Photographers are at risk
In the last two days there have been news reports about photographers being mistaken for gunmen. The first relates to a Grand Jury in America saying that Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Jake Shaw, who shot photographer Andy Grimm after mistaking his camera and tripod for a gun in September 2017, will not face criminal charges. And the second report comes from Ireland where armed police officers were called to a beach last Sunday night after a member of the public thought an astrophotographer was a a sniper. This story ended happily as the police officers realised that the photographer was not armed.
Both incidents took place at night so you can understand that with poor visibility mistakes were made. From the story reported in the Independent police officers had the time to investigate and set up a cordon around the area, whereas the American police officer came across the scene himself. The following video footage comes from the body cam worn by Officer Shaw. It doesn't show Andy Grimm being hit but you can hear the shots and the conversation that ensued.
What strikes me as strange about this, is not how the officer doesn't shout a warning before firing, but how he appears to know Andy immediately upon reaching him. As a former firearms police officer, I understand the stresses of being faced by a potentially armed person. But I have to say I have a lot of doubts about what happened here.
So where next?
I know that photographers rarely want to stand out in their environment. What these two incidents have highlighted is a need to take our safety seriously. Maybe the use of a high-visibility jacket might not be such a bad idea. Or putting reflective strips on camera bags and tripods so that they stand out. Andy Grimm was lucky to survive the shooting. Think twice about your appearance, it might save your life.