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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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Previous comments

Can I have all your medial records? You probably don't have anything to hide, so give them to me. If you don't, I'll suspect you have a horrible STD. Why aren't you showing them to me?

Belligerent and racist to boot. Tsk.

@facebook-507745098:disqus - Resign?  You make me laugh.  @facebook-644654204:disqus -I guess a Fire Dept is where you belong.   Maybe you didn't get the jist of what my comments were about- so let me speak simple to you:  Yes- go along with the program.  The cop asks you for ID, just give it to him.  Why start the meeting off on a bad note?  What does it hurt? The cop wants to know who you are.  Give him the few minutes of respect and he will probably give you the respect back.  When I stop a car, I can usually tell whether or not i'm going to write that person a ticket within the first minute of talking to them.  Yelling at me, insulting me does you no favors.  We see these videos and everyone wants to yell that cops are all jerks and should be tarred and feather.  Wait a minute- how many thousands of contacts are made between photographers and cops every day? We see a few examples and that causes everyone to be in an uproar?  If I were to take that approach then every person I see with a camera is problematic and will be confronted as such.  You wouldn't like that would you?  It also appears that several may have missed my statement that I also am a photographer. If I wasn't I sure wouldn't be reading this website.  If anything, I'm the cop that you want to meet.

First I don't appreciate your insult and the fact you are hiding behind some fictitious name.  I have two Officer of the month awards and have undergone 8 surgeries for putting my life on the line (six in police work and 2 in Fire Rescue).  Please don't belittle my 17 years of service and the brotherhood between Police and Fire.  Switching was my choice and difficult because I loved police work.

My point is - that just because we carry(ied) a gun and a badge does not mean there is not a constitutional framework we must respect and follow.  In this recording you can hear that the Police officer is not acting within that framework.  That is the issue here.

Depending on your (police officer's) age, maturity, experience and tenure  - these encounters can be very different.

Looking forward to meeting you one day and sharing a coffee or beer, until then stay safe and happy shooting (pics that is).

I guess your welcome...I try to have the highest respect for what officers do everyday
but if you are not trying to protecting our freedom, what are you doing? :(

Ahhhhhhh Hi trollbot so do you work for which police department or conservative propaganda machine

I get stopped by the cops pretty regularly because I take photos of vacant storefronts. Usually it's not an issue and I can get away with just telling them I'm a student (even though I'm not, it seems that works better than "I'm a photographer, the photos are for my body of work" because they ask what I want to use the photos for and who's paying me, etc...). But one time I had a cop ask "How do I know you're not just casing the place?" and I had to remind him that it's a VACANT STOREFRONT and there's nothing to steal (at which point he looked a little embarrassed and went on his way).