The Seattle Police Department is reviewing an incident on Friday, May 8, in which officers arrested a 29-year-old man and banned him from the Eastlake REI store after he used his phone to photograph two armored-car security guards who were servicing an ATM inside the store.
Shane Becker, a Seattle web designer, says he was standing in line at REI, getting ready to purchase a lock for his car's bike rack, when he saw two Loomis security guards refilling the ATM.
Becker walked over and took a picture of the security guards and the open ATM with his phone. On his blog, iamshane.com, Becker wrote that he took the photo because he's "fascinated by the insides of things that we don't normally get to see."
According to Becker, the armed security guards confronted him about the photo and threatened to tackle him if he tried to leave the store. "Loomis wanted my ID so that they could write a report internally," Becker says. "They said they didn't know who I was or what I intended to do with the photograph or why I would want to take it." Becker refused to show the Loomis employees his ID, REI security got involved, and the police were called.
According to a police report, when officers arrived, one of the armed Loomis guards told police he was "concerned about his safety and was not sure if Becker was going to attempt to grab the money that was going into the ATM machine."
Police claim Becker was "uncooperative" and refused to give them his ID, and they arrested him. Becker acknowledges he wouldn't give police his ID, but says he was afraid they'd hand it over to Loomis.
Police took Becker to the West Precinct and held him for about half an hour before requiring him to sign a "trespass admonishment" card barring him from returning to REI for a year. On the morning of Tuesday, May 12, Becker received an e-mail from SPD's Office of Professional Accountability informing him that a complaint had been filed against the officers on his behalf.
Kara Stone, general manager at REI's Eastlake store, says the incident was "super unfortunate" and claims Becker was not banned from the store at the request of REI staff, although SPD records indicate otherwise. "Shane is welcome to come into our store," she says.
An employee named Frank who answered the phone at Loomis's office would not comment on the incident or whether Loomis has any company policies about photography of staff members.
Doug Klunder, Privacy Project director at the Seattle branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, says cases like Becker's are becoming more frequent. "These come up all the time, and the ultimate answer ends up being yes [the photographer] had the right to take the photo and should not have been arrested and detained. It would be really nice if officers would start realizing that [before making an arrest] rather than going through this rigmarole."