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MTA Officers Detain Man For Taking Pictures

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Christopher Fussell
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Maryland Transit Administration says more training may be called for after three MTA officers detained a man for taking pictures at a light rail station.

Pat Warren has more on the incident.

According to the ACLU, this isn’t the first time MTA Police have overstepped their bounds.

In a YouTube posting, Christopher Fussell left the camera rolling when he was confronted by three MTA officers for taking pictures at the Baltimore Cultural Light Rail Station.

“It is my understanding that I am free to take pictures as long as it’s not for commercial purposes but for personal use,” Fussell said in the video.

“Not on state property, not without proper authorization,” an officer said.

Fussell:  “From who?”

Officer:  “Nobody’s allowed to take pictures.”

The MTA admits the officers were in error.

“They can most certainly take photos of our system,” Ralign Wells, the MTA Administrator, said.

In addition to being wrong about MTA and state policy, the officer incorrectly cites the Patriot Act.

“Listen, listen to what I’m saying.  The Patriot Act says that critical infrastructure, trains, train stations, all those things require certain oversight to take pictures, whether you say they are for personal use or whatever, that’s your story,” the officer said.

“So why don’t you have any signs posted to say I cannot take pictures?” Fussell said.

“Our officers have become very sensitive post 9/11 and we’re trying to see that they understand our passengers and citizens also have a right to take pictures,” Wells said.

The officer eventually threatened to take Fussell into custody.

“Do you have Maryland state identification on you?” the officer asked.

“I am not committing a crime,” Fussell said.

“Sir, I’m going to ask you one last time, then I’m going to take you into custody.  Do we understand each other?” the officer said.

The ACLU considers it harassment by the MTA.

“This is not South Africa under apartheid and in this country, police do not have the right to walk up to you and demand you produce identification to them,” said David Rocah, ACLU.

The MTA acknowledges that additional training is in order.

“We’ll look at our training processes, we’ll look at whether any administrative situations need to occur with those officers,” Wells said.

The ACLU says it’s been working with the MTA on this very issue for five years, with no satisfactory result.

Fussell was detained for more than 40 minutes before MTA Police finally let him go on his way.

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