If not a false accusation, it’s certainly a false assumption.  Worse, that the authorities would contend that taking pictures of children sitting with Santa Claus and a choir at a local mall was suspicious enough to warrant “an investigation” or questioning by police should be of concern to all.

This story is about an award-winning photo journalist who, while shopping at the Town Center Mall in West Virginia, stopped to take photos of the festivities.  It would appear he was approached by a parent and asked to delete some photos he had just taken, presumably of that parent’s child.  Out of respect, he complied with the request.  Apparently, that wasn’t good enough as an off-duty police officer subsequently approached Scott Rensberger, 47, of Washington, D.C. and started asking questions.

Now, Rensberger stands accused of assaulting a police officer and the overzealous “investigating” officer, Corporal R.C. Basford, stands accused of using excessive force. From the article:

Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster says this is more of a case about battery than it is about picture taking. Webster believes Cpl. Basford had the right to at least approach Rensberger to ask him a few questions. “People were concerned over there that he was taking pictures inappropriately of children,” Webster said. “And with the Internet and all of the exploitation out there, I think the officer was definitely justified to begin an investigation.”

Now, I’m not sure in what world taking photographs of holiday activities at the local mall is justification for the police to “begin an investigation,” but this smacks of a serious overstep by the police department.  Rensberger’s belief that he was approached as a suspected pedophile is probably not entirely unjustified.  For men particularly, this is an alarming violation of civil liberties and one that should have everyone deeply concerned.

This is precisely how easily false allegations are born.  For men who are avid photographers (of which, I am one), you best be careful where you’re pointing that camera lest you find yourself being aggressively questioned in public and, ultimately under arrest when the police officer decides to reach for your expensive photography equipment and you try to protect it.

Rensberger says he was almost crying when the officer forced his arm behind his back because of a previous shoulder injury. He says he eventually sunk to his knees. “Every time I begged, I was practically crying, there’s got to be 30 witnesses to this and he said, this is a quote, ‘If I dislocate your arm I’ll call a paramedic,” Rensberger said.

Merry Christmas.

For the full article, click here: Photogate Case Moves to Excessive Force Probe