Two weeks ago, I sent the following note to many local political figures as well as to the District Attorney, Police Commissioner, US Senators Clinton, Schumer
and I also hand delivered a copy directly to the police office where I was detained on July 4.
Below is the final copy that went out.
This week, I got some replies back, most of them saying they do not handle this type of situation BUT that my letter would be forwarded to other people, such as congressmen, and airport directors. I am keeping my hope alive.
I am showing you guys what is going on here in the US. It is my hope that we can one day be embraced by local enforcment and not harassed as we are now.
I urge you all to read through this. If you have found yourself in a similar situation I urge you please to write.
I am writing to you so that you are aware of my disgust at the events that took place on July 4, 2003. It was my day off from seeing patients and I decided to get my camera out and engage in the hobby of aviation photography.
On the morning of July 4 2003, I left my home, joined a friend and proceeded to MacArthur Islip airport to take aviation photos. We arrived there around 2:05 PM
We pulled into a public parking lot right near an airport fence. At the time, there were no signs stating that we could not park there. Furthermore, we were not trespassing. Within 10 minutes of standing there, 2 police cars pulled up, demanding my license, registration and insurance. I gave nothing but 100% compliance. One man claiming to work for the FAA was also with them. They asked what we were doing, why we were doing it and told us there was some FAA rule stating we were not allowed within 10 feet of an airport fence.
They then began to ransack and search my car, our backpacks and my friend's video camera. While I did not see this as overkill, they then began to read through my personal journal.
Soon afterwards, an unmarked car arrived with 2 detectives. We were frisked and told, NOT ASKED, to accompany them to the Police station in the airport. We were not handcuffed but detained and taken in separate cars. Once in the station, we were put in separate rooms and questioned by a total of 4 detectives. Many of the questions were legitimate, such as when was I last out of the country (April 2003, to fly on Concorde, simply because I wanted to), where did we meet (on a website called airliners.net, world known for aviation photography), and what schooling I had been through.
My friend was asked many of the same questions. However he noted that a young male detective repetitively asked if he was gay. I was not asked this question once. Perhaps they saw no need to, as they read in my journal that I was recently engaged. I have yet to figure out WHAT his sexuality had to do with the situation. Perhaps the detective was interested for unrelated reasons?
We were finally released at 5:20PM
, without any charges or straight answers as to what laws we broke. One of my rolls of film was taken, as was a video of my friend's. One week later, I received a call from a detective, who returned our belongings. The police developed my film into 8x10's to find photos of planes, my godchild and my cat.
I would not be upset had 2 or 3 policemen questioned us, rightfully so, and then stated WHAT LAW
The truth is NO law was broken and our rights were violated. Six officers, 4 detectives and 1 FAA representative wasted 3 hours questioning a pair of full-blooded 100% cooperative Americans.
This is not Homeland Security. It is violating legitimate people unnecessarily whilst using disproportionate law enforcement resources that I pay for.
Compare that incident to the following two:
-On September 6, 2003, my colleague and I were doing photography in a park across from LaGuardia airport called “Planeview Park.” Within 10 minutes, 2 NYPD
officers questioned us, checked our ID
, ran us through their system and then finally left us to our business. They came to the same conclusion that the SCPD
did but did so within 10 minutes and with two officers.
-On September 9, 2003, a fellow aviation photographer was near MacArthur Islip airport and pulled over on the road. Three SCPD
cars detained him and IMPOUNDED his car, telling him it was illegal to park on a road near the airport. Furthermore, he was told by an officer, “People like you are the reason 9/11 took place. People like you only aid the terrorists. You can’t take photos of planes. Go find another hobby.” Wasn't it President Bush who stated that Americans conduct their lives in a normal fashion and enjoy life?
9/11 was due to terrorists, not aviation enthusiasts. For your information, we are not the problem. We are part of the solution. Furthermore, if we employ the above quote, that means I can’t take photos of planes from my front yard too.
We are a nation at war. Our police should be embracing “People like you”, the aviation lovers and photographers, as a resource! It is WE
who would be the FIRST to report suspicious activity!
In other major airports, enforcement agents are actively working WITH aviation hobbyists to address the threat of terrorism rather than wasting precious resources detaining innocent people.
I have one cohort in Florida who was approached by a Special Agent of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Dept of Homeland Security. After being asked a few questions, my colleague was told to contact the agent if he saw anything out of ordinary.
treated me like a bloody terrorist on MY
country’s Independence Day, perhaps I should merely contact that Special Agent if I see any problems near the rails, buses and airports? If our police are going to harass the local aviation enthusiasts, you are losing out on the most vigilant set of eyes and ears, who by the way, take PHOTOS! In other words, EVIDENCE!
The anniversary of 9/11 is upon us. We are making headway in Iraq and yet, I feel the terrorists have won! When is our police force going to realize that we have civil liberties AND we are a resource against terrorism?
This situation is a total outrage and completely goes against my civil liberties. This is not an isolated incident at Islip. I've been in contact with other aviation enthusiasts who had similar stories of these verbal strong-arm tactics by airport area police.
Now, let’s be realistic. I know nothing about being a cop. I respect, appreciate and applaud what you do for my community. However I am a doctor who employs logic and feasibility everyday towards solutions to my patient’s problems. Better solutions need to be employed in these scenarios.
For instance, now that the SCPD
has verified, over the course of 3 hours, who I am, why not employ me as a set of eyes and ears around the airport instead of chasing me off? Shouldn’t a log of “Clean Aviation Enthusiasts” be kept: people that Police know are not a threat and are simply trying to engage in their American freedom? These would include people that have been verified as safe and can be near the airport.
As a proud American taxpayer, I hope that you will see to it that my rights are protected and my dollars used wisely. I ask that this be looked into and apology from Suffolk County Police and Islip Airport Police be extended to me. More importantly, I ask that the airport area police begin to realize the added asset of vigilance that they are harassing.
I have always been a law abiding respectful citizen of this state.
I hope to continue to follow our Commander-in-Chief’s suggestion that Americans conduct their lives in a normal fashion and enjoy life.
Forum moderator 2001-2010; He's a pedantic, pontificating, pretentious bastard, a belligerent old fart, a worthless st