It was once a hobby of many – taking photographs of the beautiful trains that crisscross the countryside. There are so many different trains and, judging by the number of model train enthusiasts, a considerable number of people interested in looking at them.  Amtrak recently sponsored a contest to take photographs of its own trains. The winner would get a thousand dollars in travel vouchers and get their photo published in Amtrak’s annual calendar.


Instead of entering the contest to win, Duane Kerzic found himself handcuffed in a small holding cell, having been arrested by Amtrak’s own police.

Kerzic’s
ordeal began Dec. 21 when he took the train from New Jersey into New
York City and debarked at Penn Station. He snapped a photo of the train
speeding away, then walked down the platform where he snapped several
other photos. He continued taking photos as the platform emptied into
Manhattan.

Then he casually walked towards the staircase to make his own way into
the city. He stopped before the stairwell to tie his shoe.

When he stood back up, the cops were hovering over him. Two cops and a dog. A black lab with a nose for explosives.

“They asked what I was doing, I said I was taking photos,” he said.

“They said put your bag on the ground and let our dog sniff it.”

What
is going on here?

Amtrak’s own police arresting a man for participating
in an Amtrak contest?

What exactly did this man do wrong?

The problem
doesn’t seem limited to trains, either. Airport police harassed one airline pilot two years ago for just trying to photograph an airplane:

There’s
a shiny new airport in Manchester, and I’m there to take pictures as
part of an article I’m working on for that mouthpiece of liberal
fascism, the Boston Globe. I’ve shot about six digital pictures, and
I’m working on the seventh — a nicely framed view of the terminal
façade — when I hear the stern “Excuse me.” A young guy in a navy
windbreaker steps toward me. It says AIRPORT SECURITY in block letters
across his back. “You can’t do that. You need to put the camera away.”

“I do? Why?”

“Pictures aren’t allowed.”

“They’re not?”

“Sorry.”

“Sorry what? I don’t think that’s true, actually. I’m pretty sure that it isn’t illegal to take pictures at an airport.”

“You’ll need to talk to a deputy, sir.”

What’s next?  No cameras allowed in cell phones?  Will all our cameras have a feature with which the police can turn them off so that we can’t use them?

Are the authorities scared of what our cameras see or what our eyes are seeing?  Are they afraid of the image in the camera or the everlasting impression in our eye?

6 Comments

  1. This is an important topic, Gordon, especially with the news this week that the NYPD wants to turn off cell phones in times of “terrorist crises:”

    The New York Police Department wants to be able to shut down cell phones, in case of a terrorist attack.
    During last month’s massacre in Mumbai, terrorist handlers over micromanaged via mobile phone the assaults on the hotels, train stations, and Jewish center that killed more than 170 people.

    http://blog.wired.com/defense/2009/01/nypd-eyes-disru.html
    So let me see if I have this right. There’s a terrorist threat and all cell phones are disabled by the police to thwart the terrorists. The regular, innocent, good people — who might see something of vital importance to help stop the threat — cannot use their cell phones to make an emergency call to the NYPD?

  2. This is one of those ridiculous situations we are going to see more and more of. I don’t think Amtrak want to pay out their prize!
    Many years ago we traveled to the Greek Islands and were warned in advance to check that we could take photographs before we took them – as many of the historical sites were next to sensitive military installations. To be fair we were warned, they had huge signs everywhere indicating if photography was or was not allowed.
    Nowadays the photography angle all sees a bit superfluous when google offers you a street view of everywhere.
    To switch off mobile signals in times of emergency – when the powers that be NEED information and conventional systems may be down – seems to be a dangerous road to go down. One of the main criticisms of 9/11 was the failure of communications equipment.
    On a related side note – when I was helping run BDSM events – we had a no mobile policy – mainly because of the cameras included with them and possible breaches of privacy.
    People were asked to turn them off – anyone seen with one in their hands was escorted out of the building.

  3. There are certain events where mobile phones are just plain distracting. At my synagogue they ask you to turn it off during weekday services. It is understood that you wouldn’t even have it on your person during Shabbos.
    Sad about the whole Amtrak thing. Was there a lack of communication to their employees about their contest?

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