Just so you know: Taking pictures of the police is not a crime. There could be times the police may not like being photographed, but taking pictures of working police officers is not a crime in the U.S.A.
This post is not intended to be anti-police or against law enforcement in anyway whatsoever. So please don't misconstrue what I say here: As a working stock photographer, you have the right to photograph police officers.
I have some additional thoughts for your consideration:
- When confronted by the police, never be anything but a model citizen. Provide proper identification if requested. Be polite. Be respectful.
- Always make sure you are standing in a public place when creating the images. Make sure you have the right to be where you are. In other words, if you are trespassing or on private property, do not be trying to take photos.
- Make sure you are not violating any minor laws or ordinances, such as parking in a no-parking zone. Give no reason for an officer to cite you for anything.
- Don't cross police or fire lines (that yellow tape used at crime scenes or emergencies.
- Never argue with a police officer. Remember, a law enforcement officer can arrest you. If you want to argue, do so in court, not in the heat of the moment during any type of a confrontation.
- The police have no right to confiscate your camera, gear, or memory cards. To do so, they must first obtain a search warrant, and then serve it on you (a search warrant is a legal court order).
- Most officers will have no objection to your photography. Many will even assist you if you appear professional and not doing anything wrong.
The law is on your side insofar as photographing the police. This is straight from the U.S. Department of Justice. In a letter to the Baltimore Police Department, the Department of Justice clearly points out that photography of police officers is not a crime. I have added a link to a PDF of that letter here - you can download it and keep it for your reference.