The letter I sent to Amtrak :
As someone who has traveled on Amtrak frequently, as a rail fan, and as an advocate of rail in general within the environmental community, I am extremely upset that Amtrak is contributing to the destruction of America’s civil liberties.
Today (6/12 @ 6:40pm) while visiting Union Station in Washington, DC, I was taking pictures of the station. As a rail fan and a transportation advocate, this is something I have done at many train stations. I was ordered to stop taking pictures first by a member of the janitorial staff (apparently they are now police here in the city of Washington) and then by a member of Amtrak Police, Sgt Epps badge # 179. His argument was that my civil libraries did not apply to the Union Station because it was private property and he ordered me to stop taking photos. Sgt. Epps claimed it was because of “heightened security after 9/11”. It should be noted that at the time I was not in any secured area nor was I engaged in any activity that would result in possible harm. Never the less, Sgt. Epps said that his “years of training told him that I did not have a ticket but did have a camera and was therefore suspicious”. As an aside, I was with my wife and my 2 young children, if anything was obvious it was that I was a tourist and oh by the way he never established that I nor my family did not have a ticket. Furthermore the area in question was a public area open to all.
I am well aware of no law being passed restricting rail fan photography. But I am also well aware that numerous police agencies have used 9/11 as a ploy to take away our civil liberties. Rail fans who enjoy taking pictures of trains have been subject to harassment such as I experienced.
I ask that Amtrak stop having the Amtrak police harass people simply for being rail / transportation fans. Having a camera should not be considered a suspicious activity!
Amtrak is using the cover of the “war of terror” to attack rail fans civil rights.
Update and to Amtrak’s credit here is their reply:
It is distressing to have this happen to anyone, but particularly so to someone who is such a good customer and loyal supporter of our mission.
We will be discussing your story with both Amtrak Police, the customer services people and I think most importantly, the employee communications people in this department who can mount a re-education campaign to all employees about the policies involving photography.
On behalf of the company, please accept our apologies for the overzealous application of our “See Something, Say Something” policy that you were subjected to on your recent trip.
Once again, thank you for writing. We look forward to having you aboard, under more pleasant circumstances.
Customer Relations Specialist