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  • Civilian photos identification legality issue

    Suppose a civilian has been observing illegal activity and has a lot of very good photos taken of those activities on the street but using a camera inside her own home.

    Add to that a couple of patrol officers who know the streets well and know every single troublemaker on the street.

    Would there be a legal problem with the patrol officers going over the photos with the civilian and identifying who is who, particularly those with records and possible probation violations?

    I ask this hypothetically but it involves a very real situation.
    Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.
    Happiness never decreases by being shared. -- Buddhist quotation
    A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. -- Proverbs 15:1

  • #2
    Clarification:

    The purpose of such identification isn't to satisfy curiosity but rather to get a sense of what is going on in order to persuade higher ups that a UC operation (or some other focused effort) would be worth it.
    Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.
    Happiness never decreases by being shared. -- Buddhist quotation
    A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. -- Proverbs 15:1

    Comment


    • #3
      If the photos are for intelligence purposes only, they will probably be helpful. However, as the photos are passed farther up the chain in an attempt to sell a directed enforcement operation, the greater potential for their source to be compromised. Anyone looking at the pictures should be able to determine where they were taken from. All it takes is one person in the chain to inadvertently shoot their mouth off at the wrong time and in the wrong company and your photographer could have a problem.

      However, if the conduct in the photos is going to form a basis for legal action such as a probation violation, then the officers are going to have to produce them in court and they are going to have to be authenticated. This means the person who took them is going to have to identify themselves and testify as to the date, time, location and circumstances under which they were taken and more importantly, what the photos depict. For example, a still photo of someone's lips on the lips of another could depict a kiss, CPR being administered, or someone falling and the accidental brushing of faces, etc. Without the photographer there to explain what the photos captured, they are meaningless. In otherwords, the photographer will most likley wind up in court as a witness and their activity will be exposed.

      Considering the neighborhood in question, give it some thought.
      Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

      Comment


      • #4
        The illegal activity is a significant drug sales operation, being performed by what are likely members of a local street gang, one of whose members is in jail (no bail) on a homicide charge. This is for the shooting death of a rival gang member, whose brother was just two weeks ago convicted of two homicides and an attempted homicide. All of it gang associated. The shooter on the most recent homicide was just arraigned last week.

        Arrests on the drug activity might help leverage info on the most recent homicide.

        The photos + explanations would help get the focused attention on the drug activity. If a UC operation was approved & carried out, then these photos, hopefully, would not have to be used to build a case on the drug charges.

        The photographer is prepared to stand up in court if need be, but of course it is better if that can be avoided.


        An officer I was speaking to earlier this evening wasn't sure it would be legal for him to tell the photographer who the people in the photos are. Perhaps he's just being uber-careful re: constitutionality.

        Originally posted by L-1 View Post
        If the photos are for intelligence purposes only, they will probably be helpful. However, as the photos are passed farther up the chain in an attempt to sell a directed enforcement operation, the greater potential for their source to be compromised. Anyone looking at the pictures should be able to determine where they were taken from. All it takes is one person in the chain to inadvertently shoot their mouth off at the wrong time and in the wrong company and your photographer could have a problem.

        However, if the conduct in the photos is going to form a basis for legal action such as a probation violation, then the officers are going to have to produce them in court and they are going to have to be authenticated. This means the person who took them is going to have to identify themselves and testify as to the date, time, location and circumstances under which they were taken and more importantly, what the photos depict. For example, a still photo of someone's lips on the lips of another could depict a kiss, CPR being administered, or someone falling and the accidental brushing of faces, etc. Without the photographer there to explain what the photos captured, they are meaningless. In otherwords, the photographer will most likley wind up in court as a witness and their activity will be exposed.

        Considering the neighborhood in question, give it some thought.
        Last edited by rubyrose; 08-05-2008, 11:40 PM.
        Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.
        Happiness never decreases by being shared. -- Buddhist quotation
        A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. -- Proverbs 15:1

        Comment


        • #5
          In another thread you stated that your camera gave off a green light when it snapped a picture. This apparently alerted some people in a parking lot. One possibility is that your photo taking could be interfering with undercover operations that even the higher up officials you deal with do not know about.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by rubyrose View Post
            An officer I was speaking to earlier this evening wasn't sure it would be legal for him to tell the photographer who the people in the photos are. Perhaps he's just being uber-careful re: constitutionality.
            I don't know about a constitutional issue, but it would be bad form for the officer to share that information with a civilian, just as it would be bad form for him to share the identity of the photographer with someone who did not have a need to know and a right to know that information.

            Additionally, it's one thing if the civilian photographer spontaneously decides on their own, to surreptitiously photograph ongoing drug deals on a long term basis for use by law enforcement. But if they do it at the request of an officer who is looking for creative ways to eliminate crime on his beat, then the photographer has become an agent of the police. This may create certain legal responsibilities on the part of the department towards the photographer. Unless the officer has first cleared this with his brass, asking the photographer to do this could get him in hot water.
            Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

            Comment


            • #7
              The only advantage to giving a name, is if that if a crime occurs and she is calling it in she can better identify who is commiting it. Instead of the one wearing a white t-shirt and long shorts routine. They could now describe what they are wearing a give a name. As long as none of the persons personal information is given out, I don't really see an issue. I won't even get into the photo stuff, I would not advise someone to do it, but if they did I would not exactly hold it against them. Any one is free to photo what they wish and ask for us to look into suspicious activity. If they show me a picture of what they are claiming happens, I am alot more inclined to believe it. Because I get the so and so sells dope routine and it is rarely substantiated.

              Comment


              • #8
                Troll

                Here she is again wanting to be the POLEECE...
                Last edited by grumpyirishman; 03-03-2010, 01:56 PM.
                "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm" -George Orwell

                "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing diapers." - Blues Brothers

                Comment


                • #9
                  The short answer is no, it is not a problem.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I spoke with the Chief and the DC Operations at the National Night Out event; plus the Chief and several other top cops as well as two investigators have been receiving my emails on this, so I doubt that is the case.

                    But thanks for this reminder that often the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing. I will pass the info along to someone I know who is in special investigations.

                    Someone tells me to leave things alone I need no further explanation.

                    Originally posted by Dinosaur32 View Post
                    In another thread you stated that your camera gave off a green light when it snapped a picture. This apparently alerted some people in a parking lot. One possibility is that your photo taking could be interfering with undercover operations that even the higher up officials you deal with do not know about.
                    Last edited by rubyrose; 08-06-2008, 09:26 AM.
                    Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.
                    Happiness never decreases by being shared. -- Buddhist quotation
                    A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. -- Proverbs 15:1

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The point of sharing the information is that the photographer is present 24/7 to observe, whereas officers are around only the length of their shifts and even then are not always present on this street. Having identities would enable more informed calls.

                      Also, e.g., suppose a particular person is observed with drugs and then disappears out of sight. The officer knows every troublemaker on the street and so therefore would know where to go to look for the identified person.

                      All of it making the 911 call more efficient and more likely to produce an arrest.

                      The photos are EXISTING photos. They would be useful for "connecting the dots" in figuring out exactly what is going on, knowing who's who. It might be particularly helpful to the DA's office investigation of a recent homicide so they can build a better case.

                      Originally posted by L-1 View Post
                      I don't know about a constitutional issue, but it would be bad form for the officer to share that information with a civilian, just as it would be bad form for him to share the identity of the photographer with someone who did not have a need to know and a right to know that information.

                      Additionally, it's one thing if the civilian photographer spontaneously decides on their own, to surreptitiously photograph ongoing drug deals on a long term basis for use by law enforcement. But if they do it at the request of an officer who is looking for creative ways to eliminate crime on his beat, then the photographer has become an agent of the police. This may create certain legal responsibilities on the part of the department towards the photographer. Unless the officer has first cleared this with his brass, asking the photographer to do this could get him in hot water.
                      Last edited by rubyrose; 08-06-2008, 09:36 AM.
                      Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.
                      Happiness never decreases by being shared. -- Buddhist quotation
                      A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. -- Proverbs 15:1

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        No, that's not what would happen.

                        Suppose Mike is doing something. Photographer calls 911 and say Mike is doing xyz. No need for pic.

                        The main reason pics are taken is to help to identify people. Someone may look like Mike and isn't, Having both their pictures makes it possible to see if it's the same person or not.

                        Also by reviewing the photos and memorizing faces, if the photographer sees someone out of context on a different street she knows to be extra careful.

                        Very useful.

                        Originally posted by juicesnn4e2
                        I as an officer wouldnt tell you. You don't need to know. Your not sworn personell. The picture wont change with the fact if you know his name or not.

                        Lets say I give you his name (mike), and you decided to take more pictures of (mike), and (mike) see you, hes going to think your a cop, and if he pulls out a weapon and starts shooting at you, make sure you pull out your house issued camera and shoot back.
                        Last edited by rubyrose; 08-06-2008, 10:39 AM.
                        Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.
                        Happiness never decreases by being shared. -- Buddhist quotation
                        A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. -- Proverbs 15:1

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Hoping to avoid that, but if necessary, will do.

                          I can't be encouraging others to "do the right thing" if I'm not prepared to do so myself.

                          Originally posted by juicesnn4e2
                          Are you going to testify as a witness?
                          Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.
                          Happiness never decreases by being shared. -- Buddhist quotation
                          A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. -- Proverbs 15:1

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Your photos would be be just about useless in a criminal prosecution. So you're taking pictures of activity in a parking lot. So what? So Mike is a stone killer with a ten page rap sheet for selling drugs and he's in the middle of the lot. So what? Are you a sworn LEo trained in observing drug trade interactions? Are you observing with field glasses? The police cannot use your information in any way other than deciding whether or not to begin an investigation, your photos are legal proof of nothing other than people in a parking lot.
                            Last edited by Dinosaur32; 08-06-2008, 09:55 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I understand that my photos are not sufficient to send anyone to jail on, because what looks very obviously like a drug transaction (including very visible baggies and cash) can be explained away. Without a bag with testable drugs in it, the photos can't prove anything.

                              The whole point is that the photos CAN leverage an actual investigation. That's a long, slow bureaucratic process to make that happen. Because of the expense involved in that kind of investigation, it has to be clear that such an investigation would be worth the time and expense. My mere description of the activities would not likely be enough to convince the powers that be. The photos back up my descriptions and make it easier to identify the people involved.

                              The wheels are just now being put in motion, with the meeting I had tonight.

                              The main thing, however, is that, given the personnel involved, this is about more than drugs. Drug arrests could leverage information on some homicides. I can't tell you how I know this.

                              What the photos CAN also do is give a clue to the official investigators who among my neighbors are the key players.

                              I was simply saying, in response to the question, that if need be I'd be willing to testify. I don't expect I will have to, precisely for the reason you indicate.

                              Nonetheless, just FYI, I've been observing drug transactions for over four years, both on this street and on another, and discussing my observations with numerous officers over that time period. And the zoom on my camera can pull in pretty tight on activities hundreds of yards away, even in low light conditions. That, of course, does not take the place of the training and equipment of a sworn officer. But I can tell you this much: the quality of my photos usually startles officers when they see them. No, not as good as a trained officer, but a damned sight better than what you'd expect from the average citizen.

                              Originally posted by Dinosaur32 View Post
                              Your photos would be be just about useless in a crininal prosecution. So you're taking pictures of activity in a parking lot. So what? So mike is a stone killer with a ten page rap sheet for selling drugs and he's in the middle of the lot. So what? Are you a sworn LEo trained in observing drug trade interactions? Are you observing with field glasses? The police cannot use your information in any way other than deciding whether or not to begin an investigation, your photos are legal proof of nothing other than people in a parking lot.
                              Last edited by rubyrose; 08-06-2008, 09:49 PM.
                              Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.
                              Happiness never decreases by being shared. -- Buddhist quotation
                              A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. -- Proverbs 15:1

                              Comment

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