The political season in Darien has begun on a note of controversy, with one candidate for first selectman alleging that police recently hassled him.
That's right: Chris Noe is running again as an independent. And he's kick-started his campaign with some self-made videos shot around town. As Noe pans his camera over scenes of the Boat Club or the new Police Station, he ad libs about how he'd set things right.
Well, no sooner had Noe finished one shoot downtown near the train station than Darien's finest showed up and — according to Noe's write-up — "detained" him for a half-hour after he refused to let them search his car.
Is Chris Noe a terrorist? I think not. He might not get my vote, but I'll defend his right to take pictures in a public place.
Darien Police Chief Duane Lovello, who grew up and went to school with Noe, said the videographer set off alarm bells (no, not literally) when he took pictures of the .
Do we honestly think members of Al Qaeda are standing in broad daylight on the Post Road with a camera and tripod plotting attacks on Metro-North? Really?
A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by WABC-TV while standing on the platform at Noroton Heights station. We were talking about the usual Metro-North problems when MTA Police pulled up in two squad cars.
"You got a permit?" the MTA cop asked the reporter standing about 10 feet from his satellite truck.
"Why does he need a permit?" I asked.
"Because he's on Metro-North property," said the officer.
"No, he isn't," I said. "This is CDOT property, not Metro-North's".
"Well, he still needs a permit," insisted the officer, now asking for our IDs. The reporter demurred, telling me this happens to him all the time.
"Officer … if he doesn't use the tripod, can he take pictures with his camera without a permit?" I asked.
"Sure … that's OK," said the cop. Apparently it's the presence of a tripod that makes the video shoot a threat to our security.
MTA officials should learn from Amtrak when it comes to rail fans and photos. These train lovers (or "foamers," as they're called by the railroads) used to get hassled by cops when they took pictures of trains and stations. Now, Amtrak sees them not as a terrorist threat but as allies. Who knows better what looks out of place than a rail fan? If they see something, they say something.
In an era where ever cell phone is a camera — where HD video cameras can be concealed in a hat or miniaturized to the size of a shirt button — many police seem worried about people with tripods conducting journalism, promoting their candidacy, or just taking pictures of their home town.
Amazing. I guess the terrorists have won.