Jim McDonnell, Police Chief, Defends Detaining News Photographer Over Refinery Shots

Jim McDonnell may not know art, but he knows what he doesn't like.

Long Beach's police chief apparently does not like photographs taken recently of a North Long Beach refinery--or, at least McDonnell has no problem detaining a photographer for a local online news site snapping shots "with no apparent esthetic value."

As the Long Beach Post reports, Long Beach resident and regular Post contributor Sander Roscoe Wolff was detained by Long Beach Police Officer Asif Kahn for shooting the refinery on June 30, and Chief McDonnell backed up his cop, saying the censorship is within Long Beach Police Department  policy.

"If an officer sees someone taking pictures of something like a refinery, it is incumbent upon the officer to make contact with the individual," McDonnell reportedly explained to the Post's Greggory Moore. The chief went on to say officers receive no specific training on whether a photographer's subject has "apparent esthetic value" and that cops will generally avoid photographers engaging in "regular tourist behavior."

So there's one more right tourists in Long Beach have over residents: the right to snap photos without getting hassled by The Man.

McDonnell protects his and his officer's asses in the Post piece by playing the terrorist card--that is, noting that a photographer like Wolff might be working for Al-Qaeda to snap potential targets.

The chief is right about this: those ugly, rusty, stinky refineries do have no apparent esthetic value. But they can obviously generate much public interest, which is why McDonnell recently received a letter from National Press Photographer's Association stating it was perplexed the former LAPD official holds "the misplaced beliefs that photography is in and of itself a suspicious activity."


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