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[Video] Pennsylvania Photographer Versus The Law

Some of you may remember the post from a few weeks ago titled Photographer Vs. Security: The Ultimate Showdown. Well, it looks like yet another photographer has been harassed and decided to make light of the situation. Jason Macchioni, a Pennsylvania-based photographer, had a run in with police in his area and as is par for the course these days, tempers flared.

Macchioni was making a timelapse video on an overpass near his hometown when suddenly a few officers arrive on the scene to question him. Everything appears to be civil until backup arrives, and then everything goes downhill from there. Macchioni knows his rights and stands his ground, which definitely bothers these officers. Eventually, they find out Macchioni is recording the dialogue - and that's when it begins to get heated.

Just what, exactly, are law enforcement and security officers around the world afraid of? What will it take to put an end to this behavior? It seems the mentality is that if photographs are taken of public areas, the terrorists will win. Macchioni's full description of the event and his thoughts can be seen below the embedded video.

I was shooting a time-lapse which I'm still working on, I arrived at this site around 9 and was there for about 3 hours until these two cops rolled up! At first I was calm and refused to give ID, After the second cop was breathing down my neck and really threatening me. I gave in and tried to get them to leave. Then stuff got heated.

The first officer (Charles Tobias) was nice but just couldn't grasp what I was doing after 4 explanations, He started to become angry when backup arrived, I guess so his fellow cop knew he was tough and could handle me? I gave him my ID even though I knew I didn't have to, to try to make them leave asap, After the second cop (Cleland) notice I was recording become very upset, I guess he doesn't like evidence when he breaks laws and infringes on a citizens rights. He also told me his dash cam and microphone was NOT on. Which I think you must have that on a call like this?

Officer (Harry Cleland) starting saying off camera that "if he wanted to hurt me he would have just came up and did it and stomped my phone and beat me up if he wanted too". I told the officers I wanted to record to protect my self cause a lot of people being "mistreated" by the police. The officer (Celand) said well that's mostly the "blacks" fault, People getting beat up.

He does not know Pa Wiretapping laws at all and my right to record! I have run into this cop before, I was shooting a car accident and this cop said 'If you don't leave, I'm going to confiscate your camera". So now I know he has a record of violating citizens rights!

After the video stops, He (Cleland) went on a rant about people recording cops and thinking "they" know the law and about him thinking "black people are the problem, cause of drugs and crime". They left I took a breath and checked my phone, My heart sank further knowing it didn't catch-all of it. It did catch one thing, Him (Cleland) threatening to arrest me for recording him. Which is against the law, Harry Cleland

These Cops need to learn the law when it comes to photographers, and I can't wait for my public apology.

Have you had a run-in with law enforcement while out shooting? What are your thoughts on these situations that seem to occur every other week? What will it take to see a change in perspective on the behalf of law enforcement? It is proving to be much more difficult than we ever imagined to spread the word that we're not out to disturb the peace, we just want to make some creative videos or photos.

Mike Kelley's picture

Michael Kelley (mpkelley.com) is a Los Angeles-based architectural and fine art photographer with a background in digital art and sculpture. Using his backgrounds in the arts, he creates images that are surreal and otherworldly, yet lifelike and believable. A frequent traveler, Michael's personal work focuses on the built environment of unique

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This is ridiculous. I've been in the identical situation. Cops showed up when I was shooting a timelapse off a bridge at night. They had reports that there might be a sniper (because of the camera) and came to investigate. Instead of immediately getting in their face and being a dick, I answered the questions they had and ended up having a great conversation while my timelapse was finishing up. They actually smiled for a picture afterwards so I could post the story on Twitter.

The problem here isn't the cop, it's the guy that disrespecting cops that could have showed up to the scene expecting something much worse. That cop was calm and is trained to call in backup when somebody gets aggravated. 

Why don't you just show him your ID and let him be on his way. If he tries to kick you off the bridge THEN show off your knowledge of laws.

Have to agree with Dave, why not try it the calm way? If you aren't doing anything wrong why don't you want to give him your ID? Yes, have to admit, some cops are really stupid and don't even know which side of pen is used for writing. But that isn't any reason for not showing your ID.

In Czech republic you have to show your ID to a police officer who's asking for it. If you won't do it, you're breaking the law. In many situations a win for photographer doesn't have to be a optimal win. They might arrest you for any reason they might think of, even you not willing to get arrested and you might spend few hours in jail. Finding a compromise might, not saying it will in each and every time, save you a lot of time and will save you trouble with law.

Photographer is a job. Also police officer is a job. Both of you were doing your part but you have to realize one thing. Photographer cannot win. If there will be a quarrel with a cop, he calls backup and they'll escort you to jail. After some time you'll be set free but is it worth it? You are out there to make images so do your part and let other people to do their own.

Some thoughts Dave .... why should he show the ID if the law does not require it (law on his side) yet if asked to leave the bridge, it is at that point he can claim the law is on his side?

Why the inconstancy?

That's the problem with cops in the USA. They don't realize that they're there to defend the rights of citizens granted by the constitution.  You don't have to show ID. ANY further harassment by the police is their own doing.  If they have no probable cause to suspect the person is breaking the law, they're supposed to leave them alone.

Refusing to show ID is exercising your rights as a citizen.

By your logic if the cops had asked him to stop doing what he was doing he should just have stopped even though he was lawfully allowed to take photos.  By your logic I should do what ever a cop asks me to do even if it violates my civil rights.  If a white cop pulls me over without reason want to search my vehicle -  because I'm black I should asset my civil right jbecause the cop might arrest my ass and toss me in jail as for being black and suspicious.

Unfortunately racism is a big problem not just in USA. On the other hand if he cannot understand what I'm doing I'll show it to him. Almost everybody in photography has an iPad, iPhone or some other device that they carry with them and can show his work. If cop won't get it even after this, there is no hope for him to understand anything. Might not even see a difference between a pig and chicken.

Then I'd stand up for my rights and if something like this happens, I might call police on my own.

Good for you you showed an ID you didn't have to and the point isnt that he should have handled it better its that the Cops should have handled it better. Once they ascertained he was photographing the traffic an not breaking the law the cops had nothing further to do there. 
The insistent thug I would not use the term cop to describe him after escalates and persists simply because his attempt to be authoritarian was challenged. 

Ive had both types of run ins with the police and unfortunately it isnt a matter of how you act its all about does the officer have the brains

Same here.  Hand him your ID, he'll run it while you keep shooting, and it's over.  Cops have been nothing but nice to me when I've been out late shooting.

Just because you have the right to not show your ID, doesn't mean that you shouldn't. By not showing ID, I would have immediately became more suspicious of this photographer than when I walked up the first time. he could have showed the ID, let the cop realize that he is not wanted or commiting a crime or anything, and the cop would have left. The second cop would have never shown up because the first cop would have already left. I would not have a problem with a cop making sure I wasn't doing anything wrong and then leaving. He was just making sure his area was safe. But instead this guy was just a jerk. 

Dave really? suspicious of what TAKING A PHOTOGRAPH!!!!! obviously in your world a man with a camera is of course suspect of what ???? please help us fill in the blank.
or a cop according to you has the right to walk up to me to check me out for any criminal wrong doing because i am standing taking a photograph. Police are required by law to have an actually reasonable suspicion that you are in fact breaking the law before they can do as such. So your telling everyone that Mr office has reasonable suspicion that the photographer with about $2000 dollars worth of equipment is doing what exactly suspiciously.

The officer asked what he was doing he told him which was time lapse photgraphy the officer then continued to ask the stupidest question which is "Why", the photographers answer "Because I want to" the real answer is "Non of your business mr officer".

Lets be more blunt thug one was pegging the photographer as possibly a terrorist and didn't want to let go even though he obviously didn't have a clue.

Agreed. Seems the entire situation was avoidable. Good to know the laws and be able to protect yourself, but why provoke more of a scene than originally existed?

I don't live in the USA but I'm having the feeling that the Law enforcement officiers are the last ones who know something about the law!! (Maybe the only law they know is: I'm a cops and I do whatever I want!!) No seriously!! Where did they get those "so called" cops?!! 3rd Graders?! (With all respect to the "Real" Cops)
Any cops-photographers here?! What's wrong there?! We don't have those problems here in Germany (at least I never had problem with the Polizei)!!

Bottom line is this is typical of too many cops these days. They are suspicious of everyone and respectful to no one. The guy should be allowed to do what is legally allowed and they should leave him the heck alone. If it looks like he might be doing something wrong they should stop and find out...when they have nothing to go on they should back off and leave the guy alone. At all times they should be respectful and assume the best unless it is pretty darn obvious they a crime IS being committed.

the thing is the cop was trying to force him to do something that he had the right not to, if someone were to power trip like that to me I'd just stop talking, get arrested, take the story to the news, and get his ass fired.

I have to disagree with some above comments... It's no different than being in a public park in the middle of the day and a cop asking for your ID, cause you "look suspicious." That's not their responsibility to question people who look suspicious. It's to question someone breaking the law. If a cop questioned everyone who was suspicious looking then that would a pretty busy day for them. They should have known that he wasn't breaking the law and therefore wouldn't be any suspicion. This guy was totally in the right to refuse to show his ID. At one point the cop says, "show me your drivers license." If you aren't operating a car, you don't need a driver's license or a photo ID of any kind. This cop totally broke the law with every statement he threw out there.
Though the above statements about just "show him your ID and be nice" might avoid the situation getting worse it was only worse because of the cop's ignorance to the law. They believe that they have full right to do anything they want because they are cops, which is wrong. I think we are asking the wrong questions. It doesn't matter if the photographer was "rude" or angry toward the cops. It's not breaking the law to be rude or angry. It's the cops responsibility to know the law... which in this case they don't.

Seems to me like this could have been avoided by just showing the guy your ID.  It sounded like he was trying to provoke a response.  I would have shown the ID first and then if they were still infringing your rights you at least have a case that you were trying to cooperate.

Sounds to me like your rights would never be violated if you would just waive them. Dummy!

It's true that the guy could have and probably should have been less rude. The question he could have asked when the officer asked for his ID was, "Am I being detained?" This would establish the legal status of the request. In some states a person that is detained is required to provide an ID. If the officer says that he is not detained then the photographer could have said, "If you don't mind I'm going to get back to my business. Have a nice day."

 I don't think that cop would react appropriate to the situation...

When ever I see these videos, they always say they where not doing anything wrong, Which is often true, but he was being a jackass, so the cops are going to just make it harder for you. The best way is just to do what they say unless it is really out of line. Showing you're ID is nothing, unless you have something to hid.

Demanding you showing ID is completely out of line, If it is not required by law.
and it is almost NEVER required by the law.

I also agree with those who think the police were ok (yeah, ok, they were a touch obnoxious): their job is to investigate suspicious behaviour. If they approach someone who IS doing the wrong thing and that person also refuses to show ID, should they walk away? Is that what we want? There's a fine line between wanting the police to be involved and keeping our person rights.

Personally I carry in my camera bag an info sheet regarding copyright law and photographer's rights in Australia. Now I shall go and investigate the laws regarding recording people's voices in a public place, and be sure to have that written documentation on me too. I often don't carry my personal ID but I usually have a business card. I really think this photog was being a teeny bit obnoxious; not the kind of behaviour that gets police to go away! 

This photographer is just causing his own dramas and a fricken moron they should have locked him up for being a dickhead. If he didn't give them an attitude and he learned to explain himself properly there wouldn't have been an issue instead of ranting about the law. Reverse situation it's like being a wedding photographer and Uncle Bob telling you how to shoot and  how to do your job I don't think anyone would respond positively. So don't be surprised how they respond when you start telling them you know the law. In my country it's law you have to tell them your name and address  when asked by an officer it should be there too seeing your country's crime rate is a lot higher and you have terrorist threats and occasional snipers shooting people this photographer just makes other photographers look bad. What a douche.

Way over the top there dreamy!  Just because YOUR country requires it, does not mean his does or has to.
I'd be curious to see how you would react if the 'authorities' searched your house just because you 'looked' suspicious?  

Your a retard. Searching your house? Are you a moron too?
Your comparing searching a house to someone asking you for you id. .
Way over the top there Coles! Just because MY country requires it, where did I say that theirs does? I said it should require it seeing there country is in a worse state then mine. Dumb ass.

As usual I see both sides here, and as usual I think simply stating 'I'm not doing anything wrong, I'm not breaking the law' isn't enough. Give them a bit more then that, don't be rude and it's all good. 
I do agree that if you give any rights, why don't you give away all of them? Standing for your rights isn't a crime, but I think many of these videos come from people who could handle it better.

Here's my problem, PA wiretapping laws require all parties to the conversations consent before recording can legally take place...

So technically the guy could've gotten arrested for taping all this without the officers' consent


 Kongmw, I read the article that you posted.  It states in the article if both parties have a reasonable reason for the conversation to be private, it is illegal. Since the altercation happened on public property, both parties do not have reasonable cause to believe that the conversation is private.  This same law was challenged in Maryland when a speeding motorcyclist posted a video on youtube.

Sorry wrong you should read the whole thing  "oral (face-to-face conversations where there is an expectation of privacy/non-interruption) " The police and the photographer are all in a public space therefor the law does not apply. More to the point any laws that prohibit you from photographing or videoing in public are no constitutional (US Law) with some very very narrow exceptions.

Interesting topic.  Watch this guys handles it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTDu7mPxTj8

he only got through that because he had the safety of numbers.
There's no way you could do that alone on a dark bridge and walk away.

Any time I go someplace to shoot where I think the police or security may give me a hard time, I look up the law specifically, and print out a copy to keep with me.  I will immediately pull out the printed copy from the appropriate government agency and show it to them. It always shuts them right up.  I am also calm and respectful.  But refuse to be pushed around.

I agree he's being a bit of an ass. He got rights, he knows them, but he's not using them the right way. It's not a "I-put-it-in-your-face-and-you-can't-say-anything" type of thing to do. I've been pulled over a few times and if you're respectful, you speak to the cops like they are humans, you just might end up with one or two new friends. It also helps to be in law school...

Who wants to work driving car all day, having gun, give people orders and see fear from peoples' eyes for little money? It is very easy to become a cup and most of candidates have big personal issues. They want to pay back for being bullied at school or for being abused at home.

This photographer could show them ID and comply but... there is a real problem behind that.
That is the photographer who was just taking pictures and that is the one who is expecting police to take care of safety on the street. Instead police is wasting time with guy with camera and 2 miles away somebody is getting stabbed or shot...

Cops are looking for easy targets but they don't have the guts to go into "bad" zones.

BTW. Why I can take pictures with iPhone but with dSLR I am a terrorist?

The officers are guilty of malfeasance.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malfeasance_in_office

>Malfeasance has been defined by appellate courts in other jurisdictions as a wrongful act which the actor has no legal right to do; as any wrongful conduct which affects, interrupts or interferes with the performance of official duty; as an act for which there is no authority or warrant of law; as an act which a person ought not to do; as an act which is wholly wrongful and unlawful; as that which an officer has no authority to do and is positively wrong or unlawful; and as the unjust performance of some act which the party performing it has no right, or has contracted not, to do.

Malfeasance in office requires an affirmative act or omission. The officers made claims about laws that do not exist in Pennsylania.
Second, the act was done in an official capacity—under the color of office.

I am a police officer, and a photographer.  Have I been called to suspicious people? Yep. Every day. Do I ask for ID? Yep, almost every time.  Had this guy just gave the cop his ID, odds are he would have just been on his way. So many times I see photographers whine about being hassled, yet when I watch and listen to the videos they try to show up the cop and play 'know it all'.  Why would I want his ID? Sometimes the departments require that names be recorded on every citizen contact. Maybe I want to make sure that the guy i'm talking to isn't wanted for murder. How do you think the cop would feel if he later learned that the guy he just walked away from was wanted for child kidnapping?  Guess what folks- in the real world not everyone is a nice guy.  People lie to cops all the time, and we know this- so we ask for id.  Maybe this photographer was creating a traffic hazard on the bridge and wasn't supposed to be there.  Also consider that not everyone out in the middle of the night are honest, good citizens.  Usually two people out in the middle of the night- drunks and thieves.   Are there idiot cops? Yep, and we know it.  

Also look at this- just because you print out a law that says you can photo on a public street, you may not always be in the right.  There are other laws, and city ordinances, which may regulate you in other ways.  Don't act big and start throwing laws around- we know them too.  

My suggestion- go along with the program.  If the cop asks for ID, give him your ID.  If you're not doing wrong you have nothing to worry about. If you feel the cop is in the wrong, call his/her supervisor, or ask for them to come to the scene. Don't tell the cop what he can, or can't do.  He may dig up an obscure law and arrest you just to prove his point.

I couldn't disagree with you more.  I am sad to see my fellow police brothers acting like this and hearing anyone defend this type of questioning and behavior - we do not live in a police state!  I'd love to see this course of questioning being defended in a court of law.

"My suggestion- go along with the program." - Really??  From an officer?  Please resign.

City ordinances that regulate behavior or an act that a photographer is committing should be appended to the law that stipulates the primary act. Especially if it supersedes it. For example, if you by your lonesome are doing something that doesn't create disturbance things might be fine. But then if a crowd gathers to watch that's probably a different story especially if people are at risk. 

I disagree as well.

If I'm sitting in a park after sundown with my hoodie pulled up because it's cold and a cop asks me for ID because I look "suspicious," I'm supposed to just acquiesce?  What, because he's wearing a badge??  I don't think so.
Your "wanted for murder" and "child kidnapping" worst-case-scenarios may indeed be somewhat plausible, but citizen's rights are citizen's rights.  Just because we live in a shitty world where "not everyone is a nice guy" doesn't mean our rights as citizens are any less substantive.

Except in this case the officers did NOT know the law -- at least not the PA wiretapping laws.  I'm all for being respectful, and to be honest I don't know if I would show my ID or not in a similar situation, but showing an ID when there is no probable cause is in effect a waiver of a constitutional right.  That might be a small deal to you, but a big deal to someone else.  "Go along with the program" strikes me as poor advice, regardless of the issue at hand.

Sorry but you just wrote some big ass cop propoganda bullshit.
Fear talk is wonderful ohh my god he might have been a child rapist posing as a photographer or oooohhhh a terrorist ya know a towel head ooohhh "fear fear scare scare". By the way I apologia to anyone I may have offended with that comment but thats the nature of what the post is about use tropes that will make people thing emotionally and not rationaly. You may not be in the right ??? well if your trespassing sure the officers weren't approaching him saying he trespassing they were asking what are you doing. lets jump to the only relevant thing here which is there are idiot cops.And kids always tell a cop what he can or can't do if he's breaking the law.

I am a former police officer and currently a Lieutenant with Fire Rescue and it makes my blood boil when I see officers who don't know the law pretend to quote some fictitious law and threaten the public they are sworn to protect.

Sorry to the police officer above - NO - just going along with the program is not the answer.  Did I ask for ID, of course but if a person knows and exercises there constitutional rights - THEY ARE TO BE RESPECTED!!! 

The Police officer lied and said you are not aloud to record.  In a public place there is no expectation of privacy and he is indeed aloud to record.  I became a police officer to serve and protect not harass and berate the public I was paid to take care of.

Police officer also here... very true there is no expectation of privacy in public for audio or video recording for both parties. I personnally always carry my mic when Im out of the car for this reason. I want both sides of the story recorded. If Im right I want proof. I did not watch the video because I have seen so many of the same. Usually its a little of both sides getting a little too huffy. After 9-11 everything changed. Where I am at, the railroad forbids anyone on their property. They officially requested us handle all suspicious person calls.That includes a lot of side roads and a bridges always used for photography of trains. Does a common person know they are trespassing on a bridge? Probably not. Guess what? It's trespassing. No one likes it and you have to move along. Do I get grief? ALL the time. People have no idea what information I was given before responding. "A person who put what looked like a gun in a big black bag above the railroad tracks?" Sure. I have to respond as that is accurate. If you become evasive that makes it worse. Every situation is different. Information must be gathered quickly and the person must be evaluated as a threat, lier, or someone hiding something, or a common law abiding citizen in a matter of seconds. Thats not always easy. Especially with society the way it is today.

Its only that way because we allow it to be, nothing changed other than people pushing to pretend that it has so they can abridge peoples rights.

Yes you get a call man with rifle on bridge and when you get there its a man with camera, that not hard to ascertain or to verify without having to do a strip search or even ask for id, just use your eyes

I want you as my police officer! 
Excellent and well said.

Very interesting topic. To be honest, I feel there's no middle ground here. I personally run into things like this occasionally (I live in Switzerland but also travel and have visited the US where I have been asked for an ID).  I just try to stay calm, show my ID and usually that solves the problem. Abroad I never argue but stop what I am doing if told to. At home I am much more confident to state my point and, of course, I know the laws better. I think we should show some respect for each other but also refuse to be pushed around by a cop who doesn't know my rights.

i'm glad i don't live in the US. The cops seems to be a pain in the ass all the time lol!

this is such a thin line to walk.....you either "protect your rights" and dont show ID, or, if you really have nothing to hide and are a law abiding citizen, then you show ID, and they leave you alone....honestly, if it were me, i'd just be like sure this is who i am, i have nothing to hide, i'm just shooting photos for fun, and that's it...if you want to to leave, ok...whatever...WHO CARES.....i'll go have fun somewhere else, and try something else....

the fact is that the police really are just doing their job....since 9/11 everyone takes "potential threats" seriously.....if someone called it in, or the cops just saw it riding by, obviously they had a suspicion, so they stopped to investigate.....they're doing their job in keeping the public safe....HOWEVER, if the cops were SMART, they'd have seen it was a camera, not a rifle, and been like ok, have a good night...if he's not posing a traffic hazard, then it's cool, we'll leave you alone....

i just think this was a bad situation, and the cops weren't smart, and the guy didn't make the situation any easier if he truly had nothing to hide...

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