7 July 2008

"Do as I say!"

Just a little foot-note on the last entry... I took a few photos of about 8 municipal police in Madrid all wearing dark sunglasses, and after a minute of two they finally saw me in the distance, pointing my camera at them. One officer in particular looked up, shook his head, and then his finger, with a displeased look on his face. I was clearly frustrated with the order to stop what western-society has taught me to be a freedom of expression. So I mimed ignorance and walked away with exaggerated shakes of my head.

The officer called after me - it was more of a whistle - and when I turned to see him approaching with a companion. When he finally came within baton distance of me he forbade me from taking photos of police and ordered me to delete the ones I had just taken. I asked why, but it seemed he was not interested in any reasons until his request had been fulfilled - threatening to take me and my camera to the police station lest I obey his non-negotiable command. I complied and then reiterated my question - why. To his credit, he had some good points. He said his face is his identity and that I should ask before taking such photos, though I pleaded that if I had of asked the image of their companionship and camaraderie would not have looked so authentic. So then I very cheekily asked whether I could now take his picture. Of course he said no.

We left the interaction quite amicably - he even patted me on the shoulder as he bid me farewell - but recollecting the verbal exchange I realized that I was, in a way, the victim of police corruption. And this is why: I could follow these officers home when they are off duty, camp outside their houses, wait for the to walk down the street and then take a picture of them. If they were in a mass police operation to hold back protesters, I could take photos of them and they would have no option but to stand fast. But in my particular situation, they were just standing around, chatting. They had the opportunity to come over and impose their personal desires upon, and the officer used his uniform and his position of power to intimidate me into acquiescence, and THAT is police corruption.

It was a really sincere pat on the shoulder though!

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