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View Full Version : 1/25/08 - A Tale of Two Encounters



moose135
01-25-2008, 06:57 PM
I spent the day spotting with Colin from Hong Kong, and we had two very different encounters with local law enforcement. We started at Howard Beach in the morning, got there around 9:45. After about 30 - 45 minutes, a brown Buick sedan pulled up behind us, and three men got out - they were in plain clothes, but showed us NYPD badges & ID. They asked us to get out of the car, and asked what we were doing. I told them we were photographing aircraft as a hobby. They asked for our ID, and let us get back in the car. After about 5 minutes, 2 marked NYPD units arrived, and the group of officers conversed a bit. They asked us to get out again, and asked a few more questions about what we were doing. One of the plainclothes officers asked if he could "check me" and gave my pockets a quick pat. One of the uniforms had Colin put his hands against the car and patted him down. The lead plainclothes officer kept asking "You understand why we have to do this?" After recording our information, they wished us well and departed.

We stayed at HoBe until a little past Noon, then went to lunch. After lunch, we went to Firestone for some arrivals. After about an hour, a Nassau County PD unit pulled up next to us (driver-side to driver-side). He opened his window and said "You guys are taking pictures of airplanes, right?" "Yes, officer." "You guys come out here all the time, right?" "Yes, officer." "So you know the drill - the friendly neighborhood watch called. They said you were taking pictures of airplanes, then getting back in the car. Well, no sh*t, it's about 20 degrees out here. Have a nice day!" And off he went.

Today was the first time I've encountered NYPD while spotting, and the attitude of the officers was very different from what I've seen from NCPD or PAPD. They initially approached us with suspicion, wanting to know what we were doing and why we would be taking photos of aircraft. I understand they have a difficult job to do (one that I wouldn't want to do) and while it ended well, it's the first time I've felt uncomfortable during one of these meetings.

At least Colin got the full New York Experience :D and I've got about 700 shots to go through!

lijk604
01-25-2008, 07:50 PM
You know, checking out ID's I fully understand, and have NO ISSUE complying with. What the HELL gave them reason to "pat" you down? I know there was no way it could have been attitude, as being with Moose plenty of times when we were ID'd, he is the most diplomatic, friendly spotter our group has, hands down. (Sorry if that offends anyone, but it's the truth). Very strange, sorry you had to go through all that Moose.

cancidas
01-25-2008, 09:13 PM
i agree with john. they had no reason to put hands on you. had you made a threathening move towards the officers i could understand, but aside from that they went too far.

LGA777
01-26-2008, 09:59 AM
Moose, I hope this isn't to personal but in situations like this do you show your retired Air Force ID as I would think/hope that would work in your favor ? Also was Colin surprised based on how spotting and law enforecement is in Hong Kong towards our hobby ? Very surprised you where patted down, I agree with Matt that went to far.

Glad they at least did not tell you to leave, many of my experiences at/around JFK back in the 90's where two choices, you can leave or you can go to jail, and that was after displaying my LGA Port Auth Photo ID and my USAir Photo ID, with most it did not seem to matter, although it helped a lot almost anywhere else in the world, just not 8 miles down the Van Wyke where it SHOULD have.

Cheers

LGA777

NIKV69
01-26-2008, 05:53 PM
Though we rarely if at all see someone get patted down is basically a non-issue. I got pulled over by a NYPD once driving near Central park and he was the biggest *sshole. Never told me why he pulled me over, looked through my car and kept asking me if I had pot in the car had me get out and patted me down. I got agitated and told him I never touch the stuff and he left as fast as he pulled me over without saying much of anything, much like when I was shooting at Costco once alone, the wx was so nice I had my driver side door open and myh leg out. A plainclothes guy told me to get my leg in and closed my door in a way I wasn't happy with and then like the NYPD after he ran my ID basically threw it at me and left without much convo. Some of thesr officers may be experiencing this type of interaction with spotters for the first time. Go figure. These guys encounter all sorts of people all sorts of situations. I think if you look at the big picture they are actually hassling us less and just running out ground balls when they get phone calls which they still probably get besieged with from concerned citizens.

Gerard
01-27-2008, 11:40 AM
>"So you know the drill - the friendly neighborhood watch called. <

Since there are no homes around there who is calling? The business owners? You would
think they would be used to the spotters by now. Have you guys talked with them explaining
the hobby?

NIKV69
01-27-2008, 01:42 PM
Since there are no homes around there who is calling? The business owners? You would
think they would be used to the spotters by now. Have you guys talked with them explaining
the hobby?


This begins to start to show how insular thinking has become. We are not by a long shot the only ones who frequent the "spotting locations" we do. Have you ever been to the Howard Beach spotting location? Spotters make up the minority of people that park there. Many are locals that are doing a variety of things. Like eating lunch, walking on the beach, using metal detectors, feeding the water fowl etc. They are the ones who are calling because to some of them who have no idea what we are doing think it's suspicious. It has nothing to do with being used to us. Also when you say "getting used to us" I almost think you feel that it is our location to spot. It's not, it's a public location and we are subject to every thing anybody else is. If that means LO checking on us after they have received a call so be it. Some officers are experienced with us and some are not. Explaining the hobby to them is great but unforunately thanks to Osama we will run into this from time to time. As long as you have your ID and act accordingly it's a non-issue and ususally the interaction will last a couple of minutes and your back to shooting.

Gerard
01-27-2008, 04:27 PM
>This begins to start to show how insular thinking has become. We are not by a long shot the only ones who frequent the "spotting locations" we do. Have you ever been to the Howard Beach spotting location? Spotters make up the minority of people that park there. Many are locals that are doing a variety of things. Like eating lunch, walking on the beach, using metal detectors, feeding the water fowl etc. <

I was actually talking about the Firestone/BK/Costco locations in reference to the "neighborhood watch". I've been
to the HoBe location and amongst other things going on there in the past were people doing illicit and possibly illegal
things in their cars. Not sure if that is still going on but that might explain the police presence there also.

emshighway
01-27-2008, 06:17 PM
They did a simple "stop and frisk"and filled out the 250 form. Think about the other side, you come upon two men sitting in a car. You don't know what they are doing or may have on them. You would like to go home to your family so you take the precaution of doing a quick patdown to ensure you are not going to get shot or stabbed. As you stated the lead plaincloths officer was letting you know this by his "You understand why we have to do this?" comment.

wunaladreamin
01-28-2008, 09:23 AM
Scratching out a UF250 is fine but really you can't tell me vice doesn't have more constructive ways to get their numbers. If it was me, a stop and frisk in this case would only be warranted if Moose or Colin went for their wastband or pockets. Otherwise it's 90y and 98.

PhilDernerJr
01-28-2008, 09:35 AM
If they go for their waistbands or pockets, I think the situation would have been worse than just a frisk.

I view this situation as nothing more than "unfortunate". It's the environment we live in, and until awareness improves, we may have to deal with this on occasion.

Thank God it was someone as mildly tempered and smart as Moose.

markg
01-28-2008, 01:06 PM
About 3 years ago myself and 2 guys I was with had an interaction with PAPD over by the college and Planeview Park.

All 3 of us were made to put our hands on the car and were given the pat down. The lieutenant came over, sent most of the cops away and explained that the sergeant who he had sent away didn't like spotters and that is why we were given a hard time and the detectives had been requested to attend.

If a cop wants to give me a hard time, I just let him do his thing and if he asks me to leave, I leave- simple as that. It's easier to leave and go somewhere else than the alternative of being handcuffed and sat in a jail cell until someone in higher authority or a lawyer gets involved.

NIKV69
01-28-2008, 02:01 PM
All 3 of us were made to put our hands on the car and were given the pat down. The lieutenant came over, sent most of the cops away and explained that the sergeant who he had sent away didn't like spotters and that is why we were given a hard time and the detectives had been requested to attend.


Well this is a different thing entirely. First off, getting patted down is something more routine than anything and I think Moose's encounter is basically that. I mean again we are whether unconsiously or otherwise beginning to get a feeling of entitlement in these spots. As I said before they are places that many others frequent and as Phil said in a post 9/11 world it will happen. BUT and officer of any rank that has a personal feeling toward a group of people that effects his treatment of them is stepping over the line a bit. Whether he views spotters as nuisances or whatever LO still has to treat us fairly and though Moose's case it sounds like they were more than fair I would hope if anyone encounters an officer that tries any tactic such as making up his own laws, intimidation, telling us to leave in a public spot where we have every right to stay etc, would stand up for themselves in a cordial manner. We have seen that the majority of LO is fair and professional but there will be always that one who won't be.

Tom_Turner
01-28-2008, 03:10 PM
They did a simple "stop and frisk"and filled out the 250 form. Think about the other side, you come upon two men sitting in a car. You don't know what they are doing or may have on them. You would like to go home to your family so you take the precaution of doing a quick patdown to ensure you are not going to get shot or stabbed. As you stated the lead plaincloths officer was letting you know this by his "You understand why we have to do this?" comment.

Thats odd though. The last several hundred times this happened locally, no one "had to do" this.

Which is it? They "have to" do this, or they don't?

Matt Molnar
01-28-2008, 03:14 PM
Is there any probable cause needed to warrant performing a frisk?

Tom_Turner
01-28-2008, 03:38 PM
Is there any probable cause needed to warrant performing a frisk?

Good Question Gotham!

Definitely for those taking pictures of airliners from a open public place where this is regularly done since before 911 is a must for any crack anti-terrorism agency.

Three plainclothes officers? Throw in another two marked NYPD cars and two or three other officers - all the better. Excellent use of resources.

Definitely check that ID too. See if there are any outstanding terrorism warrants :roll:

Its not as if there is any crime going on in Jamaica, Rockaway, Howard Beach, JFK etc...

Resume patrol....

PhilDernerJr
01-28-2008, 04:20 PM
Matt's right. Many of us have been questioned, detained or patted down at some point or another....without even knowing what crime they are accusing us of. It's certainly a leap to say that it's suspicion of terrorism.

But, I guess that's the Patriot Act for you.

mirrodie
01-28-2008, 04:46 PM
Well its nice to hear two differing perspectives from at least 2 law enforcers here.

Makes one think the law enforcement tactics are as consistent as screening standards. :wink:

Tom_Turner
01-28-2008, 06:34 PM
Matt's right. Many of us have been questioned, detained or patted down at some point or another....without even knowing what crime they are accusing us of. It's certainly a leap to say that it's suspicion of terrorism.

But, I guess that's the Patriot Act for you.

Yeah, but Phil, they're saying "You know why we have to do this" while they're doing it. I've been patted down and momentarily detained before as well, without knowing what was going on, but no officer was saying "you know why we have to do this" while that was happening.

NIKV69
01-28-2008, 06:39 PM
Makes one think the law enforcement tactics are as consistent as screening standards

Of course they are Mario! Come on if they weren't our acceptance ratios would all be 100% :borat:

Seriously it's apples and oranges. Not every LO encounter is going to be the same. Sure being patted down may at first seem extreme. Again we are dealing with human beings so you are not going to get the same thing every time. Some officers may pat down in a certain situation where some others won't. When I had my encounter at ISP they didn't pat me down yet they searched my car. I could care less. I had nothing to hide. The female officer was a total idiot the whole encounter. Maybe her gf wouldn't give her action the night before who knows. Then I had to tell her to go screw when she wanted my SS#. No way I was giving that out. She didn't like that but it had to be more BS because when homeland security came to my house they didn't ask for it. As Phil said in this post 9/11 era we are probably never going to be like we were before.

Gerard
01-28-2008, 07:06 PM
>She didn't like that but it had to be more BS because when homeland security came to my house they didn't ask for it<
They came to your house?

>As Phil said in this post 9/11 era we are probably never going to be like we were before.<
That is an absolute certain.

lijk604
01-28-2008, 08:07 PM
>She didn't like that but it had to be more BS because when homeland security came to my house they didn't ask for it<
They came to your house?


They've been to mine, and it was TWO WEEKS after I had taken photos. Oh yeah, and I wasn't near the airport at the time. I was 1/2 mile away from the airport in a public parking lot (although it was on final for 24).

NIKV69
01-28-2008, 08:16 PM
They came to your house?



Yep, I was approached by SCPD about 5pm, they knocked on my door 9pm.

mirrodie
01-28-2008, 08:45 PM
They came to your house?



Yep, I was approached by SCPD about 5pm, they knocked on my door 9pm.

Whoa, when did they come to your house? Did you let them in? What exactly went on and how much of your time did they take?

On one hand, I'm somewhat impressed that they showed up at your place. On the other, it makes me doubt the investigative techniques of the department that initially questioned you.

NIKV69
01-28-2008, 11:27 PM
Whoa, when did they come to your house

The evening after I got approached by SCPD in the bank lot at ISP. April 04'?


Did you let them in

No I told them to go away, of course I let them in. Why wouldn't I? Mi casa es su casa.


What exactly went on and how much of your time did they take?



There was two of them. One was homeland security and the other was SCPD. The SC detective was aware of my cousin who is a Chief Inspector with SCPD and at the time was a Captain and a very respected homicide detective while he was coming up. He brought that up and things were very cordial. They sat at the kitchen table, I offered them a drink which they refused. They asked me why I took pics of planes and what I do with them. I told them about anet and they wrote it down and thanked me and left. They were probably in my house for no more than 10 mins.

Here is my momento.

http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2004-12/905683/FHPQC-bizcard.jpg

http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2004-12/905683/ACMZD-bizcard2.jpg

Vidiot
01-29-2008, 12:50 PM
I'm not a lawyer, but from my reading of the law (and a report issued by the New York AG's office a while back), the frisks and requests for ID may not have been on firm legal grounds.

New York state actually has stricter laws regulating police-citizen encounters than the federal government does. A 1976 appellate court decision, People v. De Bour, lays out four levels of intrusiveness, and the standards needed for each. Any police officer can approach and talk with any person at any time -- that's fine. (They're allowed, apparently, to ask "nonthreatening questions" about your "identity, reason for being at a particular location, or travel plans, where the request is 'supported by an objective, credible reason, not necessarily indicative of criminality.'")

The second level of intrusiveness (the "common-law right of inquiry") requires a founded suspicion that "criminal activity is afoot" (and not necessarily that you're the one instigating it.) This suspicion allows the officer to ask more questions beyond the ones laid out above, ask for explanations, et cetera. The difference between this and the first level is pretty subtle, and apparently comes down to how intimidating the encounter is.

The third level requires "reasonable suspicion" of criminality, and roughly corresponds to a "Terry stop" as described in federal case law. This is where New York state's stop-and-identify law comes into play, and the police may legally demand ID, frisk you, and detain you. (The patdown search is for when an officer has a reasonable fear that he or she "is dealing with an armed and dangerous individual"...which seems a bit much for the average planespotter, who isn't carrying anything more threatening than a long lens and maybe a radio.)

The fourth level is an arrest, which requires "probable cause" that you have committed or are committing a crime.

Any cop can ask you for ID or for your permission to frisk you or search your car, but they can't order you to show ID or submit to a search unless they have "reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot." You are perfectly within your rights to politely ask if you are free to go, to refuse to show ID, and to walk away. The Supreme Court has held that refusal to answer a police officer's questions does not in itself constitute "reasonable suspicion." (New York state law agrees with this point.)

Let me be clear here: I'm not for a moment advocating not cooperating with the police, and I know that they have a difficult, dangerous, ill-paying job to do. I think that by far the easiest way to deal with a police encounter is to allay their suspicions by giving them what they want. But I also think it's important to know your rights.