Street Photographer Uses Body Cam During Outings, Ends up Capturing Own Arrest

As a photographer it’s important that you know your rights when out shooting in public. They vary from locale to locale, so if you plan on travelling to a foreign country, be sure to read up on the protocol before you arrive. While your legal rights as a photographer may not always be granted, as you will see in the video below, being prepared should a problem arise can help you stay out of or get out of trouble:

While out working on his street photography, professional photographer Shawn Nee had a run-in with the Los Angeles Police Department that Nee feels was entirely unjust. As he was photographing a gentleman he has known for many years, he noticed the police responding to a call in a nearby apartment complex. He turned his attention to the officers and began shooting images from afar. The entire altercation was captured on film via a small body camera Nee had clipped to the strap of his backpack.

Nee points out the spot where he was incarerated. The body camera he used to capture his arrest can be seen attached to the strap across his chest.

Nee points out the spot where he was incarcerated. The body camera he used to capture his arrest can be seen attached to the strap across his chest.

The police then turned their attention to Nee and approached him from behind a chain link fence which separated the apartment complex and the area where Nee was working. When Nee refused to answer some of the questions from the police officers, which, by law, he is not required to answer, the police became agitated and put the photographer in cuffs, citing he was interfering with a police investigation.

Nee's body camera captured this shot of the police officers who would later arrest him.

Nee’s body camera captured this shot of the police officers who would later arrest him.

Nee is currently involved in a lawsuit in which he and two other photographers are plaintiffs against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The photographers are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

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12 responses to “Street Photographer Uses Body Cam During Outings, Ends up Capturing Own Arrest”

  1. He’s right of course…but you’re photographing cops. That’s a situation where you take your pictures and skedaddle. If you hang around and wait for them to come and give you a problem, they will. And if they start asking questions and you answer with “well I’m not required to give that to you,” that’s all well and good, but you’re going to piss them off and yeah they’re going to fuck with you and probably do exactly what they did. You can still be right while getting arrested less.

  2. RBall says:

    The video is edited so we can not tell all that was said, but it would appear that Shawn, inspite of being legally right, was rousing suspicion with his words from the start (‘are you detaining me’, ‘I dont have to answer your questions’). Seems the officers acted with calmness and respect, and that if Shawn had used common sense social skills, he may not ha e been detained. As a photojournalist, I think a simple, friendly, explination would have gone a long way.

  3. lori says:

    No one wanted to arrest this guy all he had to do was answer when they asked him his name. The cop said whats your name and his answer was “am I being detained sir”. Talk about trying to get some action in your boring life by creating an incident.

  4. Bet says:

    What makes him a “Professional Photographer”? The size of his spy cam ?

  5. I have to agree that his words seemed evasive but that still did not justify detainment. Now on the other hand his hidden camera itself brings up a bevy of ethics questions just like Google Glass is already stirring up. I think this is a good topic at a even better time. I wonder what our future right will be if anything we shoot could as a matter of opinion be a violation, infringement or disruption with an investigation.

  6. Gary says:

    What a bunch of B.S. the cops like to play just because they have a Gun and Badge. There was NO reason for the Police to approach him. If they were a Constitutional Police Officer they would have just ignored him instead of playing the lets harass this guy with a camera because we have a Gun and Badge attitude. I could see the officer’s point of view if he was within a few feet from them, like ten feet or less and in their face with his camera. Way too much police powers, and way too much of Oath of Office Violations.

  7. Alfredo Tisi says:

    I don’t agree with the above comments. The photographer wasn’t interfering, he didn’t have to answer his name and he wasn’t disrespectful, (considering that the video is trustful). There wasn’t any need for him to be arrested. The cops were wasting their time and consequently wasting tax payers money.

  8. Interesting, I mean when you say am I being detained to them and refuse to give them simple answers you’re asking for it. While yes you have a right to photograph there, answering little things that are of no significance would have probably saved the trip to the station. I guess we all respond differently.

  9. Paul's Pictures says:

    Another case where a photographer knows his rights, then proceeds to throw common sense out the window and stubbornly refuses to take any kind of pragmatic attitude. Of course he is not obliged to answer questions, but what’s the harm? Maybe he could have done us all a favour and convinced the cops that we are harmless after all (cops need education too), but no, he insisted on taking it to the level he did.
    And it’s great for him!!! Now he’s on the internet!!! And not only that, he might make some money. Some of us are trying to make money and a life out of doing photography, some people think there is an easier way. Oh well let the poor fellow have his five minutes of fame

  10. I think this case would have benefited from those concerned knowing how to achieve the most appropriate balance between “knowing your rights”, “cooperating ” and “being respectful”. Looking for conflict by being pedantic is not the way to go in such situations. The backlash created by this individual will be felt by the majority.

  11. Everywhere Cop Block says:

    He didn’t give his name because he doesn’t have to do so. To compromise is to accept security over liberty. I’ll take liberty. All of you that blame this docile photog are the same that would wear arm bands while being a good citizen and loading your neighbors into box cars.

  12. Paul's Pictures says:

    how dare you!!! you insult everyone of goodwill here. Of course he doesn’t “have to’ what? has anyone realized what this joker was doing? he WANTED this to happen.. Why does he need to have body cameras otherwise? no, this is not about freedom, this is about a foolish person who by his stupidity jeopardizes the freedoms you think he is protecting. Actually he isn’t so stupid really. Just lazy. He thinks fame and even money will come from being a jerk. if he had given his name and explained what he was doing then all would probably (of course we can’t know for sure what would have then happened) been well. The cops would have learned a lesson and the next wannabe or even real S/photographer they encounter might be not such a threat to them.
    you call him “docile” i can’t believe you know the meaning of the word if you apply it to this angry, aggressive shit stirrer. Not defending the cops here, and it’s not about “security”. It’s about common sense and cooperation to advance knowledge for all sides

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