City of Chicago : See a camera? Call 911.
I have heard a lot of people in the past few years say "At what point do we throw our hands up and say: the terrorists have won?" At times I'll talk with people I overhear, sometimes I'll mention it to relatives and friends...it's a reasonable question, but are we asking the right people that question? Are we just asking our friends and neighbors or are we asking the politicians, the police force...the media?
The city of Chicago has put out a bulletin on their Alert Chicago website that makes me wonder what kind of a world we live in. The bulletin is about homeland security issues and how every citizen should help the police by reporting the following issues to them immediately (by calling 911 no less).
- Physical Surveillance (note taking, binocular use, cameras, video, maps)
- Attempts to gain sensitive information regarding key facilities
- Attempts to penetrate or test physical security / response procedures
- Attempts to improperly acquire explosives, weapons, ammunition, dangerous chemicals, etc.
- Suspicious or improper attempts to acquire official vehicles, uniforms, badges or access devices
- Presence of individuals who do not appear to belong in workplaces, business establishments, or near key facilities
- Mapping out routes, playing out scenarios, monitoring key facilities, timing traffic lights
- Stockpiling suspicious materials or abandoning potential containers for explosives (e.g., vehicles, suitcases, etc)
- Suspicious reporting of lost or stolen identification
So, let's just think about the reality of this for a minute here. Let's say you have dark hair and a beard, you are visiting friends in Chicago and you are wondering around looking at a map to figure out how to get where you are going, maybe even see some tourist spots. Maybe you are taking notes about your vacation (like I do) while you take photographs of buildings, or of people in the public -since you might be a reporter. Someone living in pure fear sees you and calls 911 so the police can be called to question you. Sounds like a great plan.
911 Emergency lines can get a little more clogged with calls that should only go to the police main number -not the emergency number.
Why would the police and the city of Chicago want to perpetuate this insane "live in fear" philosophy we have going on? If you live in Chicago, I hope you never do anything you would normally do -because that would be suspicious activity. Sure abondoning containers for explosives is suspicious, so are improper requests for firearm. Taking notes, binocular use, cameras, video and using maps? That is not suspicious, nor should you call 911.
For the record, I have dark hair and I on occasion let my beard grow out. When I was first studying digital photography I wanted to play with long exposures and showing car head/tail lights streaking by. Knowing that I might look suspicious, I went to a well lit area to park my car in the open and take photos of an interception with no large businesses nor government buildings in a small town. I took less than 10 photos and we there for 10-15m minutes. When I left I was pulled over by a police officer and a man on a motorcycle followed. I was told to present my identification and not to ask questions...I was detained illegally for 30 minutes while my ID was checked with the police and the "concerned citizen". I was questioned about my activity, which I explained to the officer that I did nothing illegal - I was on public property, I wasn't using a flash to disturb traffic, nor was I standing too close to the street; and most importantly I knew there were no buildings within line of sight that could not be photographed. Later, the officer returned to my car and told me I was free to go and went to go back and talk to the guy on the motorcycle.
My story is not uncommon pre and post-9/11. You do not have to go far to find stories about regular citizens doing legal things being accosted by police. Flickr hasa few groups dedicated to such stories, photos and follow-ups.
I urge all citizens to become more familiar with their rights and not be afraid to stand up for them. Police are there to protect your rights, not remove them illegally. If you are approached by an officer, request to see their ID and don't hesitate to write the badge number down on your "suspicious pad of paper". Be polite to the officer and comply with all reasonable requests.