Criminal Justice

Excessive Police Force, Holiday Cheer Edition


Award-winning photojournalist gets arrested in West Virginia for photographing a mall Santa, then attempting to photograph a police officer who harassed him about it. An overly protective parent complained that his kid was included in one of the photos. Given that all of this transpired in a public space, photographing the Santa, the kids, and the cop are all perfectly legal, by the way.

Which is probably why the photographer was charged with battering the arresting officer and resisting arrest, not for taking the photos that caused the confrontation in the first place.

(Hat tip to the Injustice Everywhere Twitter feed.)


NEXT: Why All Living Congressmen Should Be Sent on the Slow Boat to Mauritius, Forever

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Another title of a post where you know who is the author is without checking.

  2. depressing. But a huge Thank You to Radley for keeping the spotlight on these cases!

  3. My God that is one giant cluster fuck of modern neurosis.

  4. Some one should tell these people to buy burqas for their kids.

  5. Why are many cops assholes?

    Because they believe shit like this.

    He [Basford] said, ‘It’s not against the law to take a picture of a police officer unless they don’t want you to.’

    They don’t like it = crime.

    1. sounds like Team Red and/or Team Blue cheerleaders!

    2. “They don’t like it = crime.”

      And that is I believe one of the outcomes of passing so many forms and means of law enforcement authority that the individual officer has plenty of discretion on how thuggish to be.

    3. cops assholes

      But you repeat yourself.

    4. Tricky, why are so many cops not assholes? Or does that question deflate your automatic hysteria?

      1. Cops should be expected not to be assholes.

      2. What hysteria?

  6. Excessive Police Force, Afternoon Crotch Punch, Holiday Cheer Edition


  7. I was beginning to worry, Radley. You hadn’t ruined my day yet, and it’s almost 5 PM.

    At least most of the comments to the story on the site are good.

  8. “I can’t believe you are asking me that,” Rensberger said to the officer. “Do you mind if I take a picture of you?”

    Nice pick-up line.

  9. Well usually I’m not very optimistic about redress through the civil courts but the photographer has a history of winning cases like this:

    Eventually, Gates and the parent firm of the Lanai Co. paid an undisclosed sum of money to settle a lawsuit brought by Seattle television newsman Scott Rensberger, who charged his civil rights were violated when he was arrested for trespassing.

    Rensberger was arrested on the public access road before the Jan. 1, 1994, wedding.

    Gates apologized in writing to Rensberger for the arrest.

  10. The Balko Christmas Special

    Cute Kid: Daddy, how much is that doggie in the window?
    Paranoid Parent: I don’t know. Let’s go in and ask.
    Photojournalist: That’s so sweet. (Raises camera, takes picture)
    Paranoid Parent: (Yelling) Officer, this perv is taking picures of my kid!
    Cop: (Rushes over, shoots dog)

    1. Cop: (Rushes over, shoots dogRudolph)

  11. i’m so tired of pedophile paranoia. it’s getting to the point where fathers are afraid to be left alone with their own children in public places. and now this guy takes a picture of a mall Santa w/ child and gets pegged as a kid-toucher cruising for victims right off the bat.
    i’d like to find the parents who complained and have them flogged publicly after Santa’s North Pole is struck down in january. worry about your creepy neighbor or your drunk brother-in-law instead of random guy in the mall who inadvertently photographed your child.

      1. OMGnewringtone!!!

  12. Radley, I believe the Charleston Town Center mall is private property. So photography would be at the complete discretion of the mall owners.

    Of course, given the threat of slow/no response by the cops to incidents at the mall, I’m sure the mall owners will side with the cops.

    1. Then why not just say “photography is not permitted inside the mall?”

    2. According to TFA, photography is allowed inside the mall. Professional photographers are asked to request permission first [and he says he wasn’t acting in a professional capacity], but customers are allowed to take pictures without having to ask permission first.

  13. There are many excellent law enforcement officials. There are also many who are poorly-trained and/or ill-suited to be police officers. The former group need to purge the latter.

    1. And until they do, their excellence is in question.

      1. Some might say that until they do purge the lesser, their excellence is moot.

      2. Actually, it’s not, but you keep on believing that.

        1. And this is the part of the show where known bad cop defender Andrew Lynch arrives on scene. Call for backup, Andy! Don’t let these civilians disparage the excellence of the average cop!

    2. And the excellent cops will never be promoted because the shit rises to the top, and they promote their own, not purge them. Excellent cops will continue in their low ranks and shitty pay, or they will quit. Beware the supervisor or the cop who wants to be promoted; the moron in this article was a corporal. My BF is a disenchanted cop who’s looking to get out of law enforcement because he thinks it’s a corrupt cesspool–but the economy sucks right now. He’s one of the good cops, but his kind become disgusted and leave, or get forced out, or leave because they will never advance professionally…

  14. “Rensberger said he reached in his pocket and pulled out his camera and raised it to take a picture of the police officer.”

    To be honest, I’m surprised he wasn’t capped before he got the camera out. The officer must have been slow.

    1. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

      “Because you got all Cs in high school?”

      1. Haha, hilarious. I know a couple of cops–well three actually. One of them is a good man. The other one is an asshole underachieving thug. The third is a friend’s kid who was a good kid but I looked at his officer photo and he’s got that “I’m trying hard for the thousand yard stare” look going. I fear the Asshole Factor scale could easily tip to two out of three on my personal scorecard.

        As for the great many officers I have encountered over the years of my life, I’d have to say that by far most of them were good people and treated me with honesty and respect. Of course, I’m a tall handsome professional White Devil so that might be a big part of it.

        Of course, all the good cops mean nothing if you run afoul of that one scumfuck who puts you in the big house for no good reason.

        1. Of course, all the good cops mean nothing if you run afoul of that one scumfuck who puts you in the big house for no good reason.

          That’s not true at all, that the good cops mean nothing. If they weren’t good, your likelihood of spending more time in the big house for no reason would increase exponentially. But this doesn’t matter when there are some, as you say, scumfucks that are so much fun to blog and comment about.

          1. If the likelihood of being fucked up by a bad cop is higher than zero, it’s too high. And it’s significantly higher than zero, especially if you’re black.

        2. And of course, all those excellent cops won’t hesitate to help cover up for the thugs and assholes, even if it means an innocent person ends up spending a few years in the pokey.

  15. The officer must have been slow.

    They all want cake donuts.

  16. I must admit. It has been a while since Radley dealt a swift kick to the jimmys. I was kind of nice to go without them but I missed he writing. I suppose the price for good journalism means reading articles about bad/stupid/horrendous acts by police and authority figures. Oh well, as usually Balko does a good job.

    Keep up the good work

  17. Yep. That new professionalism is going to kick in any day now….real soon now….any minute…just wait…

  18. I haven’t even read thes tory, but Google News had a headline up from the AP which read:

    “NYC Police Officer Shoots Panhandler.”

    It’s tough to know whom to root for, sometimes.

    1. It should be noted that the panhandler did discharge a gun before being shot. Apparently Times Square’s transformation to Disney Land NE is complete. They have Aggressive Panhandling Task Forces now! Hell, I remember when you were lucky if the cops showed for a mugging.

      1. Sorry, Brett L, but P Brooks can come to his own conclusions based on a Google News headline.

      2. Disney’s out for the most part, it’s now all about the M&M store.

    2. That headline is terse to the point of being misleading (as, admittedly, headlines often are); it should say something like, “NYPD Officer Shoots Extortionist Who Opens Fire On Him”.

      Let me explain: I live in NYC, and after reading a couple of the stories, I’m pretty sure I know what the deal is. There are these young guys who hang out in touristy neighborhoods, like Times Square, and when they see a tourist/mark, they start their pitch.

      “Hey, you like music? I’m a musician, and I moved here to NYC to try and start my career, get something going, you know? I already recorded my demo – here, check it out! – and I’m trying to get people to listen to it – my name’s _____, what’s yours? It’s good to meet you! Here, let me sign this for you…”

      While this pitch is going on, he has shown you the CD, then when he finds out your name, he signs your name on it, “To my friend Joe” or whatever, and hands it to you. When you express thanks or try to leave, he “asks for”/demands $10 for the CD; you took it, and it’s not like he can give it to someone else now since he wrote your name on it! He employs escalating pressure/getting in your face/belligerence until you give him some money for the damn CD you didn’t really want anyway.

      As you see, this isn’t so much “panhandling” or “selling CDs” as it is a kind of low-level shakedown. So when people ask, “Why would a panhandler or a vendor have a gun?” the answer is, “Because he’s not a panhandler or vendor, he’s a cheap thug.”

  19. Where I live they won’t hire you to be a state trooper if your I.Q. is over 100. A guy who scored higher actually sued but the court said the troopers could make the standards.

  20. Where I live they won’t hire you to be a state trooper if your I.Q. is over 100. A guy who scored higher actually sued but the court said the troopers could make the standards.

    The mass of men serve the State thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. […] In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones, and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well….

  21. Cops are slow learners. This is the guy who sued Bill Gates and Dole over an arrest for similar reasons and won.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.