Jan. 14, 2005

Detained and threatened by METRA police (1984 yet?)

These comments about railfans taking pictures of their "love" diesel engines in the wild .. deserve wider circulation than just a railroad oriented list .. so I have removed the sender's name and am forwarding it on .. if anyone would like to contact the sender to assist in their getting this apparent new policy (Patriot Act anyone?) clarified, please, e-mail me and I will put you in touch with the sender. I am sure he and his friend will welcome the assistance.

Today we were set up on the Morton Grove IL METRA platform waiting to take a picture of a NB train. As listers will note, one of the F40C engines was running today and we hoped to "bag" it.

As the NB approached, three Morton Grove police cars appeared. The officers ordered us from the platform and detained us for approximately twenty minutes, until METRA officers arrived. Note that we were NOT in the right of way. We were on the PLATFORM, along with waiting passengers who were NOT ordered from the platform. During the interval when we were being held for METRA, the Morton Grove officers searched my vehicle.

The METRA officers then detained us for a further twenty-thirty minutes while our personal information was transmitted to the Federal Joint Terrorism Task Force. I questioned the officer as to what was happening and he said that the JTTF would either allow us to be released, or would order us detained and transferred into federal custody. He said that if the JTTF so ordered, our film would be confiscated. Randy and I both asserted our fourth amendment right to be secure from illegal search and seizure of our property without due process and our film was NOT confiscated.

After twenty minutes, the voice on the other end of the officer's radio said it was OK to release us, but that we would both be entered into the JTTF database. Further, the officer warned us that taking ANY train picture, as well as ANY picture of bridges, roads, railroads, aircraft, etc was now ILLEGAL, even from PUBLIC property and that we were liable to arrest if we were caught doing it again. I asked the officer to clarify his statement, to verify that he meant that even if we were on a public sidewalk or street, that if we took a picture of a train from public property, that it was illegal. He said yes.

Welcome to 2005, y'all.

Obviously this incident shows how completely out of control law enforcement has become in regards to supposed national security.

My intention is to contact the ACLU and ask them to ask METRA to clarify their position. I can only believe that these officers or their superiors have grossly misinterpreted the law, since what happened was a clear violation of our First Amendment rights. We were in a public thoroughfare, surrounded by other citizens who were NOT asked to leave or threatened with seizure of their personal property. Never mind the additional statement that taking pictures from the public sidewalk would also mean arrest and federal detention. If necessary, if METRA or any other agency really believes that they can behave in this manner, then my intention is to deliberately provoke arrest by METRA or another agency by taking train pictures from public property. Then it's off to court.

So be warned. Things are not what they used to be.

P B Homewood IL

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