San Diego Trolley guards: Private citizen security or real police officers?

January 29, 2012 by · 15 Comments 


San Diego Trolley Guards: Private Security or Sworn Police?

    San Diego Trolley Guards think they are real police officers. Specifically, they think they are actual sworn peace officers but they aren’t; they work for Heritage Security, a private security company. What they are doing and saying in the video above they are doing as private citizens. The two arrests you see them perform in the video are citizen’s arrests. The problem I have is that the people arrested were placed in handcuffs, one because he smelled of alcohol and the other for smoking. Both of the guards also react rather rudely to my presence; one saying he would arrest me if I stand behind him while the other walks up to me and tells me to get back, then asks to see my ticket and then says to get out of his face. Unless I was standing in a 6 inch hole, there is no way I was in that guard’s face.

    From my point of view, the short guard became annoyed when the fat guard made him aware of my presence. That’s when Biggie said he’d arrest me for standing behind him and Smalls checked my ticket and told me to get out of his face. I really didn’t move, so the little guy decided to go pick on a smoker that happened to light up as he was exiting 7-11. From my point of view, short-stuff was being a fucking bully. Watch the video below and pay attention to how the short guard talks to the guys after they are in cuffs. He’s a cast iron dick.

    I think there is a vicious cycle going on between commuters and security guards: Commuters think most guards are assholes and guards think most commuters are degenerates. They’re both right. Most people in San Diego that ride the trolley instead of driving a car do it because they can’t afford a car or because they’ve had their license suspended; in other words, because they HAVE to. I’m part of that small green minority that’s charging ahead and riding public transportation by choice so I get to bear witness to a lot of trolley guards being assholes to a lot of stinky, stupid degenerates and I’m all for that. However, I was wearing dress pants, a collared button down shirt, a tie, impeccably shined shoes and I was holding a camera when short-stack and extra-large talked to me the way they did.

    I didn’t look like nor was I acting like a degenerate when they were assholes to me. Therein lies the vicious cycle. Or maybe trolley guards really are assholes to everyone. What do you think?

    Below is a video I shot and blogged about in 2009 showing four guards take a guy down for smoking, so San Diego trolley guards have had a pattern of arresting people for petty things for at least a couple years, but they are not sworn peace officers. This makes me question the necessity and the legality of the arrests because as you’ll hear in the videos, they never say they are NOT the police, but, they sure talk like the police.

Trespassing Photographer In South Bay Biological Study Area

January 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Trespassing Photographer In South Bay County Biological Study Area

Trespassing Photographer In South Bay County Biological Study Area

        How do I know this particular photographer is standing somewhere he’s not supposed to be? I know this because the South Bay County Biological Study Area is an area that borders the southern most part of Bayshore Bikeway and it’s only for looking at, not walking through.

Trespassing Photographer In South Bay County Biological Study Area

What’s That Sign Say?

        Trampling over the bird’s protected habitat just to get a shot of the same bird? You’d think with that big lens he could afford to have stayed back a few feet. In the background you see what this man and many others come to this area everyday to see: Birds, The Coronado Bridge and the San Diego skyline.

Photography Is Not A Crime

August 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Carlos Miller Being Attacked On The Miami Metrorail For Taking Pictures

        Carlos Miller, a Miami blogger is the chief cook and bottle washer of the website, Photography Is Not A Crime. He started the website back in 2007 when he was arrested for taking pictures of Miami police officers… From a public sidewalk! After being acquitted of all charges, he began to look for and blog about other instances of photographers being detained, harassed and arrested for taking pictures (which is protected by the first amendment to the US Constitution) from a public vantage point. What that means to the layperson is that if you can see something from a public place, you are allowed to photograph it. This includes federal buildings, bridges, police officers, protest marches, arrests, fires, traffic accidents, beaches and parks.
        This really is a common sense idea that shouldn’t NEED an actual amendment to the constitution, but our fore-fathers had incredible fore-sight, and we should thank the creator they did. For some unknown reason, public servants, police officers and security guards think they can CREATE laws, because they ENFORCE laws.

San Diego Trolley Guards Prohibit Photography

        The video above was filmed by me on September 5, 2009, a little after 8pm at the 12th & Imperial trolley station in San Diego, CA. My original blog post that featured this video can be viewed here. In a nutshell, the man being tackled was illegally smoking in the transit center, refused to put out his cigarette and was subsequently tackled to the ground and led away in handcuffs. The problem, or the issue that I had with all of this was that the security guards told me I was not allowed to take pictures. To me, this was an instant red flag. Four non-peace officers (private citizens) tackled a man, put him in hand cuffs and led him away in a PUBLIC transit station, yet photographing the event was prohibited?!? Bullshit. I shopped the video around and it was picked up by the local NBC affiliate less than two weeks later. It was while shopping the video that I came across Carlos Miller’s website, contacted him and he featured the video and the story in an article in February 2010. After Carlos Miller ran my story, the San Diego Reader also ran a story, later in the month. The author of the SD Reader story, Kathryn Snyder found out that the security firm would not release the incident report for the arrest, and this was also reported in a second article on Carlos Miller’s site.
        It wasn’t until it happened to me that I realized just how widespread this problem is. Police and security guards have no right to prohibit photography in a public place, yet they are doing so ALL THE TIME. It was a wake up call because hardly any of the hundreds of similar incidents that Carlos Miller has reported on his blog over the last three years get reported by the mainstream media. Until now, that is, and it’s all thanks to Carlos Miller. So, I would very much recommend that you look at through his website and realize the good he is doing for all of us. PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT A CRIME!

Balboa Park Security Guards

May 16, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Very Secret Balboa Park Fountain

Unauthorized Balboa Park Fountain Photography

        Today I had a run in with security guards inside of Balboa Park in San Diego. I was taking photos of the defunct fountain, surrounded by yellow flowers you see above when a security guard drove up in a truck and asked me for my ID. I said I would not show him my ID, which angered him, so he called for back-up. His back-up was another Balboa Park security guard that also asked for my ID. I refused to give him my ID as well, so he said, “then I’m gonna treat you like a criminal.” The video below was shot during the altercation.
        Despite the camera being aimed at the guards’ crotch for most of the time, there are a few audio highlights of from this 4 minute video.

        At about the 1:20 mark, the first guard implies that I have something to hide because I won’t show him my ID. He then says that people over the age of eighteen are required to have ID at all times. I then ask him if citizens over the age of eighteen are required to show ID to a non-peace officer at any given time just because he says. The guard doesn’t answer my question, he merely states that the only difference between what he does and a peace officer does is location. He also states he can arrest me, and cite me. When I point out that it would be a citizen’s arrest he said, it would NOT be because there are city and municipal codes that allow “us” to arrest people.
        Just before the 3 minute mark, when I point out that I may want to see the guard’s ID, and that if he doesn’t show me that I may arrest HIM, he says I’m being a “pain in the ass” and that it’ll be easier for me if I just give him my ID.
        At the 3:15 mark, the other security guard shows up, and he was just a comical person on a power trip. He starts out by driving his truck over the curb and onto the flowers. This guy then speaks with a voice of authority, using long, unnecessary pauses and hand gestures for emphasis. He tells me to relax, follow his instructions, and give him my ID. I refuse so he says he’s going to treat me like a criminal. He also says to turn off my camera, remove it from my body and place it on the ground. I did turn the camera off, but I swear it was an accident… I forgot I was shooting video, so the remaining 5 minutes of the altercation, including the arrival of the cops was not captured.

        So there you have it. Just one more example of non-peace officer security guards that think they are cops, yet they called the cops when I wouldn’t show my ID. So remember, be polite, stand your ground and don’t buy in to what a security guard tells you. Just from this 4 minute video we hear Balboa Park security guards make the following claims: 1. They can arrest people that don’t show ID, because special municipal and state codes allow them to do so. 2. They will “treat you like a criminal” if you don’t show ID. 3. If you have a camera, they will want you to place it on the ground. Pathetic.

San Diego Reader Story: We Don’t Want You Taking Pictures

February 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

San Diego Trolley Guards

        San Diego Reader has just published a story that was started by my video, which can be viewed above. Please click this link to read the SD Reader story. The title of the story is, “We Don’t Want You Talking Pictures.” and it is written by Kathryn Snyder. It reports about my video and how the trolley guards tried to stop me from filming or taking pictures. The article goes on to say that the incident report for the evening is not available for one of two reasons: “…based on the California Public Records Act, which exempts documents from disclosure that are either: (1) records pertaining to current litigation to which the public agency is a party; or (2) records of complaints to, or investigations conducted by the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice, and any state, or local police agency.”

        These are links to posts and videos that lead up to the SD Reader story:

My original blog post can be read by clicking here.
Story featured on Carlos Miller’s “Photography Is Not A Crime” website can be read here.
The San Diego Reader Story can be read by clicking here or by clicking the photo below.
For the follow-up story on “Photography Is Not A Crime” website click here.
To visit the Illegal Photography page referenced in the San Diego Reader story, click the following link:

San Diego Reader Story: We Don't Want You Taking Pictures

San Diego Trolley Police Were Wrong

September 21, 2009 by · 5 Comments 

Trolley Police Have No Right To Prohibit Photography

        The proof is in the pudding. The video above was broadcast on Friday, September 18th, 2009 on San Diego’s local NBC News affiliate 7/39 at 11pm. What more can I say other than this is a very distinct victory for photographers’ rights. We are allowed to shoot video or take pictures at trolley stations, and San Diego Trolley police have NO RIGHT to ask or make a photographer stop.

        The entire statement, made by Ken Moller of Heritage Security Services is as follows:

“We have no right to tell people they can’t shoot (video) down there. My officers were wrong in telling him that. And I put the word out as soon as I saw the video. It’s a public place and people can certainly shoot video down there if they want to.”

        So there you have it. Here is what I have learned from this experience. If an authority figure challenges you while taking photos or shooting video, be polite. Ask them if you are violating any law, and KEEP ROLLING during the transaction. As a photographer, I hate to say it, but this would not have made the evening news if I wasn’t shooting video, so make sure to switch to video mode as soon as you see an authority figure approaching you.

        Now we know why video mode is important to us photographers… Not to add a bullet to your wedding photography resume, but rather to protect yourself and to show in HD quality just how your rights are being violated.

        Below you will find the video that started it all, and above will you find the video that decided it all.

San Diego Trolley Police Prohibit Photography

September 7, 2009 by · 42 Comments 

          It would seem that San Diego Trolley Police need a few lessons in local law. The man on the ground, was smoking in the 12th & Imperial Transit Center in San Diego, CA. This happened on September 5th, 2009 at 8:20pm. Assuming that what you see the San Diego Trolley Transit Police doing is legal and assuming the transit police are keeping other public commuters safe, there should be no issue with photography taking place. If a protector of the public, whose salary is drawn from the taxes of the public is also prohibiting the public from LEGAL activities, then San Diego trolley police are breaking the law. Heritage Security has a 5 year, $25 million with San Diego which was signed in January, 2006. The hierarchy seems to be: Unarmed trolley officer, armed trolley officer, armed supervisor, armed lieutenant and armed captain. If I read the contract correctly, unarmed San Diego trolley police officers receive a 2.5% annual pay increase, while armed trolley police officers receive a 3.5% annual pay increase. There are also small pay increases every 6 months, assuming performance is satisfactory. As San Diego trolley police have constant interaction with the public, why do they prohibit photography of themselves if they are performing their job in a satisfactory manner? The contract makes no mention of a photography ban nor does it state what qualifies satisfactory performance versus unsatisfactory performance.

Some highlights from the video above are:

1) For the first 40 seconds or so, the man on the ground makes numerous requests for the officer closest to me to get his knee off of his head, and specifically, his scar which was obtained during a recent surgery to remove cancer.
2) At the 15 second mark, a female officer crosses the Trolley tracks and says, “Get away with that camera!” I can be heard to ask, “How far?” The San Diego Trolley Police Officer says, “You’re not allowed to take pictures.”
3) At the two minute mark, right after a bus passes between me and the officers and their handcuffed smoker, the same female officer from before (now on the left side of the screen) looks at me, walks to her colleagues as says something. A second later three officers turn around and look right at me. The female officer points at me, which causes a one of her own to approach me for the ensuing challenge.

        UPDATE! Read my follow-up post here. My video is featured on NBC 7/39 San Diego News. Watch my interview and read a statement made by Heritage Security regarding the situation. Suffice to say that photography at San Diego Trolley Stations is in fact 100% LEGAL!

Moving Trolley

Trolley Stations Are Public Property

          Photography is not illegal. You’ll hear me say that a half dozen times or so in the video, as well as asking if I am in violation of any law. Two of the San Diego Trolley Cops told me I was not allowed to take pictures. Interesting. We public commuters can look at them, show them our tickets, obey orders given by them, be tackled to the ground by them and placed, in handcuffs inside SUV’s with dark tinted windows, BUT WE CAN NOT PHOTOGRAPH THEM DOING ANY OF IT! Or so they say, at least in this video.

          San Diego trolley police officers that don’t want pictures taken of them while they do their job are out of luck. If they are captured on film while tackling some one to the ground, why would photography be prohibited unless they were doing something illegal? I have emailed Heritage Security asking this question but got no reply. I would appeal to visit the contact page of Heritage Security and ask them. On that page you will find and email link with text that says [email protected], but when you hover over the link it says the email is [email protected] I hope their trolley police officer selection process is not as disorganized as their website.

San Diego Trolley Police 12th & Imperial Transit Center

A Transit Station At Night Can Be Scary Enough on It’s Own

Homeland Security At Night

July 1, 2009 by · 2 Comments 


There are a few things you must remember when using your camera at night, one of them is the mentality of a cop.  This police station is being built right around the corner from current residence of the local police force.  Standing well outside the chain-link barrier, I snapped images of this giant, metal arachnid, all the while noticing that a police cruiser was creeping up on me from about my 5 o’clock.

When challenged by the voice hidden behind a beaming spotlight as to what I was doing, I said I was performing the art of photography.  The arrogant man then asked why I was taking pictures of a construction site at night.  I did not understand what he meant, which is what I told him.  A verbal explanation by my new, spotlight wielding friend made me understand that this particular crime-fighter thought that my camera, which was slung across my body looked like a gun, which is why he was questioning me now.

I politely asked him, “What kind of gun?”

“Excuse me”, he asked?

“What kind of gun is it that you think my digital camera looks like?”

For some reason, this caused him to launch into a typical authority-figure-in-a-no-consequence-environment lecture that was so boringly parental, it caused me to drift off at least twice while I was being spoken to.

Afterward he left & I continued my shoot.  “Viva La Revolucion” was what I shouted into the night as he drove away.  As a non Spanish speaker, I can only guess at what that actually means.  With any luck at all, it means that photography is NOT illegal.

So after that I went and mixed a little bit of flash with a WHOLE LOT of shutter time at a nearby fountain.  This constant flow of water was just what I needed to wrap up my impromptu night-shoot.

Night Fountain