would follow a kid – 3 to 6 years old, maybe – into the bathroom while the kid took a leak. At that point, the “tenderness” of the moment turned into a feeling of horror. I don’t care how responsible, reasonable, polite, etc the officers were or what their orders were. There is no way the incident should have happened.

    I’m not particularly concerned about the kid as the scene did not appear traumatic.

  53. well, if the cop was taking the kid for a courtesy whizz, he could have closed the door and given the boy his privacy. The fact that the cop felt the need to keep the kid under surveillence speaks volumes about his mindset.

    I didn’t need to be there. The open door is the Rossetta Stone to the photo.

    Indeed, if any other person (say a cub scout leader) had done this it would have been grounds for a witch-hunt to be followed closely by criminal charges. As usual, the police are justified in being special for no obvious reason (unless of course the kid really was a midget super ninja)

    Then again, my first thought was ‘hmm,I’m sure that somewhere on the net, there’s some perv who thinks watching a small boy being made to urinate at gunpoint is the best thing ever’ so this probably consitutes Child Porn under some act of Congress or other.

    The other context in which this could be ‘tender and charming’ was if the cop was the boy’s father and had taken time out of his busy day of unjustifiably shooting poor old pensioners to watch his boy make a potty.

    Jake
    (who had cynicism with dessert too)

  54. I’m disappointed that Mr. Cook didn’t have much to say beyond this being an “ironic sliver of compassion and humanity.” He certainly doesn’t have to offer ANY explanation for his work whatsoever and still be quite right in asking that it not be used, but if he is going to make any claim that his art is misunderstood, then some clarifying facts would seem in order.

    Beyond all that, I think the real story here has been completely missed.

    In our particularly litigious society, two people managed to resolve an IP dispute – over the internet, no less – without a SINGLE lawyer anywhere in the line of communication.

    I, for one, am stunned. Such an impossible thing, I’m amazed the meteors haven’t started falling.

  55. “The fact that the cop felt the need to keep the kid under surveillence speaks volumes about his mindset.”

    Well, the kid could have flushed evidence. Using kids as mules is nothing new, so why not use their pee-pee time to get rid of the evidence? My concern is that the cop’s gun is not in a safe position (advertising how poorly he was trained) and is a very dangerous “tender” moment.

  56. Sometimes a gun, a bathroom and a little boy peeing is just…well, you know.

  57. during a chaotic day, this one moment was an ironic sliver of compassion and humanity

    That’s the quote from the photojournalist that Jesus H uses to make his point about the commenters having “knee-jerk” reactions. Read the quote carefully.

  58. Thanks, damaged justice, for pointing out http://www.unc.edu/~jbcook/ , at which the raid and raidll directories have thumbnail collections of other photos from the raid.

    BTW, kids typically don’t want privacy when making a sissy or duty. Usually their parents have to make them shut the door. Most are indifferent to privacy, very few want it, and a good number actually want an audience. I’ve even heard of some such that if you missed it, they’ll drag you in or drag out the bowl to show you the evidence!

  59. “You were not there for this event and simply the reality of what this image stands for is not congruent with your stance.”

    Got it? You were not there. But the photo does serve to bring knee-jerk weenies out of the woodwork.

    Right. We weren’t there. We weren’t there when that kid was shot in the head on the streets of Saigon. We weren’t there when the flag was raised on Iwo Jima. We weren’t there when Lyndie England posed in front of those naked prisoners. We weren’t there when JFK Junior saluted his father’s casket as it went by.

    That’s the nature of photojournalism. You take an image, and you try to convey a scene, a moment, literrally an image that would otherwise be gone in a blink of an eye. But you don’t convey the whole day, the smell, the noise in the background. You take that image and remove it’s context. OF COURSE we weren’t there. But through his actions, we see that one image. Nothing else. Just the image, and the four or five sentences he saw fit to include as his caption (or someone else included – that’s not clear). So we interpreted that. Our interpretations may be kneejerk or maybe they’re just sensible, but eliciting reactions is exactly what this kind of photo is for. If Cook doesn’t like the reactions he’s getting, then he needs to find another line of work. His images are powerful, but big-man-with-machinegun-and-half-naked-child is always going to be a very controversial image.

  60. Lunchstealer evidently believes every photo has only one meaning (his).

  61. Radley played you guys like a violin on this one.

  62. It was a shock to find out that the photo was taken on an actual SWAT raid and that a cop would follow a kid – 3 to 6 years old, maybe – into the bathroom while the kid took a leak. At that point, the “tenderness” of the moment turned into a feeling of horror. I don’t care how responsible, reasonable, polite, etc the officers were or what their orders were. There is no way the incident should have happened.

    In the defense of the specific officer involved, I can think of a way in which escorting the kid to the bathroom in that way could be reasonable. It goes like this.

    SWAT goes in, not realizing that the kid and his mother are there (they do not live at the residence, according to Cook). Once they secure the area, the mother is being detained, but the boy needs to go to the bathroom. He is VERY young, and such young kids often still want the accompaniment of their parents when going to the bathroom, especially when they are not at home, as is the case here. So the mother (who is being detained) asks if one of the SWAT guys can take the kid to the bathroom. The SWAT regs may say that no SWAT member should leave a submachinegun unattended (a reasonable assumption), so he has to carry his gun. In this litigious society, he is a little nervous about being a big SWAT guy with a gun alone in a bathroom with a very young child, so he leaves the door open so that there are witnesses. Indeed, a scared young boy might insist that the door not be closed. I at least might consider that to be a reasonable possible explanation for this exact situation to have come about without intentional evil on the part of this SWAT officer.

    Now this does not excuse the situation where a SWAT team descended without warning on a house with a young child in it over a non-violent crime where no one is in imminent danger just to serve a search warrant for contraband. But it does mean that the image alone is not evidence of chilling malfeasance on the part of that particular officer. He might have been just as happy not to be there, or to leave his gun while he went out.

    Indeed, the idea that it was a posed family photo is more disturbing. Good firearm discipline is that you treat all weapons like they’re loaded, and you keep them away from kids as much as possible. Certainly posing in full assault gear with the submachinegun in hand with a young boy in the bathroom is a scary scary concept, isn’t it? I mean, I grew up in a red state where hunting and guns were a way of life, but I certainly wouldn’t want somebody INTENTIONALLY posing for that particular picture with my kid. That would just be creepy.

  63. anon | December 13, 2006, 4:20pm | #

    Lunchstealer evidently believes every photo has only one meaning (his).

    Anon, that’s almost exactly what I wasn’t saying. Cook as much as stated that HE thinks that this photo has one meaning, and that HE gets to decide what it is. I’m saying that it’s going to mean something different for him than it is for you than it is for me, and there ISN’T a right answer. You may not agree with my interpretation, but to expect me to take his or yours or anyone else’s interpretation is foolish.

  64. Respect the laws that protect your rights as a photo journalist? How about this for rights with regard to your picture. Where are our 4th and 5th amendment rights along with numerous other ones we have lost because of the very subject matter in your picture? What of those rights or are you only for rights that protect your personal self interests?

    Remember as a photo journalist that a picture is worth a 1000 words, the words come from the viewer not the photographer. Just as regular journalist should report the details and facts and not their opinion as news.

    Careful Radley you may have a no knock raid on your home soon looking for copyrighted material with your violating of this poor guys rights.

    The picture plain and simply shows all that is wrong with the tactics of the police state we now live in. Did you happen to get any pics of the Storm Troopers after the big raid down at the bar drinking beer celebrating?
    I always love that part of the TV show COPS, when they take down an evil pot smoker in a big raid and act like they just did society this huge favor by getting a drug user off the streets. Only to cut to them drinking it up at the bar afterwards. Hypocrisy is grand ain’t it!

  65. “Careful Radley you may have a no knock raid on your home soon looking for copyrighted material with your violating of this poor guys rights.”

    If using this photograph isn’t fair use, then I’m moving to Sweden.

  66. I’m pretty easy going, but the “photojournalist” here sounds like a pretentious, little ass.

  67. Sorry Pretentious Ass of a Photographer,
    There is nothing “tender” or “humane” about an armed SWAT thug in full gear “escorting” a little boy to the bathroom and watching him pee-pee.

    Where the fuck do these people come from?/ Seriously.

  68. Am I the only one who wondered about Cook’s claim that he “doesn’t remember” if any drugs or guns were seized? Shouldn’t the “-journalist” part of a photojournalist be aware of such basic facts? Or has this college student been on so many SWAT raids that they all blur together now?

  69. “That’s the quote from the photojournalist that Jesus H uses to make his point about the commenters having “knee-jerk” reactions. Read the quote carefully.”

    Yes, thats fine, but I’m not worried about other people’s reactions, really. The quote is useless in terms of clearing up the context of the photo. Cook seems concerned that the photo is being used to support not only opinions he doesn’t agree with, but claims don’t even reflect reality. If thats the case, I think he would be interested in explaining what the actual circumstances are. Especially if he is going to say anything beyond “please do not use my photo for etc. etc.”

    I’d like to know. This could be a legitimate raid, it could be a SWAT officer doing something for a child, or it could be something completely different.

    Besides, a good first-hand, objective account of something like this would be useful.

  70. Are these raids usually accompanied with regular uniformed officers? You know, for the normal police business that would accompany any action-crowd control, detective work, taking care of innocent children, etc.

    This is serious question. It seems to me the heavy weapons absolutely should have disappeared after the scene was secured. Then again, I could be wrong.

  71. And another thing…

    Mr. Cook: You take very nice pictures. I wish I had that kind of talent. If you want to be considered a journalist (photo- or otherwise), ou will have to get over yourself. Be glad you have raised an issue that is getting this much attention.

    Demanding Radley take down one of you pictures? Hell, you should have left a tip. IF you don’t like the reaction you are seeing, then go hang your pictures in the arthouse. Quit trying to be a journalist.

  72. Are these raids usually accompanied with regular uniformed officers? You know, for the normal police business that would accompany any action-crowd control, detective work, taking care of innocent children, etc

    Heck no. everyone has to get geered up. It is part of the mentality of this kind of crap. God forbid anyone have the balls to rely on a badge and a gun, rather than a machine gun and a club.

  73. What a total tool. Why is it that so many leftists seem to be stuck with a middle-school mentality. I mean, he makes not attempt to make a coherent statement or rebuttal. He just says “Your a big doo-doo head”.

    BTW,I’m disappointed that Radley caved on taking the image down, especially since the links no longer seem to be working.

  74. lunchstealer | December 13, 2006, 4:38pm
    The SWAT regs may say that no SWAT member should leave a submachinegun unattended (a reasonable assumption), so he has to carry his gun.

    I agree that it would be irresponsible to leave a sub-machine gun unattended.

    But haven’t these guys ever heard of a sling? Or do they feel the need to hold their weapons in ready all times, even after the dog has been killed, the non-violent suspects handcuffed, and the house secured?

    Of course, since the evidence has now disappeared down the memory hole, I can’t look at the picture to be sure. Next thing you know, certain Party members will be allowed to turn off their telescreens.

    Re fair use: this Carrie Fisher quote on merchandising for Star Wars is classic: “I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

  75. Radley,

    As whiney as he sounds you are the bigger whining wimp.

    (please don’t clobber me at the next meeting)

  76. It’s not the first time that an image revealed exactly the opposite of what the photographer intended.

  77. The most important point is that when a swat raid is made on a house with small children, there is a double risk; the swat team can injure or kill the kids by mistake, and the father can get himself and/or swat team members killed by a knee-jerk reaction to protect his children. All for some pot??

  78. Oh boy. I don’t know if anybody here checks out break.com, but I think Cook’s gonna be really pissed now.

    http://www.break.com/pictures/dec13gal27.html

  79. “Careful Radley you may have a no knock raid on your home soon looking for copyrighted material with your violating of this poor guys rights.”

    If using this photograph isn’t fair use, then I’m moving to Sweden.
    Photojornalist: Your use of those pictures is copyright infringement.

    Real Journalist: Oh, you have no idea about that and neither do I. We are journo’s, not lawyers. The only law we know about is FOIA law.

    Photojournalist: Let me put it another way. I think my contingency lawyer may see copyright infringement here.

    Real Journalist: Tell you what — can I patch in the copyright lawyer for my publication. Maybe she can weigh in on this helpfully.

    Photojurnalist: Look, she is not going to want to talk to me directly because I may already be represented. I hinted so above. Why don’t you talk to her and we will see if the photo stays up. If it does, I will weigh my options at that time.

    Journalist: That is a cordial offer and I accept. Will get in touch with legal. Good day.

    Photojournalist: Good day.

    * parties hang up; journalist calls legal *

    Journalist: Hello, legal.

    Legal: [Name redacted]! Good to hear from you. Did your office or house get raided again.

    Journalist: No, no, this one is different.

    Legal: Different? A FOIA question. I notice you have been around for quite a few months and haven’t yet done your first FOIA. By the time Weigs was here this long he had completed many. Don’t let that Delaware Kid show you up.

    Journalist: Well, the botched raid beat is really more of a state thing.

    Legal: States have document procurement procedures too, sometimes.

    Journalist: Point taken. Anyway, what I have in front of me right now is a copyright ifringement thingee.

    Legal: Thingee?

    Journalist: *laughs* Gimme a break there, McBeal, I am just a layperson.

    Legal: Point taken. Who is ripping off your stuff [name redacted]?

    Journalist: Actually, I have been accused of infringing a third party copyright.

    Legal: Oh my gosh. [Name redacted] Magazine takes allegations of copyright infringement quite seriously.

    Journalist: *fibbing slightly* I know. That was the first thing I told the photographer. I said I had to call you right away. And so here we are.

    Legal: Photographer, eh?

    Journalist: Well, he calls himself a “photojornalist.” His politics seem to be pretty opposite of mine. He is just out of college and kind of . . . oh, I don’t know *trails off*

    Legal: Naive? Trying to micromanage the way people interpret his snapshots?

    Journalist: You know how the younger generation is. All those kids in their teens on 9/11 seem to have ended up with a hard on for cops. Even some people in their 20s.

    Legal: Yeah, I know. Tide is turning though and those beds are gradually drying up. At least I hope so. there has got to be a morning after.

    Journalist: So in the mean time I need to know how far I can take things with this LEO groupie’s picture.

    Legal: What is it a picture of?

    Journalist: A military gear policeman closely escorting a child of about 5 who is urinating into a toilet.

    Legal: Can you see the kid’s genitals?

    Journalist: No, no. The photo won a contest. That is how I heard about it. I think we are clear on that.

    Legal: You should email me that picture. For the time being, let me guess, the picture looks kind of creepy with some big Ninja cop standing over a little African American boy . . .

    Journalist: Actually, the boy is white. That is part of what makes the picture so great. Also, the policeman has a big rifle . . with . . . well, the way the rifle is pointed, it is not pointed at the boy, but it is not exactly pointed away from the boy, it is pointed at the floor sort of resting on the policeman’s hip.

    Legal: Ahh, very phallic.

    Journalist: The kid who took the picture has a terrific eye. You look at that barrel sticking out of the guys crotch, vaguely pointed down toward a toilet bowl — there are more than a thousand words in that picture. Then, the way this phallic police guy is super-imposed onto a very parental scene, helping a kid take a whizz. I can see where if you have a certain mindset, then you would find the picture comforting . . .

    Legal: Go on, we switched to a retainer arrangement with [name redacted] Magazine, so you can talk all day if you like . . .

    Journalist: Well, the fact that a considerable number of contempary Americans would find that picture comforting is reall the story here. I can’t really come out and say that in a blog entry, or *sound of wheels turning in journalist’s head*

    Legal: Well, I will let you figure out how to wake up the good folks of Murica. From what I can see, you are pretty darn good at that! Moving along to copyright law, fair use is extremely non-determinative. Even the law itself gives four really vague factors to consider, and then says the judge can consider any other factors besides the 4 that she wants. Not a safe, safe harbor in any case.

    Journalist: What is the exposure?

    Legal: Well, there are statutory damages that can balloon up into preposterous, but definitely legally colorable, claims of money damages, but that is not really what is driving the advice I am about to give.

    Journalist: What’s on your docket, then, McBeal?

    Legal: Well, first of all, under the fair use test, one of the factors is “how much of the work did you take?” It is not clear if this refers to number of words taken, numer of pixels taken, percentage of words, take, percentage of pixels taken, very fuzzy, lots of cases, few answers, but . . .

    Journalist: But if I take an entire photo, and that particular photo even won a photo contest on its merits as a self-standing photo, then . . .

    Legal: Exacty, yadda, yadda, yadda, we don’t want to be defending that. The fact that the photo competed in a contest suggests that it has independent economic value, and that is also very important from a fair use standpoint. Like I said, fair use is indeterminate. We might win. This is newsworthy stuff, like the Pentagon Papers or that stuff Time published about the pardons back in the 70s. Diebold had to ditch its copyright suit against those meddling kids recently. Would be a fascinating area to litigate . . .

    Journalist: So maybe I should keep the photo up?

    Legal: Well, one more comment, and then my advice. My comment is that someday [name redacted] magazine may want to keep control of one of its photo’s. In a situation where the infringer is likely to claim a fair use defense.

    Journalist: And your advice is, let me guess, pull the picture.

    Legal: *touches nose*

    Journalist: Are you there, McBeal? Did we get cut off?

    Legal: Oh, I touched my nose. I forgot you can’t see that through the speaker phone. yeah, you gotta pull it. But maybe you can link to the places the kid has the photo up on the Net. At least you can force the kid to pull the photo down from his own sites if he is so gung ho about trying to force people to see the photo the way he thinks it should be seen. You will probably want to continue your commentary. Did te kid make you promise confidentiality when you spoke.

    Journalist: No, he did not.

    Legal: Then I think you know what yor next blog entry should be. Don’t forget to include all the links you can find so the kid has to really scrub the Net.

    Journalist: Will do, Legal. Thanks for the time.

  80. The photo can be still viewed in the judging video for spot news at –

    http://www.cpoy.org/index.php?s=Podcast

    I must say I find it interesting that a photo “journalist” reacts to this sort of controversy with self-censorship. God forbid your photo send a message you can’t find in it.

  81. Didnt COPS get successfully sued for taking private photos on public searches and seizures – a violation of reasonable search and seizure limits? In short, isnt taking and posting this photo incident to a public search, a violation under that precedent? Worth a look.

  82. Tender moment?? WTF??? It’s obvious the cops scared the piss out of the kid.

    The cops were only concerned about themselves because they didn’t want to step in the kid’s piss. This is why they always shoot the dog, they don’t want to step into dog shit.

    Does this jack off photographer have any pictures of Catholic priests helping little boys go wee wee?

  83. Sam Franklin: You forgot to add:

    Journalist: So I have to send people away from my site to see the picture? That’s like writing an article for Reason and telling people that the photo is actually in Photographer Magazine this week. Why would any journalist write a story that urges people to put my magazine down and go to another? Do TV networks beg you to flip the channel during a news cast?

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