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2007/02/08

Police Tactics

Under the direction of Gallup's chief of police, Sylvester Stanley, media access and relations with his department has spiraled out of control to where he has most of his officers behaving in very ridiculous ways to prevent us evil media types from doing our jobs. He has taken to blocking off fire scenes at great distances because they could potentially be crime scenes - see my post about the confrontation when the local Burger King had a kitchen fire and one of the officers physically shoved me.

Today was more of the same. The scanner reported that somebody had spotted a "10-7", police code here for a dead body. The area he was spotted was just south of the interstate, where there is a pedestrian/jogging path that runs along the Rio Puerco. The nearest cross street is Third Street, and with freeway on one side and the railroad yard on the other the only other access is where the railroad tracks go under the freeway near 7th street. I sent Matt to the scene, as I was trying to finish up for the day. Soon came the telephone call that the police had shut down the entire path for a range of more than 4 blocks, giving him no way to photograph the scene.

Since I knew the area and knew that the freeway is elevated there I got in my car with my 300mm and 1.4x tele-converter and headed out. I do not like the idea of parking on the freeway to get an image. But even more I loathe the games that the Gallup police department is playing. As I got there the dispatcher reported that the man was not deceased, just very intoxicated. I rattled off several frames and got back in my car.

It was not until I got back to the office and pulled up the files on my laptop that I realized that all three of the officers are having a great laugh about the situation. So, let me ask just what is so humorous about this whole thing? That we have so many people intoxicated in this town that we usually have two or three "public safety officers" on who do nothing but drive vans around to pick these lost souls up and take them to rehab? Is it funny that the police department is creating such an adversarial position with the media that we are no longer inclined to offer them the courtesy of protecting the identities of their undercover officers at scenes we go to? Maybe, and I am grasping here, just maybe they were laughing at my ability to sidestep their silly access restrictions. Not likely.

As a final note, Matt Hinshaw also made images of the EMTs putting this guy into an ambulance. We have always had a great working relationship with the Gallup fire fighters. One of the firemen told Matt that he didn't want to say anything to him because he was afraid of getting into trouble. This is like some type of cancer that is spreading in our city government. They need to just come right and say that photography is illegal in New Mexico, or admit that the police and certain other city personnel are incompetent and do not want to have anybody observe them doing their jobs because the ineptitude will be apparent.
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