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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

ACLU Sues Sheriffs for Violating Ammendement Rights

ACLU claims sheriffs department detained photographers taking pictures of public places on suspicion of terrorism.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Los Angeles County and individual sheriff's deputies on Thursday for detaining photographers who were taking pictures in public places.

Police confronted the photographers because authorities thought their behavior was suspicious and could indicate terrorism.

"Photography is not a crime. It's protected 1st Amendment expression,"said Peter Bibring, senior attorney at the ACLU's Southern California branch.

Three Southern Californian photographers said that they have been harassed, searched and detained for taking pictures in public places like oil refineries, MTA turnstiles and outside the Long Beach Courthouse. Bibring claims that the sheriff's department is allegedly abusing counter-terrorism policies to wrongfully question photagraphers who are doing nothing illegal.

"It violates the Constitution's core protections for sheriff’s deputies to detain and search people who are doing nothing wrong. To single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong."said Bringer.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker said that the department has not had time to review the specifics of the lawsuit, and cannot comment on the specificity of the six accounts the photographers claim they were wrongfully confronted. But he defended the sheriff's deputies by saying it is their job to confront suspicious behavior.

The lawsuit asks for a court order that will prohibit the Sheriff's Department from detaining people for taking photos and compensate the photraphers for the punitive damages.

"Should we really ignore suspicious activity?" said Parker. "We have an obligation to the public to answer questions and we are going to ask people why are you taking that picture. It is our duty to protect the public.




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