Here's the photo Dominic Holden took as he approached the scene. Soon after police threatened to arrest him and visit him at work. Photo courtesy of Holden and The Stranger.
Here’s the photo Dominic Holden took as he approached the scene. Soon after police threatened to arrest him and visit him at work. Photo courtesy of Holden and The Stranger.

What happens when you notice cops surrounding a man and decide to take a few photos of the scene? Well, for one Seattleite, it nearly meant being handcuffed.

Dominic Holden.
Dominic Holden.

That’s what went down for Dominic Holden on Tuesday evening in downtown Seattle after he came upon several police officers crowded around one man. It was natural for Holden, a news editor at The Stranger, to check out what was going on as a reporter.

He snapped a few photos with his phone and that’s when everything escalated. One officer threatened him to leave the transit station property or be arrested. He moved to a sidewalk, but the officer demanded he leave the entire block.

“You need to leave or you’re coming with me,” the officer told him.

Holden crossed the street and then asked a few questions to another officer. Then this happened:

Instead of answering, Officer Marion asked why I was asking him questions.

I explained that I’m a reporter and I didn’t think I’d broken any laws. He asked what news outlet I worked for. The Stranger, I told him.

Then Officer Marion said this: “I’m going to come into The Stranger and bother you while you’re at work.” He asked for my business card so he could get the address to come to my office, and, twice more, he threatened to come harass me at work. His point, he said, was that I was “harassing” him.

In other words, I stopped and asked matter-of-fact questions in a normal tone, and this SPD officer—with two colleagues at his side—escalated the situation without prompt or segue by threatening to “bother” me at my job.

Officer Marion became physically agitated when I took his photo (that’s him giving the Come at me, bro gesture), and left the scene.

The county and city police departments confirmed to Holden later that in fact his picture-taking was completely legal.

“Creepy Cameraman” films ordinary people in public, and they often do not like it.

Holden’s experience reminds us of the anonymous Seattleite who walks up to random people around the region and starts taking video of them without explanation. This man, who we’ve coined as “Creepy Cameraman,” elicits interestingly similar responses as to how police reacted to Holden. Many of the people that the Creepy Cameraman films say that he needs their permission to record them in public places.

Of course, police and everyday citizens are a little bit different. But the point remains the same: People take serious issue with being filmed.

Creepy Camerman’s videos are an apparent commentary on the pervasiveness of public surveillance, which has taken on a whole new twist with the recording capabilities of Google’s Project Glass. His latest videos also come at a time of heightened concern over privacy in general, given the NSA data surveillance controversy.

Both Holden’s experience and the Creepy Camerman videos highlight an issue that will become more common as Google itself pushes forward with its Google Glass high-tech augmented reality glasses, which include video recording capabilities. One bar in Seattle has already banned the glasses pre-emptively.

Previously on GeekWire: No Google Glasses allowed, declares Seattle dive bar … YouTube pulls latest ‘Creepy Cameraman’ video, cites harassment

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  • Guest

    Key difference is that Holden did what he needed to do to back his use of Freedom of the Press, he stated who he was and who he worked for. SPD failed big time on this one. I am going to bet this makes national news quickly.

    • pmocek

      Neither Holden’s employment nor the fact that he announced it is relevant to this situation.

  • iconoclast

    “…he needs their permission to record them in public places.”

    well…no, he doesn’t. He does need permission to commercially use pictures of them however. But if I want to take your picture in a public place you have no right to prevent me.

    And this goes treble for police–public servants have no expectation of privacy at all. But I expect all police have been taught the lesson of Rodney King–with no photo proof any lie will be accepted by the courts.

    • pmocek

      Though such permission would be courteous, no such permission is required by law.

      • iconoclast

        it is true it would be courteous to ask before filming/photographing private individuals. But since the city and thousands of businesses do no such thing as ask maybe not asking will sensitize people to how often their image is captured every day.

        • davidgeller

          To ask permission is to seek denial – which would surely be their natural response. Better to know your rights and proceed without asking them for permission they have no right to deny (or give) then to allow them to believe they have the right to say no and then appear to go against their will.

  • Guest

    Kudos to Mr. Holden for standing his ground. Keeping a watchful eye on our watchmen is essential to guaranteeing equal treatment for all Seattle citizens.

  • Nathan Kaiser

    He has every right to film the police. This was even upheld by the Supreme Court:

    Good on Mr. Holden for engaging in his rights as a citizen (it doesn’t matter that he is also a journalist).

  • Guest

    Honestly, this really doesn’t have so much to do with the creepy camerman as it does the increasing problem across the country of police forces systematically violating first amendment rights like this.

    The ACLU has a good resource on this here:

    I hope Holden and the Stranger file suit against SPD over this. SPD has serious problems with harassment and abuse of citizens. They also have problems around video, not just being filmed but refusing to hand over video they’ve taken when ordered:

    On top of the many failures of the current mayor, his inability/refusal to rein in SPD and make them accountable is probably his biggest. Which is puzzling since you’d expect someone as hard left as him to take on the police and their unions.

  • Dennis J. Smith

    This really concerns me that the police in Seattle behave like this. I hope action is taken against this officer and the department. We need officers that work with the public and build a level of trust. Not this holier-than-thou attitude.

    • davidgeller

      Agreed. Interestingly, too, that the area around the station is supposed to be the primary jurisdiction of the Metro Police which is managed by the King County Sheriff. In fact, maybe all the way up until the sidewalk by be Metro/Sheriff space.

      • GetBothSides

        Yea, and I bet if you there getting mugged and two Seattle officers were across the street you’d expect those officers to do nothing since it’s not their jurisdiction?

    • pazzia

      nypd has been acting like this for ages. nothing has changed despite numerous stories about it.

  • EB


    And it doesn’t stand for File Transfer Protocol either…

  • GetBothSides

    I’d be willing to bet there are two sides to this story.

    Holden isn’t as innocent as he’s making himself out to be.

    • Lafollette

      Isn’t as innocent? The is nothing wrong with taking a picture of a cop, even a touchy one, except that a really bad cop might beat you up.

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