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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Olympia

The photographer, the police and the cell phone: more details…

Last week, I wrote about a Spokane Regional Transportation Council employee who stopped to take some work-related photos at an Interstate 90 weigh station, only be startled when her personal cell phone rang 10 minutes later. On the phone: a state trooper, wanting to know why she was shooting photos.

The worker, Staci Lehman, was astounded -- and a little uneasy -- to get that call.

The Washington State Patrol confirmed the incident, but said they're not quite as all-seeing as it suggests.

As for questioning a photographer about taking photos in public, Sgt. Freddy Williams, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol, said that the concerns apparently stem from "the basic suspiciousness of the action."

The weigh station was nearly deserted, he said, and "Across the coutnry, we have had officers attacked and killed in suspicious-type circumstances. So it's those type of red flags that went off."

As for quickly tracking down Lehman's cell phone, he said, she had once contacted law enforcement and given that cell phone number as a contact number. When police ran the car's plates and came up with her name, that saved phone number came up as well.

"That's all there is to it," Williams said.

Such situations, he said, are unusual. The State Patrol typically cannot find someone's cell phone by running a check on their license plate, he said.

"We don't have that capability," he said. "We just run it through the DOL (Department of Licensing database)."

The incident has been widely reported on blogs.

"Some people, they don't trust the police any farther than you can throw them. And some people, we can do not wrong," said Williams. "What we're looking for is somewhere in the middle."

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