Interesting enough, the Washington State Patrol called me today, in a follow up to a thread we posted on this blog last week, and asked me to do an update. Last Wednesday, I reported how I was contacted by the WSP, on my personal cell phone, just minutes after taking a picture of the weigh station out near Stateline.
In my original thread, I blogged about how I found it kind of scary that they could get my cell phone number that fast, but on the other hand, that it was kind of reassuring to know that someone is watching our transportation facilities. And that was it. I never said I was beat down by the po-po, or harassed, or anything further. The initial trooper who contacted me was very polite and after I explained that I was taking the photo for a power point presentation of projects scheduled for the next 20 years (the weigh station is scheduled to be moved within the next couple years), he was very cordial and simply asked me to alert him ahead of time the next time I need to take pictures of WSP property.
That thread was picked up by the national blog ‘Boing Boing’ then by others in turn, including one in Germany and several blogs devoted to photography, and in some cases, blown out of proportion.
So today my phone rings and it’s Bob Caulkins from the WSP out of Olympia. He asked me clear up how they got my phone number so quickly because he’s getting calls from the Spokesman-Review asking the same thing. The Spokesman even posted a thread on their own blog yesterday explaining what happened. So here goes: apparently, anytime you get in a traffic accident, get a ticket of any kind, or contact law enforcement for any other reason, they ask your personal information. The info you provide is put into a database that ALL the law enforcement agencies can access. So, they see me take pictures, they pull up my license number, and wa-la, there’s my phone number.
Mr. Caulkins said that they do have the ability to get your cell phone number from your provider if they need to, without a warrant, but they can’t do it as quickly as getting it out of their own database.
So in addition to that explanation, I would like to emphasize that all interaction I have had with the WSP to date has been very pleasant and cordial, including when I received the speeding ticket that landed my number in their data base in the first place.
So thanks for the call Mr. Caulkins, and here’s my tribute to you, all in fun of course. I’ll leave you with this classic from John Cougar Mellencamp where he combines two of my favorite songs.