For the past few years, I've been reading more and more about the horrible practices of NYPD. They seem to be only our to antagonize the community. They act as adversaries instead of public servants. People's rights don't matter if there's police work to be done.
Little did I realize it would take me less than a day to experience this first hand.
I fly out to Long Island about thrice a year for my school work. If time permits, I tend to spend at least a day visiting one of my friends in the city. Let call him Charles. As anyone in the area knows, the weather in NYC was phenomenal this last weekend. To celebrate, Charles and I decide to bike along the edge of Manhattan to the George Washington Bridge. I've been in the city for about 20 hours at this point.
Now, Charles is quite into photography and I consider him a professional (though he would beg to differ). Recently, he made the jump to a DSLR that can take video as well as stills. With the weather as great as it was, there was no way not to take the camera with us. (Yes, I know I'm a broken record about the weather, but so was the entire population of NYC.)
Along the ride, we stop to take pictures, but our ultimate goal is to get panoramic shots from the GWB. After our epic ride, we finally make it and boy was the trip worth it.
I get to shoot around for a few minutes and then we decide to head to the middle of the bridge. Charles wants to use the video feature so he can bike alongside me while recording my trip. We give it a few goes, but after our fourth attempt, we finally get a nice, framed, in-focus shot. We stop our bikes and take a moment to review the video (it's as good as we thought). Little did I notice the police car 30 feet away.
As we're reviewing the video, I see a police officer approaching us. When I look back, he's shaking his head and waggling his finger.
"Turn it off!" he shouts.
"We're not recoding you," I say back.
"Turn it off or I throw it over."
"You can't do that," Charles says to the officer as he turns to leave.
Remember that we're taking about a high-end DSLR camera with a very nice lens and attachments. I honestly don't know the total cost of the equipment, but it's at least $3K.
At this point, I'm ready to approach him and ask for his name and badge number so I can file a complaint, but Charles grabs my arm and encourages me to go. It's his weekend too, so I decide not to ruin it.
After we're a little bit away from the cop, I ask Charles why he just accepted it when the police decided to violate his rights.
"It happens all the time," he says. Charles goes on to explain that it's not uncommon for him to be out taking shots either for fun or at an event for his job and have the NYPD show up (not because of him) and tell him to turn it off because they're there. He informs me that he always just says "OK," drops the camera for 20 seconds, and then proceeds to continue shooting.
We proceed on, enjoying the gorgeous weather, but I can't help thinking about how easily that cop violated my rights. Furthermore, had I challenged him, he probably would have found a reason to make my life miserable (or at least made one up).
This doesn't seem like the way civil societies should work. Police should act like allies, not jack-booted thugs.
At least I now have the ACLU-NJ app right on the front page of my phone.
Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 2:02 PM PT: So being from out of town, I didn't understand the difference between the NYPD and PA. I've adjusted my title accordingly.
Some people also pointed out that the GWB is technically not NYC. Fine, it now says NYC area.