This story was in the New York Post:
By MURRAY WEISS Criminal Justice Editor
April 13, 2009 —
Faced with complaints from photographers and tourists alike, the NYPD has issued a department order reminding cops that the right to take pictures in the Big Apple is as American as apple pie.
“Photography and the videotaping of public places, buildings and structures are common activities within New York City . . . and is rarely unlawful,” the NYPD operations order begins.
It acknowledges that the city is a terrorist target, but since it’s a prominent “tourist destination, practically all such photography will have no connection to terrorism or unlawful conduct.”
The department directive — titled “Investigation of Individuals Engaged in Suspicious Photography and Video Surveillance” — makes it clear that cops cannot “demand to view photographs taken by a person . . . or direct them to delete or destroy images” in a camera.
Public-advocacy groups have complained, especially since 9/11, about cops stopping shutterbugs and, in some cases, wrongly arresting them.
In the latest snafu, an off-duty MTA worker and admitted fan of the subways was issued a summons for taking pictures of subway cars.
He was handed a summons that incorrectly sited the rule that expressly permits snapping pictures in the subways.
Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said the NYPD posted the missive because “we periodically get complaints that an officer asked to see [someone’s] camera or erase a picture and this is a reminder not to do that.”
“It is a balancing act,” Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said of NYPD efforts to spot possible terrorism or criminal activity while not stepping on the First Amendment.
Donna Lieberman, president of the New York Civil Liberties Union, lauded the directive as “representing progress.”
She pointed out that her organization has twice sued the NYPD for stopping innocent filmmaking — once on behalf of a well-known Indian filmmaker who was videotaping cabbies outside Grand Central Terminal, the other time for a Columbia University student who was filming in a subway station for a school project.
But cops are not without successes in confronting what might appear to be innocent videotaping.
In Manhattan, cops spotted a man — who turned out to have ties to a terror group in Pakistan — videotaping the underbellies of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.
Additional reporting by John Doyle