Friday, January 25, 2013

Q: Who's in charge at Miami-Dade Transit?

Miami-Dade Transit: "Enjoy your trip with us!"
Click here to enlarge.

A: No one, apparently.

On his blog, Miami photographer Carlos Miller says "I have a history of getting assaulted and harassed by 50 State [Security]."

50 State is a security company that Miami-Dade Transit has hired to provide security at its Metrorail stations.

Prior to last Sunday, Miller had been attacked or accosted by 50 State guards on three separate occasions while trying to take pictures at Metrorail stations. On one of those occasions, security guards told Miller and another photographer they were "banned for life" from riding on the Metrorail system.

Last Sunday, some 50 State security guards added another notch to their belt.

As Miller and a friend waited for a southbound train on a nearly deserted platform at the Metrorail Government Center station, the two passed their time taking snapshots of the old Dade County courthouse - an activity that Miami-Dade Transit’s Chief of Safety and Security, Eric Muntan admits is not prohibited.
[Muntan] explained that while commercial photography on Metrorail property is prohibited without a permit, there is no such prohibition against photography that is personal, journalistic, or, in his words, “Johnny Tourist” photography. When I asked him how his officers distinguish between commercial photography and personal photography, he said, “If you tell us that you’re not using the pictures for commercial work and they’re (for) personal use, at that point in time the security officers, and/or the MDT representative should feel that his question is answered and at that point you’re free to take pictures until the next train comes or whatever.”
But, as the duo took their pictures, according to Miller, "A 50 State security guard announced on the loudspeaker to stop taking photos. He then came out to confront us."

What happened next can best be described as one of those "Only in Miami" moments:
They then told me I had to leave the Metrorail because I was drunk and I refused because I had not done anything illegal. I just wanted to take the train home.

And I wasn’t drunk. He didn’t notice I had been drinking until he got close to me and he smelled something.

But as they started crowding me, I started walking towards the escalator.

At the top of the escalator, one of them shoved me hard as if to push me down the escalator, which is when I shoved back.

Then three of them piled on top of me, including one choking me where I couldn’t even breathe, leaving me gasping for air.
Watch video of the incident here or here.

If you've never heard of Carlos Miller; after watching him interact with the security guard on that video you might reach the conclusion that he's a jerk. You won't get an argument from him. He admits that he "can come across [as] abrasive, arrogant and condescending to authority figures who spout unlawful orders about photography in public places."

But that's no reason to handcuff someone and deprive them of their liberty.

If it were, more than half of Miami's residents - and most of the area's lawyers - would be doing life plus 20!

Miller already has one lawsuit pending against 50 State. There's no doubt he'll be filing another one.

Maybe all of this might have been avoided if the 50 State guard hadn't tried to cite a non-existent "law" against photographing Metrorail tracks. (Perform a Google search and you'll find there are dozens of pictures of Metrorail's tracks and trains on the Internet.)

Perhaps the 50 State security guard wouldn't have cited that non-existent "law" had he been given the proper training.

So, that brings us back to the original question with which I opened this post: "Who's in charge at Miami-Dade Transit?"

And taking that a step further: After three run-ins with Miller and one lawsuit, why haven't the people in charge of Miami-Dade Transit given the 50 State security guards a clear set of guidelines regarding passengers with cameras?

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