For the second time in a month, police in Long Beach, California detained a photographer for taking pictures in public.

And now it is becoming apparent that they are probably following guidelines issued by the Los Angeles Police Department that explicitly states that people taking photos are to be viewed as suspicious.

According to page 40 of the LAPD’s “Suspicious Activity Report,” published in June 2008:

Takes pictures or video footage (with no apparent esthetic value, i.e., camera angles, security equipment, security personnel, traffic lights, building entrances, etc.). 

This gives police the green light to detain photographers who are doing nothing but taking photos.

The Suspicious Activity Report was highlighted in an article by Greggory Moore of the Long Beach Post, who was detained by Los Angeles County sheriff deputies for photographing a courthouse on June 2.

In the article, Moore writes about another incident involving his colleague, Sander Roscoe Wolff, who was detained on June 30 for photographing an oil refinery for artistic purposes.

Even though Wolff wasn’t breaking the law nor was he driving, Long Beach police officer Asif Kahn demanded his driver’s license.

According to Moore’s article:

“I asked him if I had to show him my driver’s license,” says Wolff. “He said ‘yes.’ And at that point I did feel detained. Because if he was demanding that I identify myself, then I couldn’t just walk away.”

Wolff says Kahn apparently ran a check on Wolff’s driver’s license, then came back and said that everything was okay. “He said because of Homeland Security and new laws, [the police] have the authority to ask for my driver’s license and run it when they feel that there’s cause.”

 The cop then allowed him to continue taking photos.

Moore points out that while the Suspicious Activity Report supposedly applies only to LAPD cops, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence wants to make it a “national model.”

Although Special Order No. 11 applies only to the LAPD, as the American Civil Liberties Union points out, “Rather than criticize the LAPD efforts, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the LAPD program ‘should be a national model.’ Not surprisingly, in June 2008 the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security teamed with the Major City [sic] Chiefs Association to issue a report recommending expanding the LAPD SAR program to other U.S. cities.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is a federal agency that serves as “the principal advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters related to national security, according to Wikipedia.

Moore said he will continue looking into the matter for an upcoming article.

For Part 2 of this story, I will report on my efforts to continue this discussion by reaching out to the LBPD in general and Kahn in particular; to the City Attorney’s Office; and to Councilman Steve Neal, in whose Ninth District Wolff found himself detained.