SEATTLE — The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a University of Washington professor it says was detained by city of Snohomish police for taking photographs of power lines as part of an art project.
The professor is 54-year-old Shirley Scheier, an associate professor of fine art at the UW. The ACLU describes Scheier as an artist who uses photos and public land and public structures in her artistic prints.
The ACLU says the suit was filed today in Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett and seeks compensation for her wrongful detention. It did not say how much compensation.
The suit says Scheier was detained by Snohomish police in October 2005 near a federal Bonneville Power Administration substation. It says police frisked and handcuffed Scheier, and placed her in the back of a police car for almost 30 minutes.
The suit says Scheier was released by police after officers photographed maps Scheier used to find the substation. It says police told her she would be contacted by the FBI.
ACLU of Washington legal director Sarah Dunne said in a press release that taking photographs of objects of people in plain view is not a crime and, police should not presume that it was a suspicious act and should not overreact by detaining people for taking pictures.
The suit says the city of Snohomish said taking photos of power lines from public property is suspicious behavior and is grounds for detention and arrest.