note: Initially the face of the self-declared "undercover" cop (2nd from right) was pixilated. But, since then, I have revealed it, as I believe there is a serious threat to public safety from people who say they’re police, fail to provide any ID, and who engage in secret/undocumented detentions.
On June 4, 2009, after taking pictures of protesters outside the Chinese consulate (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), I crossed the road (6 Avenue SW), to take some pictures of some of the police monitoring them. After taking this shot, the man, 2nd from the right, approached me. After asking some snoopy questions, he told me that he was an undercover officer (but not working as such at the moment) and had a problem with my pictures.
Now, I will normally happily not take, or not use after taking, pictures of somebody if they don’t want it (with certain special case exceptions). But, he wasn’t content to ask me not to use photos of him (a reasonable request). He wasn’t content to ask for specific photos featuring him to be deleted (understandable). He insisted that I absolutely must delete all the pictures I had taken at the event so far, entirely, regardless of who was in them. And, that I should "start the cycle over". He declared his legal right to confiscate my camera and arrest me if I did not comply. He made clear he could not and would not let me go with any images I had taken. He implied I would be harmed if I dared go against him. He was exceptionally rude, insulting, mocking, and intimidating. He used the bully tactic of standing far to close to be comfortable. He also, insisted all conversation be done away of where anybody else could here, even though it meant going on private property.
After taking my ID (under threat of arrest), and giving it back after a wait, he had no choice but to let me go on my way, with my camera, and all my photos. Of course, he had none of the powers he falsely said he did. I told him I would comply with any and all requirements or orders, but only if he made them official. Ultimately, he admitted I hadn’t broken any laws.
I totally understand the need for undercover police to be concerned about their photo being taken. But, a simple polite request, works better then intimidation. His conduct made me want to blow up a picture of his face, and post it all over the city. The more he talked and threatened, the more I wanted to do the exact opposite of whatever he said. The original photo is actually pretty poor technical quality, with blurriness, lack of focus, and poor composition. I’m posting a version of it mainly because I needed to say what I was thinking.
The silly thing is, I had no idea he was a cop until he outed himself. A good tip for under cover cops, is to not go to events like this, where you’re guarenteed to be photographed by many people, and then announce you’re an undercover cop.
All the time he was hassling me, other photographers across the street were likely getting lots of pics of him.
I beleive we all have the fundamental right to watch the watchers. The more they don’t want to be watched, the more they need to be watched.
Feel free to comment, even if you disagree with how I handled this.
The event: Protesters in Calgary gathered outside the Chinese consulate to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which took place on June 4, 1989. It was a peaceful gathering, watched by a typically oversized police presence.
Photographer: Robert Thivierge
This page was created by Rob’s FlickR Importer on May 20, 2021 @ 11:18 am EDT.