LA Board of Supervisors Approves Settlement for Photographers Detained by Sheriff's Deputies

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March 5, 2015
Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/89463420@N00/5159520498/">J
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On March 3, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a settlement with three photographers who were detained by L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies while shooting photos in public places.

The photographers, Shawn Nee, Greggory Moore and Shane Quentin, filed a lawsuit in 2011 against the county and individual deputies charging that the deputies violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights by detaining, searching and questioning them for taking photographs of Metro Rail turnstiles, oil refineries and traffic in front of a court house.

The settlement includes $50,000 in damages for the photographers and implements training for deputies interacting with photographers or members of the public who are taking photos in public places.

The training details LASD policy that members of the public “have a First Amendment right to observe, take photographs, and record video in any public place where they are lawfully present” and prohibits deputies from “interfering, threatening, intimidating, blocking or otherwise discouraging” photographers from taking photos or video unless they are violating a law.

The training also makes clear that members of the public “have the right to photograph and record video of peace officers engaged in the public discharge of their duties” so long as they “are in a place they have a legal right to be present,” and forbids LASD deputies from requiring any person to show pictures or video without a warrant, or from deleting or destroying any photographic, audio or video recording under any circumstances.

In recent years many law enforcement agencies, including LASD, have instituted “suspicious activity reporting” programs designed to train officers to report certain activities believed to have a potential link to terrorism. Many departments include photography among the activities that should be reported.