Police in England have come in for a fair amount of criticism recently for their treatment of photographers (see here and here), but their US counterparts have received some attention too after detaining freelance photographer Lance Rosenfield, who was working for ProPublica at the time.
Rosenfield was driving away after taking photos of a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas when he was followed by a BP employee, blocked off by two police cars and detained. Rosenfield had remained in a public space outside the refinery while working. The police reviewed his pictures and recorded his date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. According to Rosenfield these details were then shared with BP.
Paul Steiger, editor-in-chief of ProPublica, said:
“We certainly appreciate the need to secure the nation’s refineries. But we’re deeply troubled by BP’s conduct here, especially when they knew we were working on deadline on critical stories about this very facility. And we see no reason why, if law enforcement needed to review the unpublished photographs, that should have included sharing them with a representative of a private company.”
Jules Mattsson, a 15-year-old photographer, challenged police officers attempting to restrict his photographing of an Armed Forced Parade in Romford on Saturday. As the recording posted to YouTube demonstrates, Mattsson was unrelenting in asserting his rights to the policeman, who eventually resorted to telling him he was a “threat under the terrorism act” and confiscating his camera. Mattsson can then be heard accusing the officer of pushing him down a flight of stairs.
Especially poignant this incident took place the day after photojournalist Marc Vallee and videographer Jason Parkinson won their case against the met for an incident outside the Greek Embassy where Marc had his camera grabbed and Jason had his lens covered by an armed police officer. Many have hailed this ruling as ‘a victory for press freedom’, and I would be inclined to agree. However, until the met’s guidance on photography and a clearer understanding of the law filters down to the streets, we will continue to see incidents like this.