Phoenix police memo encourages harassment of photographers


The memo from the Phoenix Police Department says that photographers taking pictures inside Central Station need to be interrogated “without giving the impression we are interrogating them”.

It states that police and security guards need to take as much information from the photographer as possible and log it into their daily logs.

If the photographer is “acting suspicious” – whatever that means – then the officer must fill out a “full 36 card” and submit it to his or her supervisor.

This, the memo states, would allow citizens to see that police are looking out for their safety.

But it doesn’t mention that it would also allow police to build files on photographers who have not committed crimes.

The Phoenix New Times posted the memo on its website on Tuesday:

This memorandum is to address the concerns of citizens taking photographs while on Central Station Property.

Citizens are allowed to take photographs while on Central Station Property. However, we need to remain diligent with our duties and contact them to obtain as much information as possible, without giving the impression we are interrogating them. Take the information and log it on your daily log with the reason they are taking photos. If they are acting suspicious complete a full 36 card and place it in my box. This will let the citizens know we are paying attention to this type of activity.

The memo was written last year, which explains why Phoenix police have been accused of being heavy handed towards photographers. But this memo was restricted to personnel working at Central Station, which is the bus and light rail terminal in downtown Phoenix.

It makes one wonder what is stated in the memo sent to personnel working the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse, which police and security guards believe is forbidden to photograph.

Since the news reports about harassment at Central Station have surfaced, Phoenix police say they are going to draft a new memo that would be less intrusive for photographers.

Phoenix police are in the process of softening the directive slightly since media reports about the photographer who was questioned, says Phoenix police Lt. Anthony Lopez of the transit bureau. Lopez says Central Station’s supervisory officer, Sgt. Scot Gillespie, wrote the memo last year that spurred the municipal security guards to begin contacting more picture-takers.


Citizen Journalism