Evidently, someone simply taking photographs is enough to launch the local police into DEFCON 2. I guess if I really wanted to send a town into a tizzy, I just have to aim a camera in the direction of a couple of kids. Thank goodness these kids had been properly indoctrinated into the freak-out-first protocol, and were able to do their part to spin up the fear and paranoia. If they hadn’t, this dangerous photographic predator may have gotten away with this heinous crime. Instead, the town is on high alert. Phew!
My fingers just hovered over the keyboard for a full minute or so, because I was having a tough time coming up with a way to describe just how ridiculous this is. So, let’s just say that the police, having been alerted of this photo-taking monster, then see someone roughly fitting the description shoot a photograph from his car. Do you think, for a second, that they would do any thinking, engage in any analysis, or ask themselves any important questions before pulling that car over? Not likely. What if the camera was aimed at a kid-free stretch of the woods? Doesn’t matter. Under freak-out-first procedures, they pull that car over. You know what’s going through their heads? I’ll tell you: we have a potential pedophile dead to rights…red handed…we got him! It won’t matter if the camera is aimed at that impressive old oak tree, or the park, or the anything. So, with their adrenaline pumping, they make the stop.
This situation is not good. First of all, the person in the car has (as far as we know) done nothing wrong, and broken no laws. Even if he WAS photographing kids (perfectly legal!). Second of all, the mind-set of the officers has already advanced beyond the “normal traffic stop.” Now, add the complicating factor that the person in the car is well aware of his constitutional rights, and has no trouble exercising them. “Can you look at my camera? No, officer, you may not.” Hah! He must be guilty…the pedophile scumbag. This is a challenging spot for all parties, and is ripe for potentially dangerous escalation. The officer is convinced he’s cornered a pedophile, and now he’s refusing to cooperate. In layman’s terms, “refusal to cooperate” means that “he refuses to voluntarily suspend his constitutional rights, even after he’s asked to do so.” Does anyone in the world think that this informed (and likely utterly innocent) citizen is going to drive away from this stop without any trouble? No way. There’s only one way that’s going to happen: “cooperate”, turn over his camera, allow the police to search his car and property, answer all their questions, apologize profusely, and just go along with whatever the police want him to do. All of this over, what? We’ve seen this scenario before.
The big problem I have, and everyone should have, with this scenario is the fact that people quickly lose sight (if they ever had it) of the actual facts in evidence, and go straight for the sensational pedophile angle. This is being drilled into an increasingly terrified kid population without space for any mature, measured, reasoned analysis whatsoever. The “better safe than sorry” crowd has hijacked the collective psyche of American parents (and kids!) to the point of trading almost all common sense for a monolithic, unassailable fear of the worst. Could the guy in this car have actually been a pedophile? Sure. Likely? Not by a long shot. It is far more likely that the kid who made the report will be killed in a car accident while his mom drives him to home to keep him “safe.”
In a dark corner of my psyche, I harbor some level of fear that a police-citizen encounter, hypothetically described above, will, at some point, actually end in a violent, and perhaps deadly encounter. Call me paranoid…whatever.