Friday, December 26, 2008

TRACKING TROUBLE

TRACKING TROUBLE: Although Kaua`i is called the separate kingdom each island has a different character and culture all its own.

And with the explosion of blogging nowhere is there a more diverse community of news and political bloggers than the Big Island.

And whether they are reporters who blog or bloggers who report, that can lead to trouble for the local power structure, as self described blogger-who-reports Damon Tucker found out when he went to check out possible violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) at the Pahoa post office the day before X-mas.

As he took pictures of trash blocking the handicapped parking area and the hard-to-access, possibly non-compliant ramp all hell broke loose when an ever vigilant local postal employee took it upon himself to dub poor Damon a terrorist rather than allow him to make trouble for them over their handicapped set-up..

Here’s how Tucker described what happened next:

I was on my way out to my car, when this guy comes running up to me…
“Brah… what you doing?” He says

“Taking Pictures of the Post Office” I say

“Brah… This one Federal Building… that’s against the Law… Stick around… I’m calling the cops!”

The guy goes in and calls the cops on me. I’m thinking how friggin ridiculous…but ok… let’s see what the cops say.

So I stick around and as the cops arriving, I take a picture of them arriving.

Lady cop: “What you taking a picture of me for… that’s harassment you know?”

I’m like what? Since when is taking a picture of a Police officer or a building considered Harassment…

Officer… I’ve asked you not to take my picture and you took it…
.
I’m like… I took the picture before you even got out of your car and said a word…
Officer…”ERASE THAT PICTURE NOW!”

So I show the lady officer (J. Lee) the picture that I took of her and then showed her that I deleted it… Just to appease her.

I then ask if she would like to see any of the pictures of the Post Office… she refuses.

Then she asks Postal Guy if they want to press Trespassing charges against me… Post Office guy says no… that’s ok… just don’t ever take pictures here again.

So my question to anyone and everyone… Is there anything illegal about taking pictures of a Post Office?

Who was Harassed? The Post Office… or Me?

Since when did taking pictures of outside of buildings and/or police officers become “harassment?”

Sheesh… to think I was only there to drop off a package… Is it my fault I always carry my camera?

Heck… Tiffany… You better erase those pictures
you took inside of the Post Office for gods sake before the Goonsquad comes after you!

Just kidding.

I can’t believe this Post Office. Maybe it is time to file a federal ADA Suit against them

But although Damon might have left it there others were perhaps more outraged, especially other bloggers and journalists.

And when long time reporter-who-blogs Honolulu (or more precisely Ka`a`awa) Ian Lind picked up the story, Tucker was apparently inundated with emails prodding into filing a complaint.

But like on Kaua`i it’s not very apparent how to do that on the Big Island. If you go to the Hawai`i Police Department’s (HPD) web site, despite their apparent embracing of “Community Policing” there is no where to tell you where to file complaints regarding officer misconduct.

A search of the site however does produce, if not a description of the process at least a form to fill out to file an official complaint with the Hawaii Police Commissions

The form says:

The Police Commission investigates complaints of misconduct against officers or employees of the police department while on duty or acting under the color of authority. The complaint must be received in the commission’s office within 60 days of the incident. A request for an exception to the 60-day rule must be in writing with an explanation for the delay.

While he apparently hasn’t filed a complaint- which must be signed and notarized according to the form, Tucker has written us with a little more detail in an email today.

He was apparently taking the picture in a public place and had even asked and gotten permission from one post office employee to take one picture through an open door.

[Correction: Damon Tucker in fact was refused permission to take any pictures by the woman. We regret the mistake.

Clarification: Tucker's email said:

One of the post office ladies came out and was sorting mail and left the door open to the post office. I asked her if she would mind if I took a picture of the inside while the door was open, and she said no. I didn’t really think anything at this point and continued to my car. Then I took another picture of the Handicap stall and was about to take a picture of the employee parking lot which was by my car… when a gentlemen came scooting out and asked me what I was doing.

Tucker has clarified that he meant to communicate that she told him he did not have permission rather than meaning that she didn’t mind if he took a picture. ]

He says that when another employee came out he demanded to know why he was taking pictures.

Tucker wrote

“I told him I was taking pictures. He asked me what for. I told him that I liked to take Pictures. He then re-emphasized… why and what are you taking pictures for. I told him I have a blog and I’m reporting about the Post Office (just as I have been reporting about many businesses in Pahoa during the last week).”

The Post Office’s web site does have restrictions on “filming and still photography on postal service premises” saying

“(i)nformal snapshots from handheld cameras for personal use may be allowed at the discretion of the postmaster so long as there is no disruption to Postal Service operations and provided the pictures are taken from areas accessible to the public”.

Tucker was apparently neither disruptive nor taking pictures “on postal service premises” unless the parking lot is considered such.

Tucker actually waited for the officer to arrive perhaps thinking that a person knowledgeable about the law would set the postmaster straight that his discretion ends at the end of the premises and doesn’t extend into the public right-of way.

But never underestimate the ability of some authority figures to defend businesses from snoopy reporters or bloggers.

If the postmaster was out of line the HPD officer was apparently outright abusive in citing laws that don’t exist and exploitive of the power of her uniform

Ticker also expanded on his description of what happened after he “snapped” a picture of the officer, snapped seemingly being the operative phrase around the Pahoa PO that day.

After the officer’s claim of harassment and the erasure incident- i.e. the destruction of Tucker’s personal property- it apparently got even weirder.

I felt extremely intimidated and knowing that this was the day before Christmas and no time to be getting arrested for refusing to obey a police officer… I did as she asked...

She continued to belittle me and yell at me about me about taking pictures of her and the post office. I then asked her if she would like to see any of the pictures of the Post Office and she flat out refused to even look at any of those.

Apparently there was nothing Tucker was going to do to calm the officer down and he did what anyone is supposed to do when an officer abuses his or her authority- comply now and complain later.

But Tucker was apparently too open and honest about who he was and what he was doing because he volunteered more info which apparently infuriated the abusive officer even further

When I explained that I had a blog… she flew off the handle. She started yelling at me saying… “Your going to put my picture on your blog without my permission…etc…” at the top of her lungs. At which point I told her that I’m always putting people on my blog and that it was my right to do so.

Damn straight Damon (he said cheering him on from a safe distance).

She then let into me about how it was illegal for me to post her picture on my blog. I even made mention that I put pictures of all sorts of people on my blog including the Mayor himself. She got extremely pissed and said that… “Well the Mayor is a public figure!”

I didn’t want to continue on with her and I felt the easiest way to diffuse the situation was to just sit there and agree with her before she came up with some lame reason to try and arrest me. It was bad enough that she extorted me into deleting the picture… I didn’t want to go to jail on Christmas Eve.

The press deserves no special treatment outside of the performance of their “job” nor asks for it but bloggers who act as reporters are now covered by the new Hawai`i Reporter’s Shield Law which, says:

(Reporters) shall not be required by a legislative, executive, or judicial officer or body, or any other authority having the power to compel testimony or the production of evidence, to disclose, by subpoena or otherwise.

The fact that bloggers engaged in reporting are included indicates that constitutional freedom of the press extends to anyone acting in the role of the press.

The outrage over an earlier incident of police harassment of reporter/blogger Joan Conrow over her reporting has died down now but unless police allow citizen journalists to do their job as community watchdogs we’re all in for a long lonely slide to fascism as the government- especially though the constabulary- conspires with the corporate class join to keep us in the dark.

1 comment:

damontucker said...

Thank you for following this as well as your comments on the situation.

The police complaint link can be found off the main website under "Contacts" and then about 3/4 the way down the page... Internal Affairs.

Damon