Email out, just now, after a lot of thinking about what to do about the Dearborn Heights cop who stopped me, and the less than satisfactory response I received:
Dear Chief Gust, Captain Gavin, Lieutenant yyyyy, and Mayor Paletko,
I appreciate your timely response to my complaint about officer xxxxx.
There are a few items in the response that conscience compels me to address.
First, regarding the conclusion that I exercised poor judgment: surely the city attorney has informed the police department that anyone who is in a public place, including law enforcement officers, may be photographed without their consent. There is no legal requirement to request permission to photograph people in public places. There is also no legal requirement to take photographs while stationary.
The response appeals to emotion by asking me to imagine a stranger taking pictures of my wife and children in front of my house. Consider that hypothetical scenario. I would have very limited recourse if that happened. I would certainly not be justified if I were to pursue and stop that person. If I requested assistance from my local police department, I would be informed that they could do nothing about such an incident, because anyone in a public place may photographed. Celebrities constantly being photographed by paparazzi live with this fact every day. Officer xxxxx had no justification to pursue and stop me because I photographed him or his patrol vehicle.
Second, the response implies that I drove away quickly after photographing officer xxxxx. That is not true. I drove through the parking lot at a safe and reasonable speed appropriate for a parking lot, and joined traffic on Pelham at a safe and legal speed. The implication that I drove quickly away is not true.
Third, it appears I wasn’t entirely clear in my first note: I absolutely dispute officer xxxxx’s claim that I was speeding. As law enforcement officers, you must surely be aware that vehicle speedometers are not entirely precise. Surely you are also aware that federal regulations mandate that vehicle speedometers must be accurate to plus or minus 5 mph at a speed of 50 mph. Officer xxxxx claims I was traveling at 3 mph over the speed limit. That is much less than the 5 mph tolerance mandated by federal law. I cannot be held responsible for the manufacturing tolerance of speedometers produced by car companies. If my speedometer reads 1.5 mph low, and officer xxxxx’s reads 1.5 mph high, it would appear that I was traveling 3 mph over the speed limit, when in fact, I was was not.
What this means is that officer xxxxx used speeding as a pretense to wrongfully stop me. If I was actually speeding, he would have issued me a citation.
I believe Officer xxxxx would not have stopped me if I had not taken his photograph. That means: he stopped me because I took his photograph. That is clearly inappropriate.
Fourth, officer xxxxx ordered me to show him the photograph stored in my cell phone. I believe he should have had a search warrant before ordering me to show him the photograph. I showed him the photo out of fear of being further wrongfully detained.
Fifth, the response does not address the fact that officer xxxxx (and others) have routinely, and for many years, squandered precious Dearborn Heights tax dollars by lounging around that 7-Eleven store, reading newspapers and magazines while they leave city vehicles burning expensive city gas in the parking lot.
Blame for this incident is being placed entirely on me. If there was poor judgment involved in this incident, it was certainly not entirely on my part. Officer xxxxx clearly exercised poor judgment by ignoring the fact that photography in public places is a legitimate activity, by using speeding as a pretense to stop me, and by wrongfully searching my cell phone. As I mentioned in my original note, such poor judgment demonstrates that he may be a potential liability for the Dearborn Heights Police Department, and the city.
I didn’t bother to include any requests in that note to the DHPD. Anything they’d send back would just blame me again.
It’s obvious to me, and should be to anyone with even a shred of objectivity, that the cop stopped me because I took his picture. His claim that I was speeding was a pathetic excuse to stop me, and his demand that I show him the photo was a blatant warrantless search.