It came as something of a shock that little had changed at home in Saint Lucia during the three years or so I was away in Canada, at least as far as concerns the relationship between some in authority and media personnel. The regrettable fact was driven home to me this week as I photographed MPs arriving outside the House. Suddenly someone barked at me: “Delete my photo now or else!”The barker turned out to be a uniformed police officer who had been standing in the background as I photographed a particular parliamentarian. The last thing on my mind as I did my job was passersby, uniformed or otherwise.
When I asked what he was talking about, the officer said: “You took my photo, I saw you. You know I can put you out of here, right?”
Towering high above me and outweighing me by over a hundred pounds, this particular protector of life and property hissed: “You know I can put you out of here, right?” And I said:“Put me out of where? The House lobby? The parking lot? Why would you want to do that, anyway? Am I creating a disturbance?”
His reaction: “Delete it or leave!”I looked around at the several witnesses to the incident, all of them pretending to be blind, deaf and dumb. I let the officer know I was doing nothing illegal, that I was a journalist at work, that I had no intention whatsoever of deleting any of the pictures I had taken in the most public of places. Something I had done countless times without incident.
“Where do you work?”he asked. “What media house do you work for? Do you have ID?”
I was even more confused, especially when he said: “If I was a Rasta with locks and a cutlass, you wouldn’t want to take my photo!” I wondered: is this policeman off his rocker? What was he talking about? Did he mean I deliberately took his picture because of his movie star looks, to admire behind closed doors?
I stopped short of digging into my bag and fishing out my ID, keeping in mind he had not bothered any of the other media personnel engaged in the same business as I. Of course my colleagues had all moved on when this police officer chose to scare the daylights out of me, for no reason I could think of. As if to make matters even more scary, the officer pulled out his cell phone and proceed to photograph me.
“Go right ahead,” I said, imagining the worst reasons he might have for photographing me, among them doctoring my image for the purposes of Facebook. Countless times I had read about young women whose heads had been photo-shopped onto nude bodies not their own. Yes, scary. Worse yet, my situation involved a police officer paid to protect and defend me from precisely what he was doing to me.
I considered a letter of complaint to the police commissioner, then chose instead to write this piece for public consumption and to invite others who have been similarly treated to tell me about their ordeal. I still might pay the commissioner a call!