A nasty confrontation with police is every spotter’s worst nightmare. This usually isn’t a problem for us spotters especially if we’re spotting from a designated location such as the airport observation deck. But with increasing levels of security at airports, such a confrontation is probably going to happen sooner or later, especially in areas of the world where the hobby is still developing and largely unrecognized. But here are some quick tips on how to be safe in case you are confronted.
1. Carry identification
This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes people don’t carry identification when they’re out. This can be a problem if you’re wandering near the airport fence and get stopped by police, and you’ll have a lot more explaining to do. The truth is, police don’t necessarily confront you because they think you’re committing a crime; instead, they simply want to check to make sure that you’re not a wanted criminal or anything like that. If you carry identification with you and hand it over, it’ll allow the officer to run a background check and let you go on your merry way if everything checks out.
2. Be prepared to explain what you’re doing
As plane spotting is still a developing hobby, the large majority of people probably aren’t aware of what it is, cops included. Therefore, you should be prepared to explain to the police what plane spotting is and why you’re where you are doing what you’re doing. The simplest way to do this is to carry a printed article such as this one by CNN that explains the plane spotting hobby. If you also have a small “portfolio” of your photographs stored on your phone, that can also help explain your hobby.
3. Be helpful and compliant
Being calm and friendly with the police always makes things go smoothly. Unless you’ve actually got something to hide, there’s no need to be aggressive and exercise your rights. Doing so will only make things harder for the police (who are just doing their job) and yourself. If the police ask you to do something such as moving to a different location to spot from, do comply with them. While they may occasionally be overly cautious, keep in mind that they are only trying to ensure public safety. You can always move back to your spot after they’re gone.
The police can definitely be somewhat annoying and get in the way of your spotting, but their goal is not to deliberately cause trouble for you. These basic tips should help you deal with a confrontation with police whilst spotting. Above all, don’t break the law whilst spotting and be sensible.