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The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Culture

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by derrickduff, Apr 6, 2014.

  1. derrickduff

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    The 5th of April was one of Charleston SC largest event weekends. Amongst other events that bring thousands to the area was the Cooper river bridge run. The 7th largest road race in the country with 30k+ finishers. It's larger than the Boston Marathon in terms of the amount of participants. The security presence was high to say the least. On par with a presidential visit. But with the number of mass shootings taking place in this country and the Boston Marathon bombings less than a year ago I can't say it was unnecessarily high.

    I usually participate in the run but my wife and I procrastinated this year and didn't want to pay the increased entry fee for signing up late. My real excuse was to go to a park next to the bridge and film the race with my Phantom. Bad idea...

    I parked near the base of the bridge, which is about mile 2 of the 6.2 mile race. I walked over to the park at the base of the bridge, with my phantom in hand. I passed and was eyed pretty hard by several police officers. It really didn't occur to me I was doing anything suspicious, or illegal at the time. I had a backpack as well, for my spare batteries, my tripod and video screen for FPV. But the Phantom was in my hand, out in the open. There was nothing covert about my attire, appearance or what I was about to do in the wide open.

    After passing a half dozen officers one stopped me and said;
    "You can't have that hear, no drones on the bridge run."
    I said; "I wasn't flying it on the bridge, I was going to the park and would be filming away from the bridge and people."
    He repeated himself.
    A second officer, a county sheriff asked for my identification. I obliged, which he took to his vehicle to run a check on me.
    I asked the first officer; "Is there a specific ordinance or law I would be breaking by flying it in the park?"
    He said; "Yes, no drones for the bridge run."
    I said; "really, there is a specific ordnance that I can't fly a drone on the bridge run"
    He corrected himself; "No but there are no drones for the bridge run"

    The first officer left and handed it off to a third officer. After they finished running my background check the 3rd officer told me;
    "Here's the deal, The way society is today and with everything going on we can't have you flying this today. Just bring it back to your car. If you launch this we're going to have to ticket you. We don't want to have to do that today, it creates more hassle for you and us."
    Sheriff; "Here is a ticket saying we ran your ID. We may be in contact with you."
    Third Officer; "Can I get your phone number?"

    Here is the ticket: Scroll down to see "nature of violation"


    I put the Phantom away and was a good citizen the rest of the day. But I have some serious problems with what happened.

    First I want to say the officers were doing their job, and the bridge run went off without incident. Kudos to law enforcement.

    With that said I don't really understand how what I was doing is labeled as suspicious activity or denying my right to photograph an event (from a safe distance with no people overhead) is law enforcement. Most of my flight would have been over water.

    I'm also a marked drone owner now. If there is any event or accident in the Charleston area involving a drone where the owner of the drone is unknown I will be one of the first persons to be contacted and/or suspected.

    I don't know if the decision to not allow me to fly was made on the spot or was determined prior to the race. I walked past several officers before being confronted which leads me to believe it was made up on the spot. Even if it was determined prior to the race I'm interested to know the legality of making up laws for events. I can understand flying it over people is a public safety issue but flying in a park?

    There was no concern about my backpack or what was in it. They also didn't check the drone for anything suspicious. Obviously there was no active threat based on drone use. Had there been they would have either inspected my drone and backpack and/or called in the bomb squad. This furthers my belief it was made up on the spot or for the event alone.

    So, all in all I can't say I'm surprised at what happened. Just disappointed this is the state of our country.

    Anybody else have a similar story? Or thoughts on what happened? Do I have to keep my head low? Are there any legal steps I can take? Or am I an idiot for thinking I have a right to use the Phantom during a big event, even in a safe manner?
     

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  2. Seahorse

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    Land of the Free not ringing true judging by your rather sad experience. I fail to understand how you can be ordered not to do something that isn't illegal in the first place... :(
     
  3. jiannelli

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    You should start following this…..Photography is not a Crime!

    http://photographyisnotacrime.com

    Many articles about your rights as a photographer and the rights of police officers. I think many followers would have enjoyed the ticket and court time as it is not illegal in any way shape or form. I am sure this topic will be covered many times as more people get "asked" not to when they actually have the right to.
     
  4. Visioneer

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    A few thoughts:

    Presumably they could've checked your aircraft out (obviously they checked you) and cleared it, but that raises two issues 1) do they have the expertise to determine whether or not your device is a threat? Probably not ... they know nothing about it, its capabilities, or what's inside it (C4, anyone?). Were you prepared to open it up or, worse, let them do so. 2) There was just one of you. What if more aerial photographers showed up? They likely don't have the numbers to check out every "suspicious" device even if they had the expertise ... so they just preclude them all. You and I know it's not suspicious, they do not - you've showed up with an odd looking aircraft, remotely controlled by radio equipment in proximity to thousands of people at an event similar to one in which people were killed and maimed.

    If they had somehow allowed you to proceed, and something went awry (even just some failure that resulted in a crash seen by anyone in the area), they would be accused of not doing their job. Frankly, the officers who ignored you took a risk. If you HAD been up to no good (and had succeeded), they would be under the gun (society revels in hindsight as if were available in advance).

    It is a sad state that we've come to, but the reality is that events which have taken place do have an impact on how the authorities are forced to react. Basically the risk-benefit analysis in your case is overwhelmingly weighted against you. The risk is that someone with equipment like you were carrying could potentially inflict significant damage and injury on many versus the benefit that one individual (you) gets to fly his "toy" and take pictures. In that light, it's a simple decision. Very few of us have the ability to make an objective decision from anything other than our own perspective.

    An aside - I'm on the city council of a small suburban city with ~1200 residences. On the occasion of several public events I've had the opportunity to discuss many issues with our police chief. He is as decent, down to earth, and level-headed a person as you'd ever hope to meet. I've kept him apprised of laws and discussions in the "drone" world as best as I understand them. We've discussed a few of the incidents reported herein and in news media. He commented in one of our discussions, "I may ultimately not be upheld, but on that day (the time of any incident), I'm going to prevail". The point is that many situations involve a judgement call, and your judgement may not be in agreement with that of a police officer - the difference is that he has been granted the authority to make a controlling, on the spot judgement, and you have not. You absolutely have the right to appeal his judgement call, but your right to do so is in court, not by defying his reasonable order (again, you can argue "reasonable" in court).

    Sounds like the officer(s) in question laid it out quite accurately for you ... you can do as we ask and nothing further will happen, or your can refuse and we'll cite you, a hassle for you and for us.

    You may want to check into exactly, what, if any repercussions there may be from a warning in your jurisdiction, but I'd guess there are none. It likely only serves to document that you've been warned, i.e., from the police perspective, they did do something. If you show up at another similar event with aircraft in tow, you might automatically be cited. If it were me, I might pay a visit to the chief or district commander just to discuss the issue, but I'd expect either will fully support their officers' actions. I expect the general public would as well.
     
  5. BMEWS

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    Hate to say this, but you live (as do I) in a common law country. There aren't very many of those remaining. The police officers were maybe just doing a job but, if there was or is no law banning you from flying and you weren't endangering anyone or anyone's property then the officers concerned just created a law out of nothing. Just because they say you have to do something does not actually mean that you do.

    This is happening more and more and effectively comes down to extortion. Strong word, but you were essentially threatened if you did not do something you were not lawfully (legally has a whole different meaning, but no point going into that here), obliged to do.

    I think (if you have time) you should go back to the police station and actually try and discuss in a reasonable manner with the officers concerned or their superiors that whilst you understand that there is trepidation about anything new, there was and is no law which precluded you from flying. They've now created a precedent which you've allowed.

    The UK is going the same way, and they're slowly but surely going to move us from a common law land to one of commerce (as it is in mainland Europe) where we have no fundamental rights.

    Remember, if it looks like crap, feels like crap and smells like crap. Then it's probably crap and no amount of uniform or bluster is going to change it.

    I have the utmost support for law enforcement but that doesn't give them the right to create them for no reason. That's what your judiciary and policy makers are for.

    Just my opinion.

    Bmews
     
  6. Visioneer

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    In looking back at your post, I didn't directly address all of your questions (not that I've any standing to do so).

    On keeping your head low - A meeting with someone in the police hierarchy might be just the thing to do. A chance to educate them on your device, and the laws as you know them. Perhaps it'll prompt them to have their legal dept do some research. Perhaps most importantly, it'll let them know you're operating within the law (unless they can show you one you're not aware of) and shouldn't be hassled.

    On being an idiot - of course you're not an idiot (I'll leave that categorization to folks who actually know you) but it'll probably be a good thing to give some thought to perspectives other than your own. I clearly do not know what the laws in your jurisdiction may be, but in many areas those involving public safety and following officers' orders are pretty broad - the notion of better safe than sorry comes to mind - and I expect they especially get broad use at the time of big events. Of course, you're always entitled to your day in court but that can be more hassle & expense than whatever you're wanting to do is worth.
     
  7. Visioneer

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    Excellent point, though perhaps a bit strong because the threat is nothing more than the police saying "you think you're right, we think you're wrong and, as we can't agree, a judge will have to decide". That's pretty much how the system works. Perhaps not ideal but much better than "pay us $1000 and we'll let you fly" or "pack it up and go away, or we're going to pistol whip you" ... now THAT's extortion.
     
  8. ianwood

    ianwood Taco Wrangler
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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    I can see both sides of this argument but I have to agree with Visioneer. The police are trying to keep the run secure. I am sure you can appreciate that maintaining effective security can conflict with civil liberties in more areas than just drones. But ignorance is part of the problem; a drone can look very different hovering near a high-profile event than it might in the countryside even if the intention is the same.

    An alternative way to deal with this might be to approach the police beforehand. Tell them you want to take some pictures. Show them the quad and offer to demo it. Tell them how you intend to keep it safe. They may still say no and that would be unfortunate but I think for high profile events, there's no other way. Stadium events have TFRs imposed so no aircraft can fly anywhere near them.

    There is a push-pull conflict between freedom and security. Improving one will more likely than not impinge on the other and so a delicate balancing act must be maintained where neither are compromised more than the other.
     
  9. OI Photography

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    +1

    Until the laws are defined, and until LEO everywhere are better educated about this new potential threat category, what Ian suggests is the best way to approach shoots like this. If there's going to be any civil control structure in place for the event (i.e. police, etc), it's best to interface with them beforehand, instead of just introducing something new/unknown into that environment that they likely aren't prepared for. They're tasked with keeping everyone at the event safe (runners and spectators alike), and with the tragedies that have come out of nowhere at similar events recently I can't really fault the officers on this scene for erring on the side of caution...at least until the time all the new info and protocols have filtered down to every city cop in the country.
     
  10. Hiway

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    I agree with the educating local authorities (where possible) and attempting to gain some sort of blessing- even if it is an unwritten and in the event of a catastrophe they will disavow any knowledge and such kind of deal... because if you are truly responsible, we all know very little bad can happen.

    I am constantly amazed at the lack of understanding the general public has- but we can than kthe 24 hour news cycle and media for that- they sensationalize everything... so ALWAYS take a moment to post corrections or balance on social media about hobby uav use versus govt drones- they are all apples to apples in the public's mind.
     
  11. BMEWS

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    :D Actually, IMHO. You're kinda right, in so far that the judge may eventually be called upon to decide. However, if they (the police) complicate things by (for example) confiscating your property (quadcopter), that is effectively theft. If they "order" you to do something, you can (believe it or not) "bill them" for doing so. The reason I use extortion is because a threat is exactly that, a threat. If you're going about your lawful business then you should be free to do so unhindered.

    again, just my opinion
     
  12. derrickduff

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    I recently attended a St Patrick's day block party in North Charleston. It was filmed by a Phantom flying over 100s of people. Thousands participated in the block party. And the video is featured on the city facebook page.

    Maybe this person got permission first.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGbEKZV ... e=youtu.be

    In hindsight I would have gone through the police prior to the event. And in the future I really have no choice but to do that since I have been warned already. But having seen this at an event a few weeks ago it just didn't occur to me prior to the event I would need explicit permission to do something completely legal. And my flight would have been over a park and water, not 100s of people.
     
  13. ianwood

    ianwood Taco Wrangler
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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    Someone had a Phantom at the LA marathon recently. Don't remember any mention of talking to authorities beforehand but it's possible they did. Bottom line is it will not be dealt with consistently until the rules become clear. Until then, we need to hope for the best but plan for the worst.
     
  14. sohail99

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    Is that another phantom at ~ 0:44 (passing underneath) ?? :?:
     
  15. xgeek

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    Certainly looks like it
     
  16. sohail99

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    Where I fly, ppl are usually intrigued by it and ask about it.

    I've never encountered such resistance or being looked upon as suspicious!
    But, I'd probably ask for an official permission before using my Phantom at an event! :)
     
  17. Visioneer

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    I imagine VENUE has everything to do with how one is viewed.
     
  18. Visioneer

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    This goes right to the heart of the matter. Few folks know the limits/capabilities of these craft ... and there many much more powerful (with less "assisted" operation) than our Phantoms. How can the authorities know the difference, or come up with directives that treat them consistently?

    And yet this just points out another aspect that complicates the issue. Once one's in the air flying in an OK location, how can they stop it when it suddenly makes a beeline for the crowds? Tackle the operator? Taser him? Shoot the aircraft down? All of these have the potential for not stopping a potential threat, and perhaps making it worse. It's going to take some hard thinking to come up with a solution that allows otherwise lawful operation in close proximity to an event that it could easily disrupt.

    The reality is we've come up with a technology that has great potential, for both good and bad. The issue has now become how do we manage it to keep the good while precluding the bad. When cars first came into being there were no rules, and traffic disputes and accidents were horrendous. Eventually, there was some semblance of order imposed - but it took time, infrastructure, and volumes of "rules" ... "Fasten your seatbelts, it's gonna be a bumpy ride"
     
  19. Cr8tive_leo

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  20. checkssc

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    Re: The Bridge Run, the Police and our Hyper Sensitive Cultu

    I absolutely see both sides of this issue. I understand the police concerns at a large public event and also their lack of understanding of a drone and all involved. I also see the need to be free to exercise our hobby without fear of unwarranted persecution.
    The biggest concern I see in this thread is that they put down the cause of contact with you as suspicious activity. This gives them cause to contact you and harass you from now to forever for any small thing they want to. If you get stopped for a traffic stop and checked it will come back on the computer or from dispatch. I wouldn't wish this on you but I almost think it would have been better to force them to ticket you and then engage the ALCU ( I shudder to recommend them but they do some good things. ) to address your rights violation in court. I don't know if you can do it, but if you can afford it, I would suggest you speak to an attorney about getting this expunged from the system. Sitting down and talking to them might generate some understanding about drones etc but it will do nothing about this haunting you forever more.
    As folks have mentioned, when the rules are written and gotten out, things will settle but it will take time and many interactions with police. You my friend have the honor of being on the cutting edge but I fear for your future rights. In theory this could affect you ability to ever get a security clearance should you need one.