A photographer was arrested on Saturday afternoon for taking photos and video outside of an NYPD Housing Authority police station on Central Avenue in Bushwick. Randall Thomas tells the website Photography Is Not A Crime that he was standing on the sidewalk outside the premises for about one hour taking photos to "prepare for an upcoming trial stemming from a January arrest in which police deleted his footage after he had recorded them making an abusive arrest." At the 4:30 mark, Thomas is confronted by a plainclothes officer, and the fun starts:
"You're making a lot of people feel very uncomfortable," the officer, who identified himself as Officer Soto, explains to Thomas. "How do I know you're not a terrorist taking pictures so you can figure out where you're going to put a bomb?" Thomas replies, "If you think I'm a terrorist then you're an idiot and you shouldn't be a police officer because you're incompetent."
After a lot more banter of that nature, Thomas was arrested and charged with two counts of disorderly conduct: obscene language and blocking the driveway of the station. He was released after approximately one hour. This week he filed a complaint with the Brooklyn DA's Civil Rights and Police Integrity Bureau & Corruption Bureau—his letter to the Bureau, obtained by DNAinfo, accuses Officer Soto of:
clearly engaging in a willful act of harassment, admittedly knowing that he lacked any legal justification to do so. When I would walk away from Soto, he would follow and move closer to me. At one point I demanded that he produce identification or disengage, he did neither stating at one point 'I got nothing but 8 ½ hours so I’ll follow you around and stand right in front of you,' an act and statement that constitutes harassment.
Thomas has a history of getting arrested for taking photos of law enforcement authorities. In 2009 he was arrested by Homeland Security officers for photographing an FBI building in Lower Manhattan. While Thomas's actions may appear provocative to the officers he photographs, it is perfectly legal to take photographs on public property, and in the subway. And the fact that Thomas was not charged with "unlawful surveillance" or even Obstruction of Governmental Administration speaks volumes.