I had an incident with Port Authority cops at T6's parking lot very recently. I went to JFK to meet a friend at the airport who was coming in on a flight from Boston. I arrived at the JetBlue terminal early. I saw that air traffic control was using the 22 runways, so I decided to go to the parking lot to check out the traffic. I got to the parking lot at around 5:35PM.
I was there for about fifteen or twenty minutes when at around 6PM, a black car arrived and a male and female got out of the vehicle. The woman asked what I was doing here and asked to see my ID. I asked if she was a police officer and she said “yes”. I asked if she could show me her badge and she yelled that she already said she was a cop and flashed it really fast. The guy didn't say or show anything. He just kind of cornered me. The woman asked if someone came to speak to me about being in the parking lot and I said I hadn't been there for that long, but that I noticed another male who got out of a small car, which wasn't a security vehicle, and was walking around the parking lot. I pointed out to the car and the other male, who was walking around at that time. The woman said that someone complained about suspicious activity. I then gave the woman my license. The male then asked me to stand still and said he was going to search me. I complied since he was so much bigger than me and he aggressively did a pat down. I even emptied out my pockets to show my cell phone and iPod, which I was not asked to do. He seemed satisfied and then the woman gave me back my ID. The male then said that they could give me a citation for trespassing, but that they would let me go this time. I told them I was unaware it was illegal to be there and wouldn't do it again. I asked if they were with the Port Authority and the woman gruffly said “yes”. I asked for their badge numbers, especially for the guy since he searched me and he never identified himself. The woman yelled again that she already said she was a cop, said her badge number really fast, then started walking away. While I was trying to jot the number on my phone, the man seemed really pissed off that I had asked in the first place and started yelling and demanded I hand over my ID again. I asked why and he told me to just give it. He said, “I'm going to give you a trespassing citation now because you are behaving like an *******.” I asked him why he was doing that since I was just about to leave and I only asked for the badge number, which is in my rights. He said that I had my chance, but he was going to give a citation anyways to make an example. He took my license again and gave it to the woman, who walked over to the car, but she didn't have the key and couldn't open it. She asked the man to unlock the door, which he did by remote control.
The man then told me to stay where I was and he took a few steps back and started playing with his iPhone. I tried talking to him and he ignored me, focusing on his iPhone. He then walked my way and again boasted that he would give me the citation. I asked what that means and he said I would have a criminal record and that he would then take me to the Joint Terrorism Task Force and they would check me out. I told him I was just watching the planes while waiting for my friend's flight. He didn't listen. He blurted out that since I had no parking ticket, I had no right to be there. Again, I said I wasn't aware of that it was illegal and I was just passing the time and I was going to leave like they asked. He spoke again and used some analogy that if someone went to my home to look at my flowers, I wouldn't like it and me being at the airport watching the planes was akin to the same. He went on saying that someone from my neighborhood being at the airport automatically amounted to suspicious behavior and used another dumb analogy that it was like if I was from the Bronx and I had no right to be at the airport. I told him I wasn't looking for trouble and I wanted my ID so I could leave and pleaded for him to return it. Again, he said wouldn't give it to me and he would write a citation anyways just because he could. He repeated that several times. Then he went on saying he could understand if I was watching the planes, but my story sounded suspicious. I said I was just doing that, watching the planes, while waiting for my friend's flight to arrive and I mentioned that I liked planes. He then asked my friend's name, flight number and arrival point. I gave him the information he requested. He said he was going to check it out with JetBlue to see if it was legit (he didn't check). Then he was asking me how I got to the parking lot. I said from the Airtrain. He said there was no Airtrain station here. I pointed out the JetBlue terminal Airtrain station, which was a few yards away and visible from our location. He ignored my answer. I then told him again that I wasn't approached by any security guard and didn't notice them driving around. His response was that there are security cameras all over the place and there don't need to be any guards, contradicting what the woman had said in the beginning. Then he walked back a few steps and played with his iPhone again. A few minutes later, he came back and asked me to unzip my jacket all the way so he could see my shirt (I did that before when he initially searched me). I started unzipping it and he started yelling that I had to do it faster and all the way. I complied with his instructions and after I was done, he walked back and played with his iPhone yet again.
In the meantime, the woman was at the car, but didn't appear to be inside. One of those private security vehicles had driven up and the woman was talking to whomever was inside for some time. She also spoke to that dude who was walking around the parking lot aimlessly. He took off after she spoke with him.
A few minutes later, two Port Authority cop vehicles arrived. Two uniformed officers exited one of the vehicles, while the other one stood idly by. Both uniformed male officers approached me and one of them started staring me down. I asked if there was anything he needed me to do to which he replied, “you tell me,” and smiled. He then said he was going to search me, at which point the female officer returned from the vehicle and said I was clean and that only had a phone and iPod. She handed me back my license. I offered to show the uniformed officer my phone as well, but he declined. The other uniformed officer spoke briefly with the male plainclothes officer, then turned to me and said that it was “illegal to watch planes now.” He mentioned that it may have been OK before 9/11, but not anymore. I then asked why they were holding my ID for so long and he said they wanted to run it through terrorism watch lists. He then sternly said he would not give me a trespassing citation, but I would have to leave. I said I was on my way and took off.
Throughout the whole ordeal, the male plainclothes officer (assuming he was even an officer) never identified himself, showed zero identification, nor did he acknowledge that he was a cop. He refused to say anything about his identity. It was him who was trying to escalate the situation more than it should have been and he seemed more interested in making a statement and asserting his authority than anything else. He was thoroughly unprofessional, threatening and rude throughout the whole ordeal even though I was cooperating and even volunteered information without being asked. It's possible he may have been with a different or even a federal agency, but this is unlikely considering his demeanor was more “ghetto” than professional. And if he was really worried about my presence at the parking lot, he wouldn't have been fooling around with his iPhone. He even took a few personal calls, so I obviously didn't scare him to the point where he needed to watch over me. The female officer was arrogant and rude, but she seemed to want to end the situation and move on. The uniformed officers were more professional and they could see the situation didn't warrant their time and wanted to move on as fast as possible. Overall, I'd say the whole experience lasted about 30 minutes.
I have heard there were police incidents with photographers and I can see how that activity might arouse some suspicion, but I wasn't even taking pictures and was just passing time by watching planes. There shouldn't be anything wrong with that. I also complied with everything they asked of me and was about to leave until the one officer wanted to assert his authority and act like a thug because I asked for the badge number. I have been told by others that although the Port Authority has no official rule where photography is not allowed on airport property, they go out of their way to discourage it. However, based on this experience, it seems they are discouraging ALL activity revolving around airplane enthusiasm
Also, I have left out key details, like date, officer description, etc. I made an official complaint to CCRB (they handle complaints for the NYPD, but they can escalate incidents with other local authorities to the respected police forces). I also called the PA's officer complaint line and left some messages and haven't heard back. I doubt I will. I don't know what they did with my ID information, but apparently no police force is allowed to save it electronically unless legal action is taken at that particular point in time, which didn't happen.