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Two years ago, a Pennsylvania man was thrown in jail for 160 days for refusing to allow police to take his picture.
A federal judge last week, however, ruled against local police and in favor of Gregory Bush, who was not charged with any crime on May 17, 2007, when a Lancaster, Pa., officer demanded to take the man’s photo. Only after refusing to have his picture taken did the police subdue him, charge him with obstruction of justice and toss him in jail.
“When they first arrested me, I didn’t even know why I was being arrested,” Bush told Lancaster’s Sunday News. “I kept thinking the charge would be dropped at the preliminary hearing. It was ridiculous; I didn’t commit any crime.”
Five months later, however, Bush was still in jail.
According to the federal lawsuit, Bush had been among several men helping his cousin move out of a home, when an argument broke out, prompting a call to police over fears one of the men had a gun.
Though police investigated the scene, found no firearm and decided there was no cause for arrests, the officers demanded to take photos of the movers.
Bush, however, held his arms over his face and refused the photo. According to the News report, police then subdued Bush, causing him to cut his face on the pavement and require treatment at a local hospital.
Bush then spent 160 days in jail awaiting trial. When his case was finally brought before a judge, the court granted the motion made by Bush’s attorney to dismiss the charges.
Bush then filed a lawsuit against Lancaster’s police department and the officer that arrested him, Ray M. Corll II, claiming Bush’s rights had been violated when police attempted to compel him to submit to an unconstitutional search and seizure of his image.
“We’ve never maintained that Officer Corll and the others involved are bad actors,” Bush’s attorney, David R. Dye, told the News. “It’s just that they were engaged in a bad practice.”
A federal judge agreed with Dye and awarded Bush undisclosed damages last week.
In the wake of the lawsuit, Robert G. Hanna, an attorney who represented the Lancaster police and officer Corll, drafted a new police policy clarifying that people not charged with a crime shouldn’t be required to submit to a photograph.
The new policy states that “field photographs” can be taken in public settings – such as on the street or at a park – anywhere the public has no expectation of privacy. Photos may also be taken when the subject consents.
For those not charged with a crime, however, the policy states, “Individuals may not be required to remove their hands, or anything they are using to cover their faces so as to avoid being photographed.”
Dye told the News that the new policy would correctly address situations like Bush’s in the future.
“We’re very pleased,” Dye said, “that officers will now be able to do their job in a constitutionally correct way.”
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