Stupid Shit Cops Say to Keep You From Recording


Stupid Shit Cops Say to Keep You From Recording

As I dive deeper and deeper into the legal complexities of the right to photograph and record in public (I can quote Glik v Cuniffe so fast I will make your head spin), I have noticed a disturbing trend:

The reasons and excuses offered by police officers, firefighters, security officers, even teachers and principals, to keep you from taking a photograph are just plain pathetic.

There’s not a shred of originality – let alone truth – to any of them. It’s as if they communicate on their own private radio frequency. What really fascinates me is how people who are usually intelligent and hard-working individuals can say many of these things without thinking, That is so stupid and inane, even I wouldn’t believe it if I heard it.

Of course, many of these statements are illegal, threatening, violations of any number of your Constitutionally-mandated rights (if not all of them), or just plain – how can we say this in a diplomatic way? – frigging stupid.

This list is posted for your protection and education. The next time you hear someone in authority – or someone who thinks they are in a position of authority – saying anything on this list, your Bullshit Metershould set off an alarm and you can just ignore the blubbering fool.

If you have any more words of wisdom to add to this list, please put them in the comments.

  1. The camera could be a gun.
  2. 9/11. That’s all I need to say.
  3. Are you a terrorist?
  4. You must be a terrorist.
  5. National security. That’s all I need to say.
  6. If this building were to suddenly blow up, we would want to know who to call with some questions.
  7. You don’t have my permission to take my photograph here on the street.
  8. You need permission to take photographs of people in the accident.
  9. You need to respect people’s privacy.
  10. You’re real close to going to jail…real close!
  11. Put that camera down and stop taking photos. Now!
  12. Do you not have anything better to do with your life?
  13. Let me see your credentials/identification/press pass/etc.
  14. You need a press pass to be here.
  15. The crime scene is as big as I want it to be.
  16. Just back away and shoot with a long lens.
  17. I’m taking your picture because you took mine.
  18. The yellow tape is for anyone not holding a camera. YOU need to go back another block or more.
  19. Why are you pointing a camera at me while I am trying to do my job?
  20. Give me the photo disk. Now!
  21. If you keep recording, we will take your camera as evidence!
  22. Give me your camera. Now!
  23. Let me see your photographs.
  24. I don’t need a warrant to see your photographs.
  25. I don’t need a warrant to take your camera.
  26. Stop resisting arrest while I try to take your camera!
  27. You have taken enough photos, now go away.
  28. You cannot have my name and badge number.
  29. My name is Your Worse Nightmare and my badge number is 666.
  30. This is a government building, no photographs are allowed.
  31. You can’t take photographs of that government building.
  32. You can’t take photographs of that office building.
  33. You don’t have my permission to record this conversation on the street.
  34. Because I said so!

I have prepared a two-page reprint of this story so you can carry it in your camera bag (anyone for Stupid Shit Cops Say Bingo**??). [Click here to download the PDF file.**](


War on Photography