Tuesday February 27, 2007

City of Miami police beat up photographers

Miami Police

OK, first of all photographers have the right to take photos anytime they are on public property. Andrew Kantor lays out the law pretty well, and links to some great resources, including the photographer’s pocket guide. Unless you’re photographing a military installation, or using a zoom lens to get at someone where they have an expectation of privacy, you can do whatever you want. This applies in particular to photographing the police, who are granted extraordinary power by the public — they are supposed to serve us, but we know that they have a tendency to abuse their rights. Photographing the police isn’t just a right — it’s an important check on their power, and lets them know they can’t get away with doing whatever they want (at least not in public).

The City of Miami police ought to know this, but they repeatedly ignore it, regularly harassing photographers on the street (I’ve been the subject of such harassment), and sometimes meeting having these rights pointed out to them with brutal beat-downs.

OK, so a photographer who was in town photographing the Anna Nicole Smith mess decided to come down to Miami to photograph the transition along Biscayne Blvd. He came upon five City of Miami cops who were apparently questioning someone. He began photographing them, and, well, here’s his account:

One of the cops told me to keep walking because this was a “private matter”.

I said that I will not keep walking because this is a “public street”.

Within seconds, the five officer left the first man alone and came after me. One cop escorted me across the road. As I stood on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road, the cops began surrounding me, which was when I shot several more shots.

That was when they slammed me against the pavement even though I offered no resistance, causing a deep abrasion on my right knee. One officer grabbed me by the back of the head and repeatedly bashed my forehead against the sidewalk, causing abrasions and swelling to the right side of my forehead.

Another officer grabbed my right hand and bent it backwards in a 90 degree angle, causing me to scream out in pain and continuing to do so even after the handcuffs were placed on me. As I verbally protested, one officer threatened me with a taser gun if I did not stop talking.

The officers charged me with five counts of disobeying a police, one count of obstructing justice, one count of obstructing traffic, one count of disorderly conduct and one count of resisting arrest without violence.

On the arrest affidavit, the officers lied several times in order to justify their arrest. They accused me of photographing them without identifying myself, which is not true (and not even against the law as far as I know). As soon as one of the officers questioned me about taking photos, I immediately identified myself by name and profession.

There is an interesting debate going on on the photo’s flickr page, but one thing is for sure: this is not an isolated incident.

Recently a lawsuit was reported against the Miami Police for actions during the 2003 World Trade Organization protest. Seems they had trouble with what this young lady was doing. Rather then beat her up (how macho would that be?) they destroyed her belongings, including her car (!), detained her for extensive questioning, and then left her stranded in downtown Miami.

Are we surprised? Um, no. Our police officers doing whatever they want is par for the course. What is surprising is how well tolerated this stuff is. The debate linked above is full of “he should have done what the police told him to do” type of comments. This is another indication of how we’re willing to let the government do whatever it deems fit post — 9-11, and not question our “betters,” and it’s disturbing, not just from a civil libertarian perspective, but also from a “we’re giving the terrorists what they want when we sacrifice our freedoms for a false sense of security” perspective.

What we should be doing is holding demonstrations in front of police headquarters over incidents like this, and asking our elected officials to send a message to the police that this stuff will not stand.

Update: The photographer is Carlos Miller, and he was on assignment for Category 305. Read Rebecca Wakefield’s article about the incident, which includes a more detailed description of the incident and comments from Miller.

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  1. Tere    Tue Feb 27, 08:57 AM #  

    Great post, Alesh. I agree. Many police officers violate our basic rights – and then lie about it – on a regular basis, and it’s sick how tolerated it is. I hope that photog gets his day in court, that the cops’ lies and brutality don’t remain covered up, and that the law prevails.

    As a side note, I must say, my WORST police experiences have always been with City of Miami police – ranging from indifferent to rude to downright frightening and abusive. Don’t know what it is about that force in particular…

  2. Adam    Tue Feb 27, 09:35 AM #  

    The problem is that even if they arrest you on false pretenses it is a major hassle for you and just another day at work for them. You still have to go to court, get a lawyer, pay bail, wrangle to get your camera back, etc, etc… Unless you are prepared to be a martyr and really stick it to them, by the end of the case the individual cops get away with a winkwink slap on the wrist and you walk away with a criminal record, exposed film, and a night in jail, plus attorney fees.

    Also the law in this country is so nitpicky that the police can almost always nail you for something that you are actually doing wrong (disorderly conduct—what does this even mean?) to make it that much harder to fight.

  3. Guv    Tue Feb 27, 10:35 AM #  

    People who say “you should have done what the cops said” are way too willing to give up civil liberties… The guy was taking pictures. The cops can hassle the photog., ask for identification, etc., but there is no need to get violent in the absence of violence.

  4. dreaming    Tue Feb 27, 10:50 AM #  

    if what really happened is how this photog says it happened, then he has grounds for a civil rights lawsuit w potential for major damages.

    any self-respecting civil attorney would take this case for a pecentage of potential damages awarded.

    mostly this is a matter of poor training of police, the fault for which lies at the upper management level of the pd, where, if there are inadequacies, the fault for which lies in city government at the top.

    as a journo for more than 30 years, im not surprised by the cops’ behavior. sometimes, common sense dictates obeying what you know to be foolish, potentially brutal commands by law enforcement. but we should all know that street police are not the best educated individuals, so to expect them to behave like constitutional law experts is to invite problems.

  5. I was there    Tue Feb 27, 11:02 AM #  

    Miami Police + Cuban Coffee + Too much testosterone = Dangerous combination.

    Steer clear whenever possible.
    Like you do when you approach a rabid dog.

    Don’t try and explain your Constitution Rights to a rabid dog.

    Don’t give up your civil liberties, just be smart and understand that cops are dangerous.

    Walk away or be exceedingly polite and lie to them…tell them your mother or father or sister or brother is a fellow police officer or a judge. They are not too smart and you can usually diffuse and confuse them with bullshit.

  6. l'elk!    Tue Feb 27, 12:40 PM #  

    having dealt with miami police on a number of occasions, i’ve learned to not step directly on the red line and test their knowledge of civil rights.

    i am not saying the photographer was wrong or that we should all submit to the will of the police but if you front yourself agressively, even if its diplomatically agressive, the police will return with agression. thats just their nature. thats the type of mentality that makes them join the police force to begin with.

    but still, no, i dont think occurances like this should be tollerated by the city.

  7. I was there    Tue Feb 27, 12:47 PM #  

    I forgot to factor in the uncomfortable uniforms that increase their level of extreme irritability.

    I hope the photographer is awarded a nice cash settlement and that these aggresive officers get seriously reprimanded.

  8. Guv    Tue Feb 27, 01:02 PM #  

    Yeah, good point about avoiding entanglement, but law abiding citizens should not have to be afraid of the law enforcers. That being said, I sympathize with them. It’s a thankless, stressful job, with the potential of real danger. Still, it doesn’t mean you can beat down citizens who are not violating any laws.

  9. Biscayne Bystander    Tue Feb 27, 01:31 PM #  

    Police in Miami act like a big bully. Remember what they did to reporter Mike Kirsch?

    I will never forget how I watched as one of my good friends from UM was arrested outside a club on South Beach for explaining to the officer how our other friend got punched in the face by some punk with a roll of coins in his fist. The arrest, much like the initial attack, was totally unwarranted and certainly unprovoked. The cops ended up handcuffing him in the back their van, parked across the street from the station, and preceded to punch and open hand slap him in the face. His injuries were soo bad he required emergency surgery to repair his eardrum. By the time he was let out on bail the following morning, his mother had already flown in from Jamaica with a purse full of money. They hired a top attorney and the city paid out handsomely.

    The incident should have never occurred and the residents of the City of Miami Beach should be appalled at how their tax dollars are being spent to pay for the incompetence and brutality of their officers.

  10. Rebecca W    Tue Feb 27, 01:32 PM #  


    By the way, Carlos Miller is based locally and he was doing a story for Category 305 when this occured. I wrote a piece about it for the site, which you can find here: http://www.category305.com/magic-city/miami-police-arrest-journalist-10.php

  11. srcohiba    Tue Feb 27, 03:02 PM #  

    There’s always 2 sides to a story and I wasn’t there. But there are occasions where folks start sounding off to the cops and incite them.

    And again, there are a bunch of bully boys on the force and even more bully boys who simply work for private security companies cause the cops wouldn’t hire them.

    I was one morning shooting the skyline from Watson Island at 7:00 a.m. wearing a suit (I was on my way to Court), and Border Patrol agents starting giving me 23rd degree. Rather than give them attitude, I advised them that I was a photographer and that I was also a lawyer and showed them my FL BAR card. At all times very polite. They pretty much let me be. Irony is that they were hassling me (the dude in the shirt and tie and suit) and left the riff raff around me alone. Go figure.

    And Dreaming, as a civil rights lawyer, we wouldn’t touch any of these cases unless there was a major beating or incarceration. The cases nearly always get thrown out on qualified immunity. And yes, you can file an IA against the cops, and chances are that unless you have independent witnesses or video, nothing is going to happen.

    While chances are that all the bogus charges will likely be thrown out at some point (they love to charge you with resisting arrest (felony) and if you happen to touch them (battery on a police officer (felony). Then you will need to hire defense counsel (typically a $2500-$5000 initial retainer) and have to appear in court a few times, etc.

    I was also hassled by some minimum wage earning pinkerton behind Mercy hospital for taking pictures of seagulls on the dock. Needless to say that there is no sign anywhere re: pictures, but it was private property, but again, they don’t need to cop attitude. I just treat them all with kindness since they are wankers and cannot help it.

    My advice, if you really want to take pictures of the cops, use a 300mm lens or longer and do it from a distance. And please note “I was there” that this isn’t a latin thing as you insinuate. There are plenty of departments here in Broward and throughout the country that don’t drink Cuban coffee who have nut jobs on their dept. There are also a bunch of good cops on the depts. as well. Sadly it takes a few morons to tarnish the good ones too.

  12. b.a.c.    Tue Feb 27, 04:07 PM #  

    In Miami there seems to be more morons than good ones SrCohiba

  13. I was there    Tue Feb 27, 04:12 PM #  

    Pardon me srcohiba regarding the Cuban Coffee comment…

    I meant to say Espresso + Steroids + Donuts

    I do appreciate the Police departments effort in the community…I have been both assisted and harmed by them in my life.

    I would rather have them out there, than Anarchy.

  14. Manola Blablablanik    Tue Feb 27, 04:39 PM #  

    Guys, one of those cops was a female so add “raging estrogen” to the list …

    There’s no question those cops were definitely assholes. In the end the photog could’ve just clicked a few frames and continued on his merry way, no big deal.

    Srcohiba, perhaps you can help answer this: I realize that it is legal to take pictures except for the rules Alesh states above, but is there any “law” regarding shooting at a crime scene, for example, when cops are in the process of investigating? Or in this case, when cops had pulled someone aside? Just curious …

  15. srcohiba    Tue Feb 27, 04:44 PM #  

    B.a.c. actually its the morons who get all the press cause it doesn’t make good news to write about cops assisting drivers and helping people.

    Better to sell papers with a headline: “Cops Beat Crap out of Quadroplegic Photographer in Wheelchair.” than “Cops help Little Old Lady with Flat Tire” or “Cops help find Tourists’s stolen purse with all money and credit cards intact.”

    And I’ll never forget the time a friend of mine and I were stopped by Miami Beach cop after crossing that bridge from 395 to Miami Beach. Apparently a speed trap. And he carries shotgun and tells us to get out of car. We say, we’re just going fishing. He tells us “I just want to get home alive.” We say, ok, but what’s going on. And he says, “you guys went 10 miles over the speed limit.” He gave us warning and no ticket. But it still is freaky to have a shotgun pointed at you. The 2 of us were clean cut, caucasian, dressed normal and smoking cigars. So goes to show they treat everyone bad.

    Now try driving through those hick towns in central and north Florida and you’ll wish you were back here.

  16. srcohiba    Tue Feb 27, 05:31 PM #  

    Manola, it depends.

    If it is out in the public, it is fair game, so long as you don’t interfere with what they are doing. If you are across the street with a telephoto lens, then you’re fine. If you start getting in people’s faces, in the way, make yourself conspicuous, they can hassle you about it and claim you’re interfering with their investigation.

    the only law out there is one criminalizing conduct that interferes or impedes a criminal investigation.

    BTW Manola, there are some who say that the female cop also has raging testosterone as well. Lest we forget those East German olympic atheletes from the 1970’s and 1980’s. They had more 5 o’clock shadow on their face than I do.

  17. mkh    Tue Feb 27, 05:41 PM #  

    Rebecca, congratulations on getting the same emotionally unstable comment denizens as the Herald and the Sun-Sentinel! C305 must be hitting the big time!

    Alesh, thanks for bringing this to my attention. I was present for some of the FTAA ugliness, and as a result I doubt I’ll ever really trust Alvarez (and he wasn’t even responsible for the worst of it).

  18. Jeff    Tue Feb 27, 06:29 PM #  

    I believe, the Officer gave the weiner photographer fair warning. It is so easy to judge cops with the stupid overused donut jokes, that are just worn out. I believe that this schmuck was probably interfiering and sticking his nose where it did not belong, and I personally don’t believe this weiner got BEAT UP! When there is a Home invasion robbery, Car Jacking, lurking sexual predator, or some suspicious idiot loitering in your back yard a COP is probably the 1st person you think about. For the FTAA imbeciles, they forgot to mention the urine and feces bombs, the sleeping dragons, and pipe bombs that were seized by LAW ENFORCEMENT from these clowns. You have a right to protest but not destroy our city like they did in Seattle, Kudos to the cops for controlling the actions of the snot nose kids who don’t have any idea why they are protesting in the 1st place. I wouldnt want my picture taken anyway. Anyway liberals these comments are the reason why our country has become on gigantic toilet

  19. I was there    Tue Feb 27, 07:14 PM #  

    Thanks for the well worded and sensitive comment Jeff.

    It seems as if your idea of a “fair warning” can be a physical warning if the LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER chooses to administer a physical warning in addition to or along with a verbal warning.

    The bottom line is LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS do not need to be so Fucking Aggressive and Rude 75% of the time.

    Oh, and by the way what is a sleeping dragon?

  20. Tere    Tue Feb 27, 09:06 PM #  

    Sleeping Dragon


    a nerdy computer game

    Quite possibly, China

  21. mkh    Tue Feb 27, 09:41 PM #  

    Jeff, I promise that if you are getting the shit beat out of you by some cops I won’t take your picture, I’ll just assume you deserved it. Deal?

    Remember, kids: Always respect authority, right or wrong! They have badges and guns because they are better than us.

  22. Robert    Tue Feb 27, 09:42 PM #  

    Sorry folks, but my common sense detector failed to go off when reading Miller’s account.

    If the police are conducting some business, the last thing I think they would want is somebody a few yards away taking pictures, regardless of whether it’s a private or public street.

    To make matters even more ridiculous, Miller spites them by taking additional photos after being told to leave. And he has the nerve to complain about the way he was treated?

    It’s a pretty simple rule: if a cop tells you to do something, you do it. It doesn’t get more basic than that.

    There are plenty of cops who are jerks. Frankly, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. These people are out there to protect us and deal with nasty people on a daily basis. They’re not out there to hand out candy and marvel at the wonderful weather we’re having.

  23. alesh    Tue Feb 27, 11:26 PM #  


    “Do whatever the cops tell you to do” is a perfectly reasonable principle. I believe it’s the foundation of what we generally refer to as a police state. Luckily, this here country was founded on a different principle (see “Civil Liberties”).

    As the system currently stands, the cops are paid by us to take care of people that are breaking the law. That’s it. They have the right to react to someone who’s BREAKING the law. If someone’s NOT breaking the law, and the cops act anyway and then make up some charges that are difficult to disprove, that would be an act worth condemning. Can I get you to agree with at least that much?


    Right. The old “they never report about the cops busting the bad guys and doing good stuff.” Not only is that untrue, but it misses an important point — cops doing the “good stuff” you mention are just doing their damn job. Cops doing shit like this are violating the particular authority that we the people have granted them. I wish there were a 0 tolerance policy about that.

    But here’s what really bothers me, and it regards your Watson Island story — what’s a non-lawyer, non-journalist regular guy to do? If the police tell them to stop taking pictures, their only recourse would seem to be to shut up and obey. And note that according to the Photographer’s Rights flyer (yes, I got my PDF working), it’s actually a violation of the law to coerce someone to stop photographing by suggesting that they might get arrested.

    I mean, here’s a guy who’s a journalist, and has some credibility and experience dealing with these situations, and HE gets beat up and arrested. Well, at least we get to hear about this case. But I have friends who have had the shit kicked out of them by cops for taking pictures on public property and they were grateful to be given the opportunity to leave without getting charged with a bunch of bogus fucked-up charges.

    We can disagree about whether asshole cops are in the majority or the minority, but one thing is for sure — this stuff is tolerated way too much both within the department and outside it.

  24. NicFitKid    Wed Feb 28, 12:49 AM #  

    You know, as a rather scruffy looking individual who spends twelve hours a day on South Florida’s roadways delivering other people’s crap and sneaking a few pictures here and there to alleviate the inherent boredom of my job, I find this story more than a little disturbing.

    A full-on credentialed press photographer can be beat up and arrested by Miami PD and then brought up on bogus charges. What would happen to little old me (or you)? Probably a lot worse, plus no journalist friends to publicize the story and help us out of a jam.

    Although maybe if Robert stopped by he could wag his finger at me for taking pictures at all (terribly suspicious, I know), and Sr. Cohiba can tell me another story about the utility of his Florida Bar membership card.

    Too bad about the unstable Freepers and other wingnuts invading the c305 story thread. Watch out! They may invade here soon as well, and then we won’t be able to hear each other over the din of death threats and verbal diarrhea. Jeff may be the vanguard.

    Oh and FYI, I Was There and Tere, a sleeping dragon is a protest device, usually pvc pipes with padlocks and chains or handcuffs inside. The idea is to get a group of people to lock limbs within the pipes and then sit down as one linked mass of passive resistance at the protest site.

  25. Victoria    Wed Feb 28, 03:07 AM #  

    These comments about cops just doing thier jobs just shows true ignorance and ego. How about you have to deal daily with the violence of seeing women who’ve been rapped, old ladies assaulted, removing perverts and drunks off the streets. Seeing day in and day out the ugliest forms of humanity. Crack addicts, people with desease and having not only to talk to them but touch them see them commit violent or illegal acts just to have them back out on the streets again with YOU now as the primary target DAY in and DAY out. If you had any idea the amount of heart and soul that’s involved when you see some elderly woman who’s been beaten and you make it your mission to try to get the scum off the street before they do it again. You know what, if they do this for us, for not near enough pay we should have the respect to fore go our egos for one minute when they ask you to move or leave in a somewhat moddy or bossy way. Everyone needs to get over themselves. The levels of stress that are involved with doing this job should be respected by the public. And if you want to deal with nice friendly happy go lucky patrol cops maybe you should move to Idaho. An Urban area is not for you because to deal with tuff criminals we need tuff cops. Just stay out of thier way and let them do thier jobs. These egocentric comments, oh a cop can’t tell me what to do, what is this a police state are out of line with reality. I wish we lived in a world where we could all be sweet. Luckily cops shelter us enough from the ugliness that most don’t even know what ugliness is really out there. I don’t by any means condone police brutality but at the same time I don’t condone harassment of our protectors by the public either.

  26. Victoria    Wed Feb 28, 04:10 AM #  

    NicFitKid “They may invade here soon as well, and then we won’t be able to hear each other over the din of death threats and verbal diarrhea”. Although I do say that we need to stop letting our egos get to us when confronted with these situations, America is still the country of free expression and I don’t believe anyone should be off put to speak out and voice thier opinions. I doubt cops are looking to get back at someone who makes some inpersonal comment. It’s more when people step in to an already stressful situation and decide that they are special (i.e. photographer etc.)and have the right to do whatever they want up to the point that they cross the line. Why not stay a foot back from the line and then possibly come to a forum like this and express your distress.

    “One of the cops told me to keep walking because this was a “private matter”.

    I said that I will not keep walking because this is a “public street”.”

    I think if this photgrapher came to us with just these comments saying he did as they said and what is our opinion. Not that many people would have had that much issue with the police officers initial reaction to the photog taking pictures.

    Common Sense + Curtesy…Ya know

  27. mkh    Wed Feb 28, 01:05 PM #  

    Actually, Victoria, yes. If you are on a public street anyone can take a picture of you. If you have an issue with it you are well within your rights to ask that they not do so, but you have no recourse if they decline your request.

    Except, of course, risking jail by tasering them (or worse). Which is the larger violation of the unwritten social contract: taking the picture of a camera-shy person, or assaulting them for doing so?

  28. emily    Wed Feb 28, 02:17 PM #  

    Hey, sorry to chime in a little late, but I’m the gal with the lawsuit against the City during the FTAA madness (waves hello). Yep, they destroyed my car, and my photographic negatives as I was a photography student at the time, and they unlawfully detained me. Jerks. It’s unfortunate that a law-abiding person can be taken advantage of by these creatons. My suggestion for everyone is to really know all of your rights as a citizen, and familiarize yourself with the ACLU...you may need them to help you one day (cause I sure as hell did).

    Anyway, I’m glad you wrote about this story, cause god knows it’s not the only one, and sure won’t be the last.

    Ps- if anyone is interested in the details or ongoings of my story hit me up emlikesart at g mail dot com.

  29. Nhuts Adler    Wed Feb 28, 03:02 PM #  

    Robert — So what you’re saying is if a police officer pulls you over, gives you a pistol and orders you to shoot your passengers in the face, you’re gonna do it? I mean that is what you suggest under the “basic concept” that when a police officer orders you to do something, you do it. And I don’t find it spiteful for a private citizen/working journalist to continue photographing law enforcement officers in the act of violating their first and fourth amendment rights.

    Victoria — Carlos was on a public street photographing public officials, law enforcement officers, performing their public duty. On top of that, Carlos had a legimate reason for snapping those pictures since he is working on an assignment about Biscayne Boulevard.

  30. Dan    Wed Feb 28, 05:24 PM #  

    Jeff’s comments here are particularly absurd to anyone who was at the FTAA protests and witnessed firsthand the widespread brutality exhibited by the Miami PD. (At least, one assumes it was the Miami PD. Difficult to tell when they had no identifying markings other than “POLICE” on their flak vests.)

    To anyone who was there, this ridiculous absurdity that the police were taking action against violent protestors who were throwing “feces bombs” or whatever is just that — absurdity. Violence was instigated by the police. Said violence was not limited to a few bad apples. It was widespread throughout the city and victims included both nonviolent protestors and innocent bystanders, along with journalists, photographers and anyone else who happened to have the bad luck to be in the street when a sweep occured. I’ve blogged about the FTAA thing here and here among other times.

    The tendency among some people to just say “do whatever a cop tells you to do and you won’t get hurt” — as exhibited by Robert in this thread — is positively breathtaking to anyone with critical thinking skills and an even basic knowledge of the Bill of Rights. I mean, how sad is it that in America, supposedly the land of rugged individualism, we have people who are such mewling milquetoasts when it comes to authority figures? What the hell has happened to us as a society? The reductio ad absurdum here, as illustrated above by Nhuts Adler, proves the idiocy of such a line of thought.

    As for Jeff’s other “point” that “When there is a Home invasion robbery, Car Jacking, lurking sexual predator, or some suspicious idiot loitering in your back yard a COP is probably the 1st person you think about.” Actually, if my home is being invaded, the cops are about the 10th thing I’m thinking about, since if I relied on them, I’d be dead before they got there, and probably before I even hung up the phone with 911. Christ.

  31. Coconut Grove Grapevine    Wed Feb 28, 05:35 PM #  

    I had the work crew at the Home Depot site chase me off with sticks when I tried to take blog pics. Good to know the laws were on my side.

  32. Victoria    Wed Feb 28, 06:12 PM #  

    I ofcourse know that it is legal to take pictures of anything you want on a public street. My point is just because it’s allowed doesn’t mean it’s ok. It seems to me that we have a lot of angry photographers on this site who have experienced being asked not to do what they love. I’ve noticed that it’s not just the police that get upset. Seems like everyone is a little photo shy (i.e. security patrols, the home depot workers mentioned). I was treated like a criminal the other day when taking a pic of a piece of furniture at Anthropologie of all places. AND I wasn’t shooting it for pleasure but to consider it for PURCHASE no less. I think a common courtesy rule of thumb would be to ask anyone whether public official, public street, bystander, store, inadimant object :)if they mind before we set our focus on them. It’s not about civil rights, just courtesy.

  33. Horatio Cane    Wed Feb 28, 07:08 PM #  

    It’s the right of journalists, whether those who write or take photos, to document reality and history. Can you imagine the great images of the past being taking by wusses who would ask “is it ok?”

    Look, by all means, this situation could’ve been handled differently by both the photog and the cops. (Rick has a good account of that here.)

    I believe in courtesy but this is beyong that. This would call for some kind of protocol, not something you learn at Charm School.

    The deal here is that it wasn’t just someone taking a picture of a hot girl in a bikini on South Beach, but someone reporting. This is the basis of checks and balances in this society. Once you start telling photogs they can’t take pics in a public situation, what’s next?

  34. Curious Photographer    Wed Feb 28, 07:30 PM #  

    How does the public property rule apply in the case of public buildings such as Government Center? Once I was stopped by Wackenhut security guards and told that photography inside the building and on the G.C. Metrorail station platform are prohibited. Is this lawful?

  35. mkh    Wed Feb 28, 10:00 PM #  

    Victoria, many retailers — operating in privately owned space — won’t allow photography out of fear of knock-offs, and they are within their rights to not allow it, because it’s private property. Even though most stores allow pretty much anyone with a credit card in the door, it is still at their discretion to do so, and what rights you give up on entering.

    In a similar direction, CP, the laws on public use of space get a lot murkier when you factor in the PATRIOT Act and DHS. You’ll get a poor reaction when snapping photos at many utility sites and government buildings due to the “potential threat” you might pose. (Visit Turkey Point with a camera in hand and see what I mean.) I know there was quite a bit of trial and appeal going on with that topic, but I can’t recall how it all turned out.

  36. alesh    Thu Mar 1, 09:05 AM #  

    As everyone probably knows, Rick has been having a field day with this, first stating that while he doesn’t think they needed to slam his face in the street, that Miller is an “arrogant prick” and the police had every right to arrest him.

    But the real doozie came yesterday, when Rick talked to a Police friend of his who told him he was WRONG and he completely missed the point. When I pointed this out he suggested that I’m an arrogant prick and deserve to be “tuned up,” too.

  37. bopbe    Thu Mar 1, 10:59 AM #  

    i know for a fact police everywhere can arrest you, charge you with any number of misdemeanors and maybe felonies. and after you have spent a night( if you post bail) or more in jail, you are now branded a criminal. and thus, you have less credibility in society, but especially, in the eyes of cops. the police have unchecked power everywhere; their words are more valuable than yours, according to prosecutors and judges. and no one gives a fuck. We want cops to get ‘bad guys’, at any price; except, when we end up in jail for taking photos(obstruction) or worse, not agreeing the assessment of the officer on the scene(resisting arrest).
    this happens everyday here in miami, the county, the state and the world. they intimidate you with the threat of arrest, they assume you are criminal when they see you. I know there are ‘good’ cops, i have seen them on tv. but i live in a world, where i can be jailed at any given moment. I feel great anxiety every time i speak to a cop. I feel my heart starts to race and blood pressure start to rise. for me, it is the unequal power that is my problem. I can handle most conversations with my parents, bosses and other authority figures. but cops really scares me.

    The photographic image have become a threat to ill-behaved cops. maybe we all should carry cameras at all-time. or at least, learn how to have access to all the surveillance cameras, that seems to be everywhere.

  38. Rick    Thu Mar 1, 12:18 PM #  

    As everyone probably knows, Rick has been having a field day with this, first stating that while he doesn’t think they needed to slam his face in the street, that Miller is an “arrogant prick” and the police had every right to arrest him.

    But the real doozie came yesterday, when Rick talked to a Police friend of his who told him he was WRONG and he completely missed the point. When I pointed this out he suggested that I’m an arrogant prick and deserve to be “tuned up,” too.

    Your first paragraph is accurate but I would add that I also said that I hope the officers that handed out the alleged beating are disciplined.

    Let’s see, your second paragraph. First sentence, pretty good except that I completely understood his point and understood I had made a mistake in my prior post, as I say in the comments.

    Let me quote something that I wrote to Steve Klotz yesterday via email after he expressed his belief that I favored police and that had clouded my judgment on this issue.

    I pride myself in being very objective when it comes to the actions of law enforcement officers, Steve. The archival history of SotP will show that I have criticized LEO’s just as much as I have defended them from people like NFK and Alesh, who, while I respect, are unabashedly anti-cop and never have anything good to say about them.

    I have to disagree with you on my cloudiness on the issue. I called out the MPD for abusing the guy and I do hope the officers responsible get disciplined or removed. They have no business wearing a badge. My only lack of clarity was, as I said, a LEO’s ability to order someone out of a public area under the circumstances that were there that night. That was based on ignorance, not prejudice.

    So I GOT the point, Alesh. If you would have taken the time to read my comment immediately above yours in that thread and consider what it meant when I said:

    I was obviously mistaken to think the Miller could be arrested by MPD after being ordered to move along.

    I think it was pretty damn clear that I understood what my friend told me.

    Finally, when you come over to SotP and drop a piece of crap like this:

    LOL. Rick thinks someone can be arrested for “being an arrogant prick” and when one of his Police friends tells him he’s wrong it “doesn’t change his world view.”

    That’s Rick in a nutshell. Shellac this example and hang it on the wall for future reference!

    Don’t expect me to play nice, Alesh. It’s wrong, it’s inaccurate and it smacks of condescending arrogance. Which really doesn’t surpise me, as my reaction to it shouldn’t surprise you.


  39. Rick    Thu Mar 1, 12:23 PM #  

    Notice how well this commenting system that NO ONE else uses, italicizes. Primo stuff.

  40. alesh    Thu Mar 1, 02:45 PM #  

    Hi Rick!

    Don\‘t worry, I\‘m certainly not surprised.

    Yes, sometimes cops do something so egregious that even you find it condemnable. That doesn\‘t have much to do with your defense of them in other cases where they\‘re wrong.

    You\‘re do a good job of nitpicking this argument apart, all the while completely missing the point — you conceded being wrong about the particular instance, great. But the larger point — that you think cops are in charge of us and get to boss us around, and deserve our deference — that you\‘re holding on to for dear life.

    And your insinuation that anyone who doesn\‘t share that particular point of view needs to get \“tuned up\” would have been disgusting if it wasn\‘t so funny.

    I\‘m not irked by at all considering the source, but you should check yourself with your use of the terms \“cop-hater\” and \“anti-cop.\” It so happens that I\‘m neither — I just have a sober, non-romanticized view of the police. When I hear about one going above and beyond the call of duty I\‘ll mention it.

    But a copy DOING HIS JOB corretly is in my opinion no more worthy of praise then ME doing MY job correctly (especially when the background is the \“blue line\” wherein cops protect each other even when they know their fellow officers have done wrong).

    On the other hand, cops breaking the rules is MUCH WORSE then me breaking the rules, because they have so much authority granted them by the law, and it\‘s a violation of the public\‘s trust.

    (as for the italics, i just went in and fix your mess. next time, try using the \“preview\” button and at least Glance at your message!)

  41. Rick    Thu Mar 1, 04:25 PM #  

    LOL. Like you glanced at yours, Alesh? Hilarious!

  42. alesh    Thu Mar 1, 04:38 PM #  

    Yep… unrelated problem which unfortunately I can\\\‘t fix at the moment.

    I guess that\\\‘s all the response you have :-/

  43. Rick    Thu Mar 1, 04:42 PM #  

    I just posted one and your excellent system erased it. Why the eff bother?

  44. alesh    Thu Mar 1, 05:59 PM #  

    I note with some interest that you’re the only one that reports repeated problems with the system. Over a hundred comments in the last week and nobody else reporting problems.

    Is someone maybe having a problem with the preview/submit concept?

  45. Adam    Thu Mar 1, 07:05 PM #  

    I believe I lost a comment in the middle of this thread.

  46. Rick    Thu Mar 1, 07:41 PM #  

    Oops. And you were saying, Alesh?


  47. Biscayne Bystander    Thu Mar 1, 07:41 PM #  


    You come across as the type of person that used to get picked on as a kid…for a reason.

  48. Rick    Thu Mar 1, 09:04 PM #  

    And I had pimples, and no friends (except for that one imaginary one), and everybody would always steal my lunch.

    Originality was never your strong point, was it, BB?


  49. alesh    Thu Mar 1, 11:28 PM #  

    I seem to recall a long post recently where Rick gave his readers “tips” on dealing with his comment system. If I recall correctly, one of the suggestions was to save the entire comment somewhere else in case Blogger freaked out and lost it (which for awhile it was doing > 50% of the time).

    Of course that’s not necessary here, since, worst case, a simple click of the “back” button will take you back to your comment, but Rick might try it as a sort of “training wheels” until he gets a hang of things.

    Note to y’all: you click “Preview.” The page reloads, and you hit “Submit.” It’s Adam’s first time here, so I suppose he can be forgiven a little confusion. I’m not sure what Rick’s excuse is.

    But don’t worry Rick, I won’t take your “accusations” too seriously — it’s human nature to blame the computer when they do something wrong. Just ask Steve.

  50. Rick    Fri Mar 2, 07:29 AM #  

    I’m ///*&^s?orry ()Alesh$%. You’r/e ((rig$t. This &is (ac/tuall@y a gr///e+at sys=t/em.


  51. alesh    Fri Mar 2, 08:30 AM #  


  52. Steve    Fri Mar 2, 10:59 AM #  

    I don’t blame the computer. I blame Alesh. As regularly as my morning dump, and the similarity doesn’t end there.

  53. I was there    Fri Mar 2, 11:24 AM #  

    Steve and Rick ought to stay “on topic” or take a hike.

    I read criticalmiami daily, comment a lot and never have problems.

    The bottom line is this:

    The life of a Police office is stressful.
    Guns, criminals and long hours.

    The public expects the Police officers ONLY to appear when there is a PROBLEM.

    No one likes people “up in their business” when they are working….taking pictures of ANYONE without the courtesy of asking permission is rude…Constuitutional rights or Not. This has to do with Human rights and common sense.

    If I don’t want my picture taken I will let you know, if you continue taking my picture I may cause your camera to fall out of your hands.

    Be Polite People.

  54. Steve    Fri Mar 2, 01:01 PM #  

    No one likes people “up in their business” when they are working….taking pictures of ANYONE without the courtesy of asking permission is rude…Constuitutional rights or Not. — “i was there’

    Rude? Perhaps. It’s also a vocation, the practice of which has been around for a long time, the results of which are sometimes called “news” or “art,” specimens of which sometimes aid the cause of justice when admitted as evidence, and products of which sometimes become historical treasures.

    Rude, you say? Causing other people’s cameras (or other private property) to fall out of their hands is rather rude in and of itself, as well as illegal.

    All of us need to respect one another’s consitutional rights, including those hard-working police, who choose to compete for their profession, and work hard to win a job.

    On topic enough?

  55. alesh    Fri Mar 2, 09:30 PM #  

    The specific elements vary among the states but in general it is unlawful for anyone to instill a fear that they may injure you, damage or take your property, or falsely accuse you of a crime just because you are taking photographs.

    — From Photographer’s Rights, Bert P. Krages II

    By my reading, depending on their choice of words and tone of voice, the officers in this case may very well have broken the law the very first time they asked Miller to stop photographing.

    I was there~

    A similar point was brought up during the discussion on SotP. I agree that taking pictures of people after they’ve asked you to stop is impolite. But I insist that we confuse “impolite” and “illegal” at our peril.

    I would also point out that unlike me, Police get overtime for their long hours. Otherwise I agree that their job is difficult and stressful, but if you’re trying to suggests that it excuses any of the behavior in this case, then you should consider getting your head examined.

  56. I was there    Fri Mar 2, 10:07 PM #  

    No, no , no….I am the first to support the rights of photographers “doing their thing”.

    I love Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Helen Levitt and countless others….and I know the news must be reported and important events need documenting…perhaps my statement about causing a camera to fall was merely figurative….the photographer we’ve been discussing was “pushing the buttons” of these already uptight cops and from a purely karmic perspective he had an ass whooping coming to him….I’m sorry for him.

    But like I said in comment #5:

    regarding cops….
    Steer clear whenever possible.
    Like you do when you approach a rabid dog.
    Don’t try and explain your Constitution Rights to a rabid dog.

    Use the proper lense and shoot from a distance…it’s a jungle out there.


  57. alesh    Fri Mar 2, 10:40 PM #  


    We’re just a couple of digital dudes sitting around talking, and we can conflate the moral and the legal if we recognize we’re doing it and if it’s interesting to do so.

    So the question, I was there, is: do we give a thumbs-up to Miller for his actions in this case, or a thumbs-down?

    Note the presence of the FLASH, which makes a photographer much more of a presence (read: distraction) then otherwise. Note also this comment, and scroll up to see my note which it references — personally, when I’m photographing, I make as small a footprint on the situation as possible. When being unobtrusive is impossible, I weigh the importance of getting a picture against the potential distraction it causes others. In the case of Subtropics, I switched to a smaller, much more silent (but poorer quality) camera, so as to avoid disturbing my fellow spectators.

  58. Jonathan    Fri Mar 2, 10:41 PM #  

    Alesh’s comment system turned me into a newt.

  59. kingofrance    Fri Mar 2, 11:04 PM #  

    I think dealing with cops here is a lot like dealing with cars when you’re on your bike. Even though you may have the right of way or the legal right to be on the road, you have to yield to the car because it’s going to win every time. I’ve spent the night in jail downtown and trust me, if a cop now tells me to move along, along is where I’m moving.

  60. I was there    Sat Mar 3, 08:35 AM #  

    Mr. Miller had a serious life lesson to learn the day he got beat up. I’m sorry for that, and wish he did not get hurt….yet somehow I think he will end up at an advantage if he takes his case to court.

    I think he was being foolish and impolite to continue shooting pictures as he was being surrounded and questioned by the pigs.

    I think his youthful exuberance got the best of him, yet I applaude his willingness to burn off some karmic residue and for giving us all something to discuss for the last few days. He has every right to “get it on” with the cops, but he should know that it can become costly and painful.

    He was on assignment for catagory 305?
    Was he covering some kind of historic world event, Christ rising? Anna Nicole Smith shopping at Bayside with Elvis?

    I don’t think he is going to win a Pulitzer Prize for his catagory 305 “assignment”.

    But he did gain a very important life lesson.

  61. alesh    Sat Mar 3, 10:09 AM #  

    But he did gain a very important life lesson.

    Person A does something bad to person B, and the best you can do is “person B learned a lesson”?

    Come on, dude — we’re human beings, and when someone does something bad, we can condemn the behavior, not just say the victim learned a lesson.

    If he was acting “foolish and impolite” that does not makes the police actions any less condemnable.

    I think the c305 article does a reasonable job of justifying the journalistic value of what he was doing, but I think that, too, was irrelevant.

    For the sake of arguing the principle, I almost wish this wasn’t about a journalist, because I resent the fact that journalist photographers have more of a right to photograph something then regular people.

  62. Jonathan    Sat Mar 3, 01:26 PM #  

    For the sake of arguing the principle, I almost wish this wasn’t about a journalist, because I resent the fact that journalist photographers have more of a right to photograph something then regular people.

    Sure. Anybody should be able to take photos of cops or criticize cops or shout obscenities at cops without being hassled. And in better-run cities the cops tend to be better behaved.

  63. I was there    Sat Mar 3, 07:48 PM #  

    Poop on the pigs.
    What more can I do to condemn what the cops did?
    This is what cops do. It sucks.
    Mr. Miller provoked the cops and he sadly suffered as a result.
    It sounds as if cops instigated things, too.
    Why can’t they just be nice? Because they aren’t. Cops too are foolish and impolite with danger,law, bad ass attutudes and guns added to the equation.

    Off topic note: thanks to this blog I visited the Fruit and Spice Park with the family today for their annual Asian Culture & Arts Festival, which continues tomorrow. GO!

    The Chinese Michael Jackson impersonation was worth the drive…..in addition to tons of great food and crafts!

  64. Virginia    Sat Mar 3, 08:22 PM #  

    The photographer should have been able to take pictures from a reasonable distance. The police have a difficult job, and I appreciate what they do for us, but someone needs to keep an eye on them just like they keep an eye on us. That’s what the press does. By keeping the press from doing their job, the police are restricting the public’s right to know what happens in the community – no matter how irrelevant.
    One good example is that most trials in this country are public: the people have a right to see whether their justice system is being, well, fair. Same thing with the police: if we can’t take pictures of them doing their job, they may end up doing extactly the opposite of their job description.

  65. I was really there    Sun Mar 4, 12:45 AM #  

    For the one who calls him or herself “I was there”:

    I don’t think Carlos Miller is the one who is going to learn a life lesson on this. I think it’s going to be the cops who arrested Miller.

    And hopefully, you will also learn an important lesson from this:

    That it doesn’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize winning story for a journalist to stand up for his First Amendment rights.

  66. I was really there    Sun Mar 4, 12:48 AM #  

    For the sake of arguing the principle, I almost wish this wasn’t about a journalist, because I resent the fact that journalist photographers have more of a right to photograph something then regular people.

    They don’t.

  67. I was really there    Sun Mar 4, 12:54 AM #  

    Constuitutional rights or Not. This has to do with Human rights and common sense.

    If I don’t want my picture taken I will let you know, if you continue taking my picture I may cause your camera to fall out of your hands.

    And you will also end up on the wrong end of a lawsuit. So much for your “common sense”.

  68. Jonathan    Sun Mar 4, 12:13 PM #  

    By keeping the press from doing their job, the police are restricting the public’s right to know what happens in the community – no matter how irrelevant.

    Local news reporting depends heavily on information provided by government officials, which creates a conflict of interest for TV stations and major newspapers that rely on official cooperation in reporting stories. This is an area where the Internet can help a great deal, simply by relaying information.

  69. chuck    Fri Mar 30, 06:25 PM #  


    anyone else have a sneaking suspician that the folks defending police brutality on this thread are actually cops themselves? or just 12 year olds who have never been outside their bedrooms.

    the fact that people think that cops are always right is a disturbing sign of how the public is being slowly prepped for a police state.