Photographer Harassed By RTD Officer
A few days ago at Market Street Station I was harassed by the RTD officer for exercising my rights to:
1. Take pictures of RTD officers
2. Take pictures of public property
3. Take pictures from public property
I was approached and harassed by an RTD officer who said that it was illegal to:
1. Take pictures of anybody, including the homeless man in question, without written consent.
2. Take pictures of RTD officers
3. Take pictures of RTD buildings/property
4. Take pictures while on RTD property (AKA public property)
He demanded that I put away my camera, which I did because I didn't want to risk arrest. This was impromptu copwatching on the way to a hearing on raising the RTD fares that I was asked to attend by a member of this list. I wanted to make sure that the homeless man's rights were not violated, since police seem to pick on them often. If you would like a picture of the officer coming towards me to confront me, I have a fairly high quality one available here:
There is a full blow-by-blow summary below but here's what you need to know:
1. I called RTD Legal, who told me it was within my rights to take pictures
2. I called Mike Gil (the supervisor of Fulton Bell, the officer who harassed me) and he told me that it was illegal to take pictures of RTD officers/property.
3. I need your help
Copwatching is getting harder and harder these days and some copwatchers have been brutally beaten or even killed for their selfless work. Please help defend me and help me regain my rights!
1. Call the RTD Switchboard
Please call 303.628.9000 and ask to lodge a complaint against officer Fulton Bell for the mistreatment and violation of citizen Alex Bryan's rights. Furthermore, you would like to lodge a complaint against Mike Gil for the mishandling of Alex Bryan's case and negligence when dealing with Fulton Bell's abuse of his position as an RTD officer
2. File a written complaint online
Please go to http://www2.rtd-denver.com/Forms/CustomerServices/complaintForm.cfm and do the same thing you did on the phone, but this time in writing. Here is a sample complaint: I am concerned about the violation of Alex Bryan's rights that occurred on August 17th, 2007. I want disciplinary action to be taken against Mr. Fulton Bell for:
1. Forcing Mr. Alex Bryan to put away his camera when he was fully within his rights to use it.
2. Harassing Mr. Alex Bryan and violating his rights
3. Misrepresenting the law and telling Mr. Alex Bryan that it was illegal to:
3a. Take pictures of RTD officers or property, even from public property
3b. Take pictures from RTD property (such as stations)
3c. Take pictures of anybody from public property without their written consent
Furthermore, I want you to take disciplinary action against Mr. Fulton Bell's supervisor Mr. Mike Gil for:
1. Telling Mr. Alex Bryan, after Mr. Alex Bryan had confirmed with RTD's legal department that it was his right to take pictures of RTD officers/property from RTD property, that Mr. Fulton Bell was right and declining to comment further
2. Mishandling Mr. Bryan's substantiated claims against Mr. Fulton Bell
Your Name Here
Meanwhile.. here is my blow-by-blow report:
On Aug 17th, 2007 I was taking the Free 16th Street "Mall Ride" in order to get to the RTD hearing on proposed rate increases. I noticed that an RTD officer was talking to a man laying on the RTD property. I presume this man was sleeping there since he looked homeless and as if he had just awoken. I had brought my Nikon Coolpix camera and got off the bus as quickly as possible to make sure the homeless man's rights were not violated, seeing as how I had heard of such incidences before. The homeless man was being talked to by two RTD officials. I stood about 15 feet away, not interfering, and when I took out my camera an RTD officer immediately confronted me on the issue. I said it was my right as a citizen to take pictures on public property and of police and RTD officers. He said this was not the case and that in addition to breaking the law for taking pictures of RTD property, I was violating the privacy rights of the homeless man (which after further research I found to be untrue). The officer said that it was against the law to take pictures while on RTD property. He also said that it would be illegal to take pictues of RTD officers or RTD property from public property. I asked if I could have a badge number or a card and he provided me with a card. According to the card, his name was Fulton Bell and his official position was "Street Supervisor" of the Bus Operations Department. He told me I could no longer take pictures and demanded that I put the camera away, which I did. I continued walking around on RTD property looking for the place where the hearing would be held. Once I found it, I had some spare time so I called the RTD switchboard on my cell phone and asked to be forwarded to the legal department. I was told lunch break has just started and the legal department would call me, which they did about five minutes later. I spoke to the legal department (I don't remember the name of the lawyer exactly, but I could get it if I had multiple choice) and asked whether the officer had violated my rights. I was told by the legal department that it is legal to take pictures of RTD officers and to take pictures on RTD property. He said that he couldn't give me permission but from his understanding that it how the law operated. Additionally, he said that the officer had the right to ask me questions about why I was taking pictures because of the "time we live in" referring to perceived threats to national security. He then further clarified that I was within my rights to take the pictures and gave me the number for Fulton Bell's supervisor, Mike Gil. I went to the hearing and afterwards I called Mike Gil who was not in the office. I left a message describing the situation with his officer and asked him to please remind Fulton Bell that citizens have a right to take pictures. Later that day, he called back and said that Fulton Bell had the right to make me put away the camera and that I was not allowed to take pictures on RTD property of it's officers and said I should talk to the legal department. I told him that I had talked to the legal department and they had affirmed that I was in the right. At this point, Mike Gil hung up on me and said he would not comment further. Also, I took pictures at the hearing and was not harassed at all for it. That was inside a secured area of the RTD building.
Please do anything you can to ensure that I get justice and that copwatchers everywhere can exercise their rights.