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Chased by a mall rent-a-cop and his tax-paid bodyguard

Updated on December 22, 2012

Today was a very interesting day

It began with my breaking of our nice washing machine. That comes under the heading of bad ideas. Actually, it was my bride's bad idea to allow me, the clumsy one, to go near her remarkably useful laundry apparatus. In went a notably-sized pile of mixed clothing – dirty socks (from walking around in them with no shoes), assorted scrubs (the most comfortable clothing in the world), a heavy bathrobe (maybe two of them – I forget if there was just one or was it two) and other things sufficient to fill up the machine to its top. In with the water, the soap powder, and smelly stuff from a big plastic jug. Around and around went the big propeller thing in the middle. And then, whappo! It all came to a screeching halt and never moved again. I had to rinse the soapy water out of the stuff using water from a hose and the big bucket we use to mop the floors. Fun and games.

Travel in style if at all possible

Next came the adventure of exploring my friend Rod's new travel trailer and his new suburban to be used for towing the thing here and there. Turned out that he had not yet had his breakfast – nor had I, so fast had I tried to get away from the abundant wrath of the real owner of our washing machine. So that was next on the list. Coffee and eggs at Denny's. Had to beg for a spoon with which to stir the coffee (too hot to permit stirring with a finger), but that deal was otherwise uneventful.

Rod and his trailer then took off down the road towards his home, and I rolled along in the other direction, both of us acting as though we were on important missions. Mine was actually to get some gasoline, for the fuel gauge in my old pickup truck was sagging down near “empty.” That taken care of, and finally reasonably awake and alert, I decided to head on over to the “PlazAmericas” to see if that old shopping center contained anything worth photographing. (I always have my little camera hanging from my belt - right next to the folding barbecue knife.) This time, because of Rod's new travel trailer, I had packed the old Sony Mavica camera and tripod along, too.

I was, as the old saying goes, “ready for Freddy.”

Mauled at the mall

I pulled on into the huge parking lot at the PlazAmericas and drove up to park in the front row before the main entrance. I set up the tripod, screwed the Mavica camera onto its camera plate and, just as I was about ready to start snapping pix, two uniformed people wandered over to where I was cheerfully working on my pictorial tasks. One was a mall rent-a-cop, an older fellow of geriatric persuasion, and his companion was a female constable, complete with a bright metal badge and a serious-looking pistol - of lethal persuasion. The mall rent-a-cop asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was about ready to snap some photographs of the mall buildings so that I could construct a panorama picture. He told me that making photos of the mall buildings was not permitted.

Well, that mystified me somewhat, for the doggone buildings were sticking out of the ground right in front of me, big enough for anyone but a sightless person to see – not only from where we were standing, but from the now faraway street, too. That did not impress the fellow at all. In fact, I think it confused him quite thoroughly.

He then told me that I could make photos of the mall only if I received permission from the mall manager.

Mismanaging a call to the manager

“Piece of cake.” I thought.” I asked for the manager's phone number. He rattled off a phone number which I entered into my handy-dandy cell phone. It was a wrong number. He then hauled out his own cell phone and punched in a number. He handed his cell phone to me and, into my left ear, came the sweet, but authoritative, voice of the manager lady. I inquired about the rule concerning a need for permission to shoot photos at the mall. She was in the middle of explaining things when, suddenly, the constable gal interrupted with the need for her and her mall rent-a-cop to race to the other end of the mall to stop a fist fight (or something akin to one) that had just then started to disrupt commerce in that part of the PlazAmericas. I couldn't hang onto the mall rent-a-cop's cell phone now that he had to bug out for some common mall fisticuffs, so I gave the phone back to him and packed up the camera and tripod and headed out to the street edge of the PlazAmericas.

The PlazAmericas - a panoramic photograph made from the sidewalk outside of the mall
The PlazAmericas - a panoramic photograph made from the sidewalk outside of the mall
Individual photo frames from which the panoramic photo was constructed
Individual photo frames from which the panoramic photo was constructed

It's hard to trespass when you are on a public street sidewalk

The truck stayed right there at the parking lot edge, and I went over a little strip of grass to the public sidewalk. That's where I set up the tripod and the Sony Mavica camera. I was very familiar with one of the “rules” of photography: If you can see it from public property, you can make pictures of it, even if it is private property. The fact is, there are no laws against photographing anything other than things that have to do with safety, national security, and so forth. There are laws that control what a photographer can do with his or her photos, but other than for security and military situations, have at it with snapping those camera shutters.

Some interesting things I learned about making photos

When I got back to the safety of my little home office, I looked up the regs. What I learned was mostly that there are virtually no laws of importance to casual photographers like me that serve to tell when and where folks can make photographs. I came away from my brief study of such things with the conviction that a person can photograph almost anything. However, if the photographer wants to do so when inside of private property, the owner or manager of the property can tell the photographer to stop or to not begin making photos. The owner, manager, a mall-rent-a-cop, and so forth, cannot make the photographer erase any photos already made, or give up the camera, or roll of film or the little flash memory card. They cannot prevent the photographer from leaving the premises, nor can they threaten the photographer verbally or get physical. All they can do is to watch the photographer leave the premises.

To show off or to not show off, that is to be decided

That is what I did. I left. Outside, on the sidewalk, I turned the camera onto the mall buildings and made five photos with which I constructed a very good panoramic photo of the mall. What I have left to do is to decide whether or not to print it out and carry it over there to show to the manager and, if I can pull him away from a fistfight, the mall rent-a-cop who accosted me in the first place.


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    • PADDYBOY60 profile image


      6 years ago from Centreville Michigan

      Merry Christmas Gus. :)

    • GusTheRedneck profile imageAUTHOR

      Gustave Kilthau 

      6 years ago from USA

      Howdy Patrick (Paddyboy60) - Nope. Them are Oak trees, all mostly beat up and worn out by age and neglect, plus being beat up during the many mall renovations since 1960 or so.

      Just wrote up and put a new one onto HubPages that talks about the laws (and the lack of laws) concerning photography out there in the wild world of the U.S.A.

      Merry Christmas, "Podner."

      Gus :-)))

    • PADDYBOY60 profile image


      6 years ago from Centreville Michigan

      Cool pictures Gus. Are those Mesquite trees I see in the pictures. A couple of times I had to climb up one of those prickly over sized bushes, To get away from some mad cows, and I don't mean they were mad because of Mad Cow disease. They were mad at me!

    • GusTheRedneck profile imageAUTHOR

      Gustave Kilthau 

      6 years ago from USA

      Howdy Peggy - Interesting experience at the old Imperial Sugar company place. That is a very good idea about putting together a hub about "rules" for photographers. There is a lot of misinformation afoot about such things, and that, of course, leads to misunderstandings on the parts of photographers and those who own or guard "things" and properties.

      As a very broad and general "rule," if the photographer can see "it" from the vantage point of "public ground" (and public ground includes any place where the public is invited, like shopping malls, etc.) it is something that can be photographed. If the place or the item is to be kept "secret" then it should be kept out of the public eye - like trade secret things, etc. Notable exceptions include national or personal security things, personally private things (shower stalls with people in them, etc.) and bans against photographers getting in the way of police activities, and so on. Most of it is common sense stuff.

      The mall rent-a-cop was in the right when he would not allow me to stand on mall property and make photos. The mall demanded that photographers get permssion to make photos in and on the mall. There was nothing that he could have done to prevent me making photos of the same buildings when I did so from the public street. However, the tax-paid constable lady could have nailed me for blocking the sidewalk with my tripod had she been there and had she been mean natured.

      As a few more examples of photo banning - museums usually do not allow photos of exhibits and (probably) inside the premises; photo-making is banned inside the Alamo; nuclear power plants usually ban photographing things inside or on the grounds; same with hospitals and the like...

      Yes, Neighbor Peggy, a hub on this would be of use to folks.

      Gus :-)))

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Very interesting post. When I was creating much of my linocut art, I often took photos and then worked from them. There is an old sugar mill in Sugarland, Texas that I thought would be good subject material at one time. I started snapping some photos when a similar thing happened to me. A security guard who did not look the least bit friendly approached my mother and me. She was accompanying me on that journey sitting in the car while I began snapping my photos. I ceased taking them and went across the street and snapped some more. The timing might have been wrong as it was shortly after 9-11. The building was vacant. Did they perhaps think I was planning to blow it up? We did not exactly look the part...two grey headed ladies. Oh well! I never did do that linocut.

      You should do an entire hub about the rules for photography. I have often wondered about it. Am sure that others would also be interested.

      I have been told that A&M University has the rights to all images of that place. They have some interesting buildings on the campus. I thought about doing some images (art) of that also but did not when I heard about that rule. How is that possible? It is a publicly funded university paid for by tax dollars. That means that you and I help fund it.

      Up votes and good composite photo of that mall. :)))

    • GusTheRedneck profile imageAUTHOR

      Gustave Kilthau 

      6 years ago from USA

      Hi Niteriter - It is my thought that being a mall rent-a-cop has to be a very difficult job. Thousands of people going in and out of the place, some of whom are up to no good, plus nutty teen agers. Most of those employees have little training in law enforcement - but that is not why they are working for the mall companies. In this particular instance, the mall rent-a-cop was an older man and was very polite. He was simply doing what he had been told to do by his boss - tell people they are not to be on the property making photos of anything in or on the mall. I recognized that as being a mall rule that I had to obey. All the same, I knew that making photos of the mall was my right and that no one could prevent me from doing that. so I left the mall property and made my photos from outside of the mall.

      If the fellow had threatened me with "arrest" or tried to confiscate my equipment or detained me from leaving the mall, he would have been in real trouble for (1) coercion, (2) theft, or (3) kidnapping (false arrest, etc.). Nothing like that happened.

      It is probable that malls are into big problems these days if they think that they can actually prevent in-mall photography. With thousands of cell phone cameras going in and out all day and night, how are they ever going to stop people from making pictures? However, when people like me come around with big cameras, tripods, and a real "Redneck look" about them, that's a different story. :-)

      Thanks for the kind vote, and a big Cheers back to you, Niteriter,

      Gus :-)))

    • Niteriter profile image


      6 years ago from Canada

      I took particular interest in this story for a personal reason. The reason is that I was once a rent-a-cop.

      During my time in that capacity, I felt better when I was thought of as a security officer. I didn't really mind that no one paid attention to my preferred duty moniker, but I somehow found a pleasurable satisfaction in throwing photographers off the property on trumped up legalities I invented to befit each new occasion.

      I don't recall interceding in any fistfights. They must have occurred during one of my urgent trips to the mens' room, trips that eventually changed my career status from rent-a-cop to fired security officer.

      Voted up. Cheers!

    • GusTheRedneck profile imageAUTHOR

      Gustave Kilthau 

      6 years ago from USA

      Good Doctor bj - That poem is reminiscent of the words spoken in Disney's Snow White movie by the Wicked Witch of the West (or whichever point on the compass she was...) - Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

      It made for an interesting day to be accosted by a mall rent-a-cop and his companion, the tax-paid constable lady. It was not that they were without the right to tell me to stop the photographing while I was on the property, it was the stupidity of their insistence that people could not photograph buildings that stood there in plain view of everyone - when shopping malls (and the like) are open to the public at their own request (like come in and spend your $$$). At least the guards were polite and did not do anything crazy. As you were able to see, it takes more than what they could come up with to cause "redneck retreat" from goal accomplishment.

      I wonder who won the fistfight... Maybe next time I should go with the guards and photo-record the contest. To heck with the architectural stuff.

      Gus :-)))

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, Gus. Your folksy recitation of your mall confrontation has inspired poetry, to-wit:

      If you take photos at the mall,

      They will want to harass you-all.


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