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.
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.
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.