Crossing "The Thin Blue Line"
Annapolis, MD, July 31, 2004
My name is Don Stachowiak. I am a photographer working professionally in the Baltimore-DC area for over 12 years. My work has been published both locally and nationally.
I shoot primarily portfolios and headshots for models and actors, some family portraiture, commercial and catalog product shots, and (when I can't get out of it) weddings.
Photography is also a hobby and creative outlet for me. I particularly enjoy shooting candid photos of people in public places. In both my professional and personal shooting, I have always preferred women as my subjects, although my work has never been limited to them. I have always tried to have respect for my subjects, and have never sought to take a photo that would embarrass anyone or show them in an unattractive way.
On Saturday, July 31, 2004, I was in Annapolis, MD. It was a bright, beautiful day and the Main St and City Dock areas were crowded with tourists and locals, and I was finding plenty of subjects for my lens.
At approximately 3:00 PM, as I was working my way through the crowd on Main St, I was approached by an Annapolis Police Officer, Patrolman Lloyd. He informed me that he was investigating reports that I was going around trying to take photos up women's skirts. I was shocked, and of course told him that that was absolutely false!
I explained that I was taking candid photos of people on the streets, and asked him if I was breaking any laws.
His reply was "Well, if you were shooting up women's skirts you were!"
Once again I explained that I was not doing that and never had. Officer Lloyd then told me that he was required to investigate any time he had two complaints. This was even more baffling. I could see it as vaguely possible that one person might misinterpret what I was doing, but two complaints seemed impossible to me. At this point Officer Lloyd asked me for some ID. Feeling somewhat abused, and deciding that this whole situation was headed in a bad direction, I produced my driver's license, but told him I was doing so although I had no obligation to do so.
Officer Lloyd then told me "You'd better read what the Supreme Court had to say about that a couple of weeks ago"
I then informed him that I was well aware of what they had said in the case of a men in Oregon who refused to show his ID when asked by the police, and was arrested under an Oregon statute requiring compliance. (The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law)
I explained that the State of Maryland had no such statute. Patrolman Lloyd didn't like hearing that, but dropped the matter, since I had in fact produced my ID.
About this time I became aware of two men who had walked up and joined us. One was a big, gray haired guy about my size, and the other was a small, thin, angry looking man. Neither of them identified themselves.
The first thing the big guy said was "He was taking pictures of girls around the Market House." (The Market House is a building housing a number of carry-outs and deli style food places) He apparently expected me to deny it. Instead, I once again said I take candid photos all over. I then asked him if he was the one who made the complaint.
Before he could answer, the smaller man glared at me and said "I did! I don't like what you do!"
I asked him what it was that he thought I was doing.
"You take pictures of people without their permission!"
I then asserted my right to take photos in a public place, and explained that I don't need anyone's permission. I illustrated what I meant by raising my camera and taking his picture.
This appeared to enrage him. He angrily whipped out a phone camera and tried to take my photo, although he seemed to be shaking too hard to hold it. I continued taking pictures of the three of them, and another guy in some security uniform who walked up to see what was going on.
Officer Lloyd, seeming to sense that the situation might be getting a little out of control, was trying to calm the two men down. It was clear that both of them were unhappy that things weren't going the way they had expected. Apparently, one of them had made the original complaint, but had been told that the police needed another complaint before they would investigate. He then got the other guy to make a bogus complaint against me so the police would accost me.
I again asked Officer Lloyd if I had broken any laws, and he said "No, you're free to go"
As I walked away, I watched the little group. The two men who had tried to cause me trouble were EXTREMELY unhappy that there didn't seem to be anything that could be done to me. Officer Lloyd just seemed to be glad the whole thing had ended without a fist fight.
As an afterthought, I walked back and asked Officer Lloyd if there was a law against filing a false police report. He told me "There is no police report, I'm not writing anything up."
I thanked him and moved off.
A few minutes later I encountered the bigger of the two troublemakers. I took a few more photos, but he covered his face.
I do not always have positive things to say about cops in general, but I have to say that Officer Lloyd conducted himself in a professional manner, and handled the situation fairly.
Anyway, I think I won that one.