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What Happened: The Trooper Long Report (Part 1)

(It’s been, like, forever, since I wrote wrote anything, but, yesterday, something pleasing happened to inspire me; so, lessee if I remember how to type out a semi-literate story.)

The scene screamed “potential perfect photograph.” Across the roadway from me sat a Virginia State Policeman’s car. The blue and gray patrol vehicle all by its lonesome in the lot, at rest by a special gasoline pump, was beautifully reflecting the afternoon sun. I trained my device on it and quickly netted a few stills. Know what would be even better? To capture it at another angle, closer. Crossing the four lanes that separated me from my objective, I, intending to catch the setting from the nearer side of the street, passed by the VSP’s small area office in Bedford County with nary a glance and spun a U-turn at the overlooking Super 8 Motel. In my cute Toyota, now rolling downhill at practically a snail’s pace, I cautiously raised my camera with my right hand and pressed its shutter.

“Stop! What are you doing? Stop right there!” Apparently the operator of the cruiser -- very much to my astonishment, I might add -- was actually present attending the fill-up of his government-issued auto. Oops!

Never one to disobey a member of Law Enforcement, I followed his instruction; I pressed the brake to the floor, bringing my wheels to an immediate halt in the road. 10mph to 0mph in less than one surprised breath. Standing approximately 120 feet away, his face contorted in rage, the Trooper furiously pointed and shouted at me “You can’t take my picture!”

Since that technically wasn’t an order, and armed with the knowledge I have the legal right to ignore his assertion, I depressed the snapshot button several times succinctly.

The apoplectic man took a few steps toward me. Sensing the uniformed dude and I were going to have words over the topic, in one move I plunked the camera on the seat next to mine and scooped up my audio recorder from the console and activated it.

“I can so take your picture” I slung back, just loud enough for him to hear me. I watched his nostrils burst out as his voice exploded “No you can’t!” Sheesh. Here we go.

He’d been steadily moving in my direction and I waited for him to span the final hurdle that divided us: a grass-covered knoll. Perhaps it was the heat of the day combined with the heat of his temper that prompted him to rethink the trek. Through gritted teeth, the balance of his body rigid on the concrete at the edge of the greenery, he magisterially declared “You are not allowed to take my picture.”

Is he one of those jerks that genuinely believe it’s against the law to take a picture of a policeman? Or is he bluffing, with the hope that I don’t know any better?

It’s tough to be defiant of an officer who is saying something so authoritatively and with such conviction. If I, considering the circumstances and his tone, were an uninformed citizen, I might’ve been convinced I was doing a deed prohibited by law; I may have even apologized for my actions and his upset. Fortunately I am savvy on statutes concerning this particular “crime.” I proceeded to give the uneducated badge-possessor what amounts to a verbal booty-kicking about a photographer’s rights. It didn’t take but about four sentences from my mouth for the man to realize he wasn’t messin’ with no twitty kitty.

His eyes flickered as he rapidly scanned our surroundings. Oh gee, I wonder what he’s checking for. Get. Real. Mister. On the barely used drive, there were of course no witnesses to his outburst -- which, I suspected, was what he wanted to avoid.

Clearly he had no desire to hash it out with me in our current placements; he gestured at the station house’s parking entrance and commanded me to pull in. Naturally I complied, albeit I saw it for exactly what it was: him attempting to control the situation and get the upper hand. Home field advantage and all that jazz.

Upon the repositioning of my sedan, the Trooper approached my rolled-down passenger window and again launched into his no-picture-taking claptrap. There wasn’t a chance in hell I was going to bow down on this one, and I let him hear so.

“I absolutely am ‘allowed’ to photograph you -- anyone” I insisted. “Not without my permission” he retorted.

I started the process of thinking I should’ve paid attention to his name pin -- before he’d bent over to yell at me -- when abruptly he directed me to park. I asked why. He then informed me he was going to write me a ticket!

“For taking your picture?!” By that time I’d already figured out he knew good and well I was not in the wrong about the legalities of public photography, so I was flabbergasted he would so bodaciously dare issue me a citation for it. He had to be aware a judge would toss that out of court in a minute -- and with two seconds to spare.

There was a strange, long, pause before he responded. I could seriously smell him reining himself in and finally regaining his composure. “No,” he says calmly, “for improper stopping on a highway.”

My eyes spread wide, my brows rose up. I was for realiously impressed! He mightn’t have been quick on the uptake when he was mad but that gray matter in his head had life in it when he wanted it to. I laughed out loud. “Oooohhh… yoooouuuu’rrrrre good.”

Highly excited to learn how this would play out, I drove my car appropriately to a nearby space. The red light from my recorder indicated it, too, was still listening...