Don’t take photos of police cars

This morning, I took a turn around Cerdanyola with the idea of photographing some of the graffiti and posters I often see around the town. I got some half-decent shots around ‘el Barrio’ which is the part of the town made up of tower-blocks and little more. It’s an area which has been improved recently but it’s still clearly a poverty-stricken area.

Well, after getting a few decent shots in el Barrio, I moved on and spotted a decent shot of some police cars parked by the Policia Local station. I’d just taken my first shot (which was pretty crappy) when I looked up to see a policeman approaching with an angry/police look on his silly face. Now, I grew up living on and visiting various military installations and one thing I was always taught was: call the police ‘Officer’ because they like that. I used to be able to show my little ID card to Royal Marines guards and that was that. Let me tell you that being 27 in Cerdanyola del Vallès is not the same as being 12 in Dartmouth.

My shit photo of some police cars

So this police officer decided that I should accompany him back to the police station because I was taking photos of the police cars outside it. He asked me what was my motive for photographing the squad cars and all I could say was “Nada… interes… arte?”. They obviously thought I was some kind of potential Etarra (as if they wouldn’t drive past photographing the police station if they really wanted to do a recce). I showed him the photo I’d taken (which was, incidentally, rubbish: I’d only had time for one shot) and he said “What exactly were you trying to photograph here?”. I felt like saying, “Look, I know it’s a shit photo… let’s just leave it at that”… instead I muttered something about the lights on their cars. I probably looked like the worst kind of antisistema/ultraizquierda/ETA suspect they’d ever seen.

Anyway, I had to present my ID card which the desk sergeant was asked to check. And I didn’t show up on the computer, something which obviously made them more suspicious of me. I explained to the desk sergeant (the ‘good cop’) that there are often problems with my name, because in Catalonia they never understand foreign naming conventions. My name is technically Thomas R—— C—— Clarke and I’ve been identified with various combinations of the four names over the last five and a half years. This causes constant hassle with local authorities but La Caixa have always dealt with it very well.

Eventually, they found me on the computer (I told them to check my address) and they didn’t seem very happy as they just handed me my Targeta de Residència and turned away. I said sorry again and went on my way. Later, I saw a Mossos car and I was so conscious of being questioned that I actually turned by camera off and turned away. All because I took a shit photo of some policia local cars.

2 thoughts on “Don’t take photos of police cars

  1. What you described just gave me the shivers. Until, oh, a fortnight ago, I always and ever considered any police officer to be a friend. After all, where I grew up, most police don’t even carry guns.
    Then last week somebody I care very much about was arrested, questioned for almost 10 hours, and currently facing charges. All, for doing his job. Oviously, not going to elaborate on the internet.
    Every time now I see a police car, or anybody in uniform (Mosso, Urbana, especially Nacional) I feel afraid.
    I think it’s fucking ridiculous that people who obey the law (mostly at least), who don’t molest others, who actually try to make the world a better place, are persecuted and made to fear those are supposed to protect us. Is Spain really so Different, or it is just a fact of growing up and discovering the uglier side of life?
    I’m sorry you had that experience, it’s unfair.

  2. Sarah – your story sounds bad and I think you should elaborate (withholding details, naturally). Don’t if you don’t want to, though.

    Spain – Catalonia – has always been different because this country was for many years run as a police state. So some suburban traffic warden with a police badge can still kick up a stink about sweet F.A. just because he has that badge. The same happens in the UK (where most police officers don’t carry guns), because the UK too has for a long time been run as a police state (albeit on the quiet).

    While my experience with the police was about as petty as they come, I certainly left the police station subdued and with a cold sweat on my back.

    Some comments which were on this post previously (I had a database crash which deleted them) suggested that the police were probably justified in acting: after all, it’s a police car, what did you expect etc etc… but that’s not the country I want to live in. The police can take photos of me whenever they want… all a citizen (or an EU resident, for the time being) can ask is that they too be allowed to take photographs.

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