Letter on the Prohibition of Photography April 13th, 2005
Letter to Mr. David Solow
Chief Executive Officer
Southern California Regional Rail Authority
Dear Mr. Solow,
For over twenty-five years, I have photographed rail passenger stations and equipment to help educate the public and promote rail passenger service as an efficient and convenient alternative to the auto. On Saturday, February 26, I was told by representatives of Metrolink at the Riverside Station that photography was “prohibited”. When I asked by whose authority such a “policy” was enforced, no answer was forth coming.
I certainly hope this is a misunderstanding. “Prohibiting” photography is as pointless as prohibiting rain in February. Cheap, pocket size digital cameras as well as cameras in phones and PDA’s are so numerous that this makes such a ban impossible to effectively enforce. It serves no security function, since train stations are public places with few “secrets” to hide. Trying to enforce such a ban leaves Metrolink open to increased liability, Overzealous employees could easily find themselves harassing members of the public and breaking the law.
There is no law against taking pictures in public! If a representative of Metrolink as much as touches a person trying to “enforce” such a ban, they would be guilty of assault and battery. If they try to confiscate the camera they will be guilty of theft. If they detain a person as they are trying to leave, they would be guilty of kidnaping. For any illegal acts performed on the job by Metrolink representatives, Metrolink can be held legally liable.
As the tragic events of January 26 demonstrated, trespassing is a serious problem on the rails. There is a need for more security to control access to areas on the rails which are either dangerous, or that an unauthorized person could endanger others either intentionally or accidentally. If a person is found on the tracks or in a locked rail car, they are clearly trespassing. Whether they are taking pictures or not is not the issue. But if a person is taking pictures in an open public area, they are not breaking a law. The only measure a property owner can take if they don’t like a person taking pictures is to tell a person they are trespassing and to leave.
The police consider trespassing a very low priority call. Even when they do respond, they will avoid arrests. They will usually only arrest someone if they can be charged with a more serious offence. Harassing the public and wasting police time on minor trespassing issues does nothing to promote good will on the part of Metrolink.
I am reminded of a current TV ad for Delta Airlines. The point of the ad was to show how friendly Delta employees are. In the ad we see a young woman at an airport taking a picture of her friends with her cell phone. As this happens a Delta pilot accidentally bumps into the woman. Next we see the friendly Delta pilot with the phone camera taking a picture of the young woman with the rest of her friends. I think this ad shows the attitude that Metrolink should project to the public. After all Metrolink depends so much on the goodwill of the public.
Noel T. Braymer
NOTE: We are waiting for a reply.