I spent the day spotting with Colin from Hong Kong, and we had two very different encounters with local law enforcement. We started at Howard Beach in the morning, got there around 9:45. After about 30 - 45 minutes, a brown Buick sedan pulled up behind us, and three men got out - they were in plain clothes, but showed us NYPD badges & ID. They asked us to get out of the car, and asked what we were doing. I told them we were photographing aircraft as a hobby. They asked for our ID, and let us get back in the car. After about 5 minutes, 2 marked NYPD units arrived, and the group of officers conversed a bit. They asked us to get out again, and asked a few more questions about what we were doing. One of the plainclothes officers asked if he could "check me" and gave my pockets a quick pat. One of the uniforms had Colin put his hands against the car and patted him down. The lead plainclothes officer kept asking "You understand why we have to do this?" After recording our information, they wished us well and departed.
We stayed at HoBe until a little past Noon, then went to lunch. After lunch, we went to Firestone for some arrivals. After about an hour, a Nassau County PD unit pulled up next to us (driver-side to driver-side). He opened his window and said "You guys are taking pictures of airplanes, right?" "Yes, officer." "You guys come out here all the time, right?" "Yes, officer." "So you know the drill - the friendly neighborhood watch called. They said you were taking pictures of airplanes, then getting back in the car. Well, no sh*t, it's about 20 degrees out here. Have a nice day!" And off he went.
Today was the first time I've encountered NYPD while spotting, and the attitude of the officers was very different from what I've seen from NCPD or PAPD. They initially approached us with suspicion, wanting to know what we were doing and why we would be taking photos of aircraft. I understand they have a difficult job to do (one that I wouldn't want to do) and while it ended well, it's the first time I've felt uncomfortable during one of these meetings.
At least Colin got the full New York Experience :D and I've got about 700 shots to go through!