I told him his photograph would not appear in the newspaper.
That is why I blacked out the police officer’s face in the above photo, because I gave him my word. I was illustrating a story I wrote about my police department and needed a photo. So instead of just snapping a photo of the front of the building and being done with it, I looked to find an interesting angle. Then he came out.
He was a person. He was moving. He was thus interesting.
I continued shooting and then ran around to the front to get a better angle of him driving away in the police cruiser. As I captured that shot, he saw me.
The cruiser stopped. A pause. He asked me what I was doing.
I was from the paper, I told him.
Did you take my picture?
Well, it was actually of the car, I said. The photo (which isn’t on this blog because I sold it to the paper) didn’t show his face because the glint of the window shield obscured him.
I even showed him the photo. I didn’t have to do that.
He told me he doesn’t want to be in the paper. I told him I could understand that. He drove away.
I was agreeable because he wasn’t the subject of my story and when you are working in a small town, it pays off to make as many friends as you can.
I was also nervous. Being arrested or otherwise in trouble with the police department is not on my to-do list for Christmas break. (see rule #7. It’s melodramatic.)
Looking back, I should have told him that I had a legal right to photograph him, that I wouldn’t use his image because he asked today, but if he was involved with a newsworthy event later, I would not hesitate to shoot.
Overall, it was a minor event–nothing like the major cases that have been in the media. But it still bothered me. I had the right, and he had the badge.