Cindy Frich, a former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, was in a joyful mood as she shopped for Christmas presents in a Pittsburgh shopping mall recently.
But that was before the former republican state senator was accosted by an angry mother who was upset that Frinch had snapped a photo of her child sitting on Santa’s lap.
Seconds later, a security guard confronted her, ordering her to delete the photos.
Feeling in the Christmas mood, when I encountered Santa at South Hills Village my smart phone photo application came in handy to capture the scene. But the picture seemed incomplete because there were no children sitting on Santa’s knee, confiding in him their sugar-plum visions.
Happily, a family approached unceremoniously through the exit of the elaborate display and soon their child was comfortably perched on Santa’s knee. My vignette was complete as I quickly snapped three photos while other families lined up at the entrance.
Full of Christmas warmth, I continued visiting shops until a woman interrupted my transaction and verbally assaulted me for photographing her son. She wanted to know what kind of person would take a picture of someone else’s child. After her public assault, it was difficult to remember the Christmas spirit the picture had engendered.
A South Hills Village security guard told me to delete the photos from my cell phone. After informing the guard that there were also photographs of Santa without the child, the guard told me that it was against mall policy to take photos in the mall.
As she walked away with her photos deleted, she remembered a man in the child’s group had also taken photos, so she walked back to ask the guard if he had been ordered to delete his images.
Returning to find the security guard still with the alleged mother and her group of four adults, I attempted to clarify the mall’s camera rule. When I asked if the family would have to delete mall photos from their phones, too, the guard unprofessionally joined the family in laughing at my logical query.
The woman who had stalked me through the mall did not know that I am a former state legislator who initiated and succeeded in creating strict laws against pedophiles in the West Virginia legislature. To me, the random child in my picture was simply a representation of a special moment in a human life and an innocent attempt to capture the magic of Christmas.
But the mother obviously felt more comfortable with her child sitting on the lap of a male stranger than getting photographed by a female stranger.
It’s unfortunate that a former legislator did not have enough sense to know that a private security guard – nor a cop for that matter – does not have the authority to force you to delete your images.
And neither does a paranoid mother.
If there is indeed a policy against photography in the mall, then all they could have done was ask her to leave, then have her arrested for trespassing if she refused.