Robert Taylor probably knows the rules of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority better than most people. The 30-year-old has been working for the MTA for more than three years.

But that didn’t stop a trio of New York City transit cops from handcuffing him, throwing him in the back of a car and locking him in a holding cell for more than an hour after he photographed an incoming train inside the Freeman Street subway station in the Bronx Thursday afternoon.

He was charged with “unauthorized photography,” “unreasonable voice/discon” and “impeding traffic.”

Taylor, who works as a station agent at other subway stations, was off-duty at the time. He posted his story on Subchat where it got picked up by War on Photography, a New York City photographers’ rights website.

“I take pictures of the trains because I use them as wallpaper on my computer,” Taylor said in a phone interview with Photography is Not a Crime Friday afternoon.

He was using a Nikon D80 with a 70-200 lens and was about to hop on a train when an NYPD transit cop ordered him over. The cop told him to delete the images.

“I explained to him that I was allowed to take images, but he said, ‘no, not here’,” Taylor said.

Taylor even cited section 1050.9 (c) of the MTA Rules of Conduct which clearly state that photography is allowed under certain conditions, which were all met by Taylor.

Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used. Members of the press holding valid identification issued by the New York City Police Department are hereby authorized to use necessary ancillary equipment. All photographic activity must be conducted in accordance with the provisions of this Part.

The two men debated the issue for a few minutes before another cop arrived. And the debate continued until a third cop arrived, a sergeant who presided over the two other officers.

“I had told them to call their boss, so they did,” Taylor said.

After more than 30 minutes of debating the issue with the cops, they handcuffed him and walked him out to their patrol car, where they transported him to a transit precinct. He was placed in a cell for 90 minutes with about six other detainees who had been arrested for jumping fares.

“They removed my shoelaces, my belt and then they checked for warrants,” he said.

And when it became evident that he was not a wanted man, they released him with a summons citing the three charges above.

“I will probably file a complaint with the (Civilian Complaint Review Board),” he said. “And then I will look at my other options.”


I am a multimedia journalist who has been fighting a lengthy legal battle after having photographed Miami police against their wishes in Feb. 2007. Please help the fight by donating to my Legal Defense Fund in the top left sidebar. And join my Facebook blog network to keep updated on the latest articles.