As Daniel Saulmon and “Katman” biked around El Segundo, California taking pictures of the city, they were illegally detained by Department of Defense law enforcement officers from Los Angeles Air Force Base.
Saulmon’s and Katman’s videos, below, document an illegal detention that turned into a swift release because the two photographers knew the law and acted appropriately.
“Are we being detained?” asked Katman.
“No,” said the first officer to stop the photographers, recognizing that Saulmon and Katman’s photography created no reasonable suspicion of a crime.
However, when Katman turned to leave, the officer quickly changed his mind.”No, you are being detained.”
The officer’s silence spoke volumes, as even he refused to say why he was detaining Saulmon and Katman. Eventually, the officer said, “We had reports of individuals recording.”
“Is it illegal to record?” asked Saulmon.
“Inside that fence line, yes it is.”
“Did you get a report of someone recording inside that fence line?” asked Saulmon. The officer refused to answer, and instead asked for Saulmon’s identification. Saulmon refused to provide ID and asked the officer for his ID, which the officer refused to provide.
A second officer who had arrived to the scene finally spoke up, admitting that he knew who Saulmon is and that he was only taking photographs, nevertheless implying the old “because terrorism” excuse for the illegal detention. “We know who you are, all right,” said the second officer. “This is a military installation…things are going on right now.” When Saulmon and Katman asked again if they were free to go, the second officer had to tell them yes.
For other aspiring First Amendment auditors, bear in mind why Saulmon and Katman were able to obtain their own release. Instead of taking photographs individually, the two photographers went together, providing each other with a witness, and a second set of cameras. As soon as officers, approached, both photographers began recording video, with Katman uploading footage to the internet to save for the record.