Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse. Unless You're in Law Enforcement.


Carlos Miller, who runs the Photography Is Not a Crime blog, and veteran photojournalist Stretch Leford decided to test the photography rules in Miami-Dade's metrorail system. Before embarking on their test, they obtained written assurance from Metro Safety and Security Chief Eric Muntan that there's no law against non-commercial photography on the system.

The two didn't make it past the first station before they were stopped. Employees of 50 State Security, the private firm contracted to provide the metro's security, stopped the pair first. They then called in local police. The private firm and the police then threatened the two with arrest, demanded their identification (to check them against a terrorist watch list), demanded multiple times that they stop filming, and eventually "banned" Miller and Ledford from the metro system "for life" (though it's doubtful they had the authority to do so).

Miller's account here. Ledford's is here.

Here's the video:

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  1. “The law is what we sez it is.”

    I hope they ID’d the officers properly. It would help in the lawsuit.

    1. Get them some cool helmets.

  2. It’s not that they’re ignorant of the law, though they very well may be; it’s that they know they can say anything they like, threaten people with arrest, and get their way 99.9% of the time. Even if they know it isn’t illegal to take photographs, why would they let you know that?

    1. Even if they know it isn’t illegal to take photographs, why would they let you know that?

      Ah, but LEOs *stating* “You are breaking the law” while knowing you are not has got to be a crime, right? And can they actually plead ignorance of the laws they are supposed to enforce?

      1. I want these men in my office. Now.

        So I can give them jobs in My Administration. Someone’s gotta take over for Rahm.

      2. You’d think so, but it seems that LEOs are loathe to arrest other LEOs for just about anything. Imagine that.

        1. “I arrest you back.”
          “I arrest you back.”
          “I arrest you times infinity.”
          “I arrest you times infinity plus infinity.”

          That’s basically what you’re dealing with, so they called a truce a long time ago.

        1. How unfortunate. Oh, well. I suppose they’re “only human”.

      3. I don’t think that’s a crime, freedom of speech and all. It is certainly grounds for professional discipline within the police department, but I think we all know how that goes.

        1. The Official actions of the State have nothing to do with freedom of speech.

          This isn’t a viewpoint, and employees of the State don’t have the right to illegally confiscate personal property (“I’ll take that camera as ‘evidence’) or restrict the use of taxpayer funded assets without a valid reason. You’ll notice that none of the clowns could point to a statute that backs up their actions.

          These two photographers aren’t being ‘questioned’, they’re being threatened with arrest and theft, simply for engaging in legal behavior.

          The private security, as well as the officers should be taken into custody for abuse of authority and attempted theft.

          At this point their authority is quickly becoming moot, and they’re just becoming people with guns.

          1. Agree 100% – but it never happens that there is any discipline WHATSOEVER…nada. One gets the idea that the supervisors WANT them to behave this way.

            And in the final analysis, apparently most voters are fine with that. I fully expect in my lifetime that we will be herded in pens like at slaughter houses and electrically prodded – and many Americans will have bumper stickers (there asses will be big enough)that say I support the prodders!

        2. I’m pretty sure that engaging in willful deception in order to violate someone’s right to property would constitute criminal fraud.

      4. No, it isn’t a crime for them to lie.

  3. Those guys clearly have a problem with arbitrary authority.

  4. I also enjoyed the “I’m conducting an investigation” gambit.

  5. Tar. Feathers. Now.

    1. And get insta-charged with “Assault on a police officer”? Nah.

  6. The terrorists have won. They turned us into a nation of assholes.

    1. Cops were assholes who made up laws for their convenience before they could use terrorism as an excuse. I’ve been pulled over for riding my bike in the road, and I know of several people who have been ticketed and a couple who have arrested for breaking imaginary bike related laws.
      Cops are just assholes.

      1. Riding my bicycle legally on the roads through a small town in central north Florida, a police officer pulled up beside me (as we were both travelling) and told me that I was REQUIRED to ride on the sidewalk. This despite the fact that the road had four lanes and little traffic at the time, and the sidewalk had many obstacles that were a danger to me, and of course a bicycle on a sidewalk can be a danger to pedestrians as well (though there were, in fact, no pedestrians I encountered).

        I expect that there WERE local laws prohibiting me from riding on the sidewalk, but of course there were absolutely NO laws prohibiting me from riding on the highway.

        But, what do we expect from cops? They don’t hire smart people to be cops – in fact, police departments REFUSE to hire smart people.

        Plus, thanks to the war on drugs, the war on terrorism, etc., I estimate that we have about three or four times as many cops as we really need, with the exception of very small jurisdictions that need a minimum number to keep someone on duty at all times.

        When you’re hiring that many cops, you can’t afford to be choosy.

        1. Absolutely. I had my own run in with a police officer who informed me that unless I was a law student I had no business telling him what the law was. In fact, he said I should leave the law to him…this despite that he was absolutely wrong on the law in question.

  7. Anyone who thinks photography can’t be a crime should see the latest pictures of Lindsay Lohan.

      1. Just put one at the top of my blog.

        1. That’s an interesting fetish, er I mean blog.

          1. There’s music too!

              1. Click the archive button and you can see the whole thing as large thumbnails.

          2. If liking chicks in their underwear is now considered a fetish, what’s not a fetish?

            Yeah, I know it was just an off-the-cuff joke. Still, though.

            Pretty cool blog, SIV.

        2. I can’t open the blog. Is it down or is it blocked in China? I never can tell.

  8. Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse.

    Depends of what Law you’re talking about: Natural Law, or the Federal Register.

  9. I’m sure they are being accused of being terrorists staking out another target. Isn’t that the natural progression when all other bogus charges fail?

    1. I was in Montgomery, Alabama visiting the Civil Rights Museum a few years ago. After walking outside, I looked up and saw a cool looking building nearby and went to take a photo. A security officer nearby, who was armed and outweighed me by about a hundred pounds of solid muscle, told me that I could not take any pictures of that building. Found out later it was the office of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Apparently I must have looked like an extremist.

      1. Of course they don’t want you taking pictures of their building…you might reveal the location from where they spew their inane BS from…

  10. The Ghana- Uruguay finish was disappointing.

    1. It was hilarious. Honestly, such a blatant case of goaltending by a non-goalie should be awarded, especially when it is clearly going in right on the goal line.

      Hey, but it isn’t my game. I don’t make the rules and therefore only extremely rarely watch it. Because the rules, like this game showed clearly suck.

      Fuck they might as well flip a coin and skip the game before it starts.

      1. the goal should be awarded I meant to say.

      2. Honestly, such a blatant case of goaltending by a non-goalie should be awarded, especially when it is clearly going in right on the goal line.

        Meh, it’s not really different from blatant pass interference on an otherwise sure touchdown.

  11. You know, Miller’s blog is titled “Photography is not a crime’ yet every story on his blog leads me to believe it is a crime to photograph and record LEO’s. Should I sue for false advertisement?

    1. You should also sue the producers of The Neverending Story ‘Cause yeah, there’s an ending – sorry to spoil it for you.

      1. good call. i’m on the line with my lawyers now, Dewey Cheatham, and Howe.

      2. The Neverending Story ‘Cause yeah, there’s an ending

        Not in my heart sage, not in my heart.

        1. Crap, is there a place in your heart for tag failure?

          1. just cause the flying dog is rediculous in the second movie does not mean you can shit on the whole franchise.

            1. I wipe my ass with the whole franchise.

              1. You would.

  12. So are they actually going to do something about this or is a video going to be posted, someone slapped on the wrist and then everyone will call it a day?


      It’s been awhile. Wasn’t much of a nutkick, but I’m sure it will take time to get back in the swing of things.

      Welcome back!

    2. Hi, Dude. Our attorneys are pursuing this. Please stay tuned to my blog, http://verystretchy.com, as I will continue to update it with details.

      1. I hope you bankrupt them.

        1. Great project and weblog. Good luck…

  13. I try to point to behavior like this when discussing the Arizona immigration BS with my republican, friends…But, they have to have a reason to stop you

    Sad thing is how many people really belive that. Shouldn’t matter what your views on immigration are, the law is going to get abused by jackass municipal LEOs with absolutely no oversite.

    1. You have a license to write on this blog? Because if you don’t have a license, you’re breaking the law.

      Your dog seems a bit aggressive, too…

      *makes move toward holstered, special-order 1911 .45*

    2. If LEOs are as craven as you assume, then they didn’t need the new immigration law to make life difficult for illegal-looking people.

      1. They don’t need it, but they sure aren’t going to whine if the law is actually on their side.

      2. No, but it helps them being even less accountable. I am sure any lawsuit against police abuse will have a hard time standing against a law written so explicitly broadly.

      3. The law was not for LEOs. The law was 100% intended as political grandstanding to excite the blatantly racist people here in Arizona ahead of an election.

      4. Just like they didn’t need the law making not wearing your seat belt something that justified pulling you over. Can’t you see it? “Man, could have sworn you didn’t have a seat belt on…what’s this? Big bag of marijuana (pulls from his pocket)? You’re under arrest!”

    3. Only if you have a foreign accent.

  14. Thanks for the Friday kick to the balls, Radley.

    I really DO NOT miss South Florida.

  15. Detective Bustamante ID 5362 is a liar.

  16. That video is racist, straight up.

  17. With such micro miniature cameras becoming so cheap and common, they should just do the filming on the sly.

    I know, they shouldn’t have to do that, but I imagine that if they’re just standing there looking at these Paul Blarts, they’re going to assume they’re being filmed. Even if they’re not. Or if they are.

    1. Micro miniature cameras making the entire idea of catching ‘bad guys’ casing targets a joke.

      You would think anyone seriously considering harm wouldn’t broadcast their intentions by standing around with a DSLR.

    2. Anyone can pretend they are playing a game or listening to music on their cellphone while they are really filming or photographing. Filming technology is too advanced now to prevent it. Not that there aren’t, sometimes, good reasons – just that it’s so unrealistic it is dumb to even pursue that goal.

    3. you’d need both. The obvious camera to incite “could you turn that off?”, “I’m going to confiscate that as evidence” remarks, and once they take the obvious one, you have the miniature camera still recording them.

    4. Or the terrorists could have one of their team walk in on one end of the target with a big camera.

      When the LEO’s “swarm” them, my guess is that the rest of the target would be unguarded. Leaving the coast clear for the other terrorists to wheel in their explosives on those little rental carts.

      Why even take the risk of filming beforehand when you know that the LEO’s can be lured away so easily?

  18. And people wonder where my disdain for all LEO comes from.

    There is no such thing as a good cop. There are just cops less bent on fucking you than others.

    1. Blanket condemnation of all cops is as silly as knee jerk defenses of cops. There is no possible way that all cops are entirely bad, just as there is no way that all cops are always right.

      I grew up in rural MN. I knew a lot of cops that were pretty good. They worked in small communities where their reputation was the biggest thing going for them. If the community thought they were a-holes, no one would respect their authority.

      This pro/anti cop shit is a different flavor of Team Red vs Team Blue. I think reality is that there are good cops and bad cops.

      1. Why is it silly. Everyone of them takes an oath to protect and serve. Every time someone violates that oath every officer should vocally oppose them. Instead we have an us versus them culture where they think they have the power.

        I know a lot of cops as well, and I have never gotten a straight answer to why the above doesn’t happen. The normal answer is it’s a job, that’s all and I’m not loosing my job by going against the guys I have to work with.

        Fuck all cops, until the day the return to protecting and serving, until each stupid swat raid violating peoples’ rights is vocally admonished by every sheriff then fuck every cop.

        While we’re at it fuck every congressman that takes an oath to protect the constitution that doesn’t admonish his counterparts for their violations.

        1. I am not defending cops who stick up for other cops who are acting badly, but I think it is important to understand that this is simply a natural part of human behavior.

          Most people are not as much of an individualist as I am, and yet even I find myself in situations where a co-worker has obviously screwed up and – so long as they have not been especially malicious about it – I try to protect them. Depending on the seriousness of the situation I may talk to them about it privately later, but group dynamics demand that we all present a united front against any “outsider” – regardless of whether they are right or not.

          Now, of course, this does not preclude all attempts to do right by an outsider – satisfying any concerns they may have, especially if they are justified and behave politely. In fact, this is the usual order of business. But this must be done without blaming a group member in front of the outsider. If this is NOT done, group coherence will suffer (because others will feel vulnerable, even if they are not in the habit of making mistakes) and the work will not get done.

          I think we have to remember that cops are human and WILL make mistakes. We need to ensure that they are held accountable for SERIOUS mistakes and especially MALICIOUS actions. Also keep in mind that they aren’t the brightest bunch, so they are unlikely to come up with creative solutions that will satisfy everybody – so their inclination will be to come up with a solution that will satisfy the people they work with every day – especially in minor incidents where no one is likely to get seriously hurt.

          Of course, the corollary is that cops and the justice system must treat their employers (us) in the same way, overlooking minor breaches of the law that are mere technicalities – and most cops in fact do this – at least, if you’re white and middle class. There’s still work to be done.

          Another consideration is that the job of a cop depends on having authority, and when someone threatens that authority a cop will naturally feel that this is a threat to their ability to do their job. Even though this ONE person may be technically in the right, they are concerned that if they back down – especially in a public place – that OTHER people will take this as a license to do anything they like, which will lead to a breakdown in order, and which will lead eventually to real crimes which they will have to deal with. Therefore, they will definitely bullshit people into accepting whatever they say, even if they begin to realize that they are not in the right. IF you understand where they are coming from and why that air of authority is so important to their job, and IF you can remain civil throughout the encounter, MOST police officers will not hassle you further, even if it is obvious you HAVE broken a minor law.

          Add to all this the expectations of the public. You can bet that if someone spends much time taking photos of a public place where lots of people gather, SOMEONE will ask the police to investigate. The police officer may well know that it’s bullshit, but they want to appear proactive so they go confront the photographer. A smart one will just shoot the breeze for a minute or two so they can appear to be “doing something about it”, and then leave the photographer alone, and bullshit the complainant if they have any questions – “Oh, yes! he’s filming for a documentary on Dutch television! he’s all right.”

          Less intelligent ones – well, you’ve seen the video.

          Stop the drug war and end the criminalization of all consensual activities. Hire fewer cops, pay them more to get higher quality cops. THAT will reduce police corruption and abuse. Nothing else will.

          1. Well said. Let me know when you decide to run for office. I won’t move there to vote for you but I’ll send money.

            1. I appreciate that some of the remarks here are thoughtful, vs. ignorant bashing. I investigate complaints against police officers. In nearly every complaint where there is video, the complainer tells blatent lies or exaggerates their complaint to the point where he or she loses all credibility. After a while, it becomes easy to believe that every asshole who makes a complaint against a police officer is a liar or some whiner who got a ticket and instead of taking responsibility for his own actions, tries to get out of it by pointing fingers at the guy who gave it to him. Just like you only see the video of the cops who make mistakes or who do inappropriate things. You don’t see or hear about the majority of good and professional things many officers do. If people were honest and complained about the police only when warranted, the genuine complaints would be taken more seriously. Don’t assume they aren’t. I’ve fired officers for their misdeeds. But all the liars consume precious time that could be better spent addressing real problems.

              A police officer is killed in this country, on average, once every three days. Cops are constantly fed cruiser video images of other cops getting murdered by seemingly non-violent people. Cop killers don’t look like crazed murderers. Several years ago, an elderly woman shot a Minneapolis police officer. A sweet little non-violent granny. In my city, a man drove to the police station, acted friendly towards two officers as they walked into the building, then shot both of them. He killed one instantly and shot the other in the face. The second survived his injuries and stayed on the job.

              A lot of people don’t like the fact that the police treat them like they may be dangerous. But, until cop killers start wearing tshirts that identify them as such, average Joe cop will never know who they are and must be vigilent if they want to go home at night. Some cops handle this better than others. They are just people. Most of them honestly want to do the right thing. Most honestly want to follow all the rules they are given and most want to treat people with respect.

              In this case, it sounds like the chief who granted permission for the photography committed the real error. He should have notified his subordinates or provided the photographers with some kind of pass or document.

      2. If these good cops care about the communities they supposedly serve, then they’ll take this problem on. Otherwise, they’ll just keep on like they’re doing now, where there’s cops and their immediate family, and everybody else.

        Think on it. What’s the advice you always hear for approaching a cop? Number one, don’t. If you have to anyway, do it slow. No sudden moves. Speak softly; cringingly. Jesus fucking Christ, it’s the advice given for approaching dangerous animals. But the animals are more predictable. And they can’t understand why everybody’s nervous around them? Don’t want anything to do with them?

        Fuck, yes, I know they have to deal with dangerous people. No stupid fucking lectures. But anybody who has reached the point where he can’t help but treat every human being the way a combat soldier treats enemy soldiers has no business walking around with a weapon and a license to kill.

  19. Over/under on how many bravery medals these cops will get? I say five, will bet the over.

  20. Where’s that dude who goes around flipping cops off? Have you guys seen him? I would love to see him show up there.

      1. That fat bastard is my new hero.

  21. I really try to not hate cops but sometimes…

  22. If they don’t want to be photographed in public, perhaps they should privatize the land.

    (17:20) We’re heading toward having a local level of government where peoples’ liberties to express themselves are severely limited. And everything’s going to look the same.(17:30)

    (17:40) Evan, I sent you an article from the Washington Post some months ago. And it has to do with what’s happening in SIlver Spring, where they’ve gone into a private/public partnership with a developer. So now downtown Silver Spring, which is a city in Maryland, is owned privately by a developer who decides you may not take pictures. And the rent-a-cops come swarming around you the minute your camera comes out.(18:10)

    source: the October 12, 2007 episode of “On the Commons” (interview with Evan McKenzie).

    More on the Silver Spring photography ban at Boing Boing (July 5, 2007).

  23. If they don’t want to be photographed in public, perhaps they should privatize the land.

    (17:20) We’re heading toward having a local level of government where peoples’ liberties to express themselves are severely limited. And everything’s going to look the same.(17:30)

    (17:40) Evan, I sent you an article from the Washington Post some months ago. And it has to do with what’s happening in SIlver Spring, where they’ve gone into a private/public partnership with a developer. So now downtown Silver Spring, which is a city in Maryland, is owned privately by a developer who decides you may not take pictures. And the rent-a-cops come swarming around you the minute your camera comes out.(18:10)

    source: “On the Commons” (October 12, 2007 interview with Evan McKenzie).

    More on the Silver Spring photography ban at Boing Boing (July 5, 2007).

    I cannot find any reference to this in the Reason archives.

    1. Maybe if they did a proportional refund of all the tax-money they spent to the tax-payers. But the whole public/private partnership just smells like more cronyism.

  24. my suggestion. video a cop whenever you see one. that what videos in smartphones are for. government want us under surveillance all the time, give some surveillance back to them.

  25. I admit to being a bit surprised to see policemen backing up security guards. Very sad that they’ve sunk so low.

    1. “””I admit to being a bit surprised to see policemen backing up security guards.”””

      You must not be too familiar with security guards, police back them up frequently.

      1. When I was a young buck, the real cops used to sneer at the pretensions of the rent-a-cops and rightly so.

        I suppose they were told by their higher ups that “we’re all in it together” meaning “don’t piss off the politically connected contractors”. I assume the same thing has happened with the military.

  26. Lord Jesus our cops are stupid. I love you guys, but Jesus… chill the heck out and make sure you understand the actual law.

  27. I don’t think it’s even about photography or cops per se. “He’s doing something [that you don’t see every day] — stop him!” We’ve gotten to the point where specific authoriz’n is needed for any action, which means that anything unusual is presumptively illegal, because you don’t see everyone else doing it.

    1. Respect my authority!

  28. If this is true, sounds like those Russian spy arrest “could” have just been FBI setups.


  29. The follow up on this story should be interesting.

  30. I love the still image on the embedded video of the woman in the sunglasses.

    That look on her face–it just has government and bureaucracy written all over it. It’s the same look you get when you bring the wrong form to the desk at the DMV.

  31. Please keep us apprised of the lawsuit’s progress.

  32. Always remember that half the population have IQs of less than 100. Federal employees may be slightly above half.

  33. When laws are so complicated that enforcement is selective we are no longer a nation of laws but a nation prosecuted at the whim of whoever is currently in authority.

  34. what really do you expect

    this is classic of too much ” democracy”
    we take low IQ morons and give them power and say that we are not really going to question them about virtually anything.

    The bottom line is that officials – cops district attornies judges and public servants in general should have their ass kicked again and again and again untill the morons understand. coz without ass kicking these low life morons will never get it.

    it is no coincidence that cops invariably resort to bullying behaviour

    it is because they do this and go repeatedly unpunished til;l it becomes a habit.

    as they say the constitution of the united statees is what the scotus says it is. and at the street the law is what the policeman says it is.

    so either put up or start sending cops , DA’s and judges to jail with regularity….because all of tyhem break the law with impunity and regularity. short of that there is no solution.

  35. Interesting. I’ve taken photos in public places, on buses and trains, and of public buildings in many parts of Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and never encountered any official disapproval.

    I guess it’s true – Americans really are dumber than the rest of the world…

  36. “I guess it’s true – Americans really are dumber than the rest of the world…”

    It’s not native stupidity. We’ve had a lot of practice.

  37. most cops have a HS education or GED and placed in the bottom quarter of their class, so you have to understand what you’re dealing with.

  38. land of the free yeah right

  39. Just goes to show

    Pay peanuts, get monkey’s

  40. Cops that prove to be ignorant of the laws they are supposed to be enforcing should get a couple of years of suspension with half pay. During this period they should be sent back to the academy to refresh the basics of their job.

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