By Donald R. Winslow, News Photographer magazine
Durham, N.C. (March 10, 2009)—Back in January the National Press Photographers Association, through its general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher, asked Amtrak in a letter to stop harassing photographers and to take immediate steps to remedy circumstances where law-abiding photographers working in public places were being confronted by the railroad's police and personnel.
In response, the general counsel for the Amtrak police invited NPPA to participate in a review and updating of their existing policies and suggested that NPPA might want to contribute potential guideline language and input on both the railroad's photography guidelines (for their employees and the public to follow) and on new photography policies for Amtrak police...
READ ON at nppa.org
(Thanks to Oren)
Featured Comment by Bruce Appelbaum: "Funny, I was thinking the other day about the story of the photographer seeking to enter an Amtrak photo contest who was arrested in Penn Station in NYC.
"Last Sunday I was on one of my NYC perambulations and found myself in Greenpoint (Brooklyn) near the Newtown Creek sewage treatment plant. It was a gray, cold day, and nothing really had caught my eye until I looked into the open gate and saw an almost fluorescent yellow pipe stand supporting a huge gray pipe.
"So I took a couple of pictures, standing outside the gate. After a few minutes, a rent-a-cop appeared yelling at me to stop taking pictures. I told him that the gate was open, I was standing in a public area, and that there were no signs saying that photography was not allowed. I asked him if he was a police officer, and all he would say is 'I'm on duty.'
"I told him again that there was nothing keeping me from photographing the pipe stand, and he kept yelling about my lack of ability to understand English. Finally he decided to call the police on me using his cell phone. I took a few more shots while he was dialing, and then started walking away. Then he started yelling at me for walking away. I told him 'I'm on duty' and kept going. I think he photographed me with his phone camera.
"It was early Sunday morning, I had a copy of that short piece on photographers' rights, but you never know which cop is going to pissed about having to deal with something like this. So I didn't hang around. On the other hand, I walked slowly and never saw a cop car come around.
"There are lots of photos of that plant on the internet (google Newtown Creek wastewater treatment plant and look at the pictures), so I didn't do anything that lots of others haven't already done. The guy did ruin my mood, though."
Featured Comment by Jon Bloom: "It's not enough to have a policy. That policy also has to be communicated to the staff and they need to be held accountable for following it. Frequently, the problem turns out to be not the policy but rather the ignorance of it by the security people.
"Also, there is this from the policy: '...where actions are deemed suspicious or inconsistent with this policy by observing/reporting persons, photographers and videographers may be approached and questioned to determine if further investigation or action is necessary.'
"That leaves the interpretation of 'suspicious' entirely up to the 'observing/reporting persons,' which naturally include many who are utterly untrained.
"Whether this represents a change in practice remains to be seen."