San Francisco Police Officer Gared Hansen has a hobby. And it's thus far netted him two suspensions from the force.
Hansen loves photography and, in addition to his job patrolling the streets of San Francisco's Mission District, he takes artistic nude photos. Unfortunately for the eight-year SFPD veteran, there are many in the department who don't look kindly on his photography and have slapped him with two multi-day suspensions.
(SCROLL DOWN FOR NSFW PHOTOS)
After his most recent suspension, Hansen decided he had enough. Earlier this month, Hansen filed suit against his employer on First Amendment grounds, charging that SFPD was violating his right to free expression.
"I've been doing photography since I was a teenager," Hansen told the Huffington Post. "My father was a photographer and knew Ansel Adams. My father taught me how to do it and inspired me on the artistic side of things."
Hansen's activities first drew the ire of SFPD brass back in 2009, when the department first got wind of his erotic photography. "I kept the two things--my job and my art--separate, but they didn't think that it made much of a difference," he said.
He says he was slapped with a suspension for violating department rules around having secondary employment without first clearing it with department officials. "It was a witch hunt," he explained. "They tried to say that my photography...[constituted] secondary employment, but it was just a hobby. They did that while encouraging other officers to take pictures and sell their work."
Undeterred, Hansen continued with his art, bolstered by advice from the Police Officers Association, which noted that he was technically disciplined for treating his art too much like a second job and not content of the art itself.
The next issue occurred the following year when Hansen was photographing models at an abandoned hotel in Contra Costa County. When local police stumbled onto his photo shoot, Hansen told them he was an SFPD officer--something he explained to he was required to do because he was carrying a sidearm at the time.
Again, Hansen's supervisors didn't look kindly what he was doing and handed him a ten-day suspension. Following the suspension, Hansen shut down his personal website (although his photos can still be found on one belonging to his wife, who also now holds the copyrights on all his work) and put his photography on hold.
"I believe a group of people in the department have a strong bias against my art; maybe they have strong religious views and are against nudity," he said.
SFPD spokesman Albie Esparza declined to comment on the issue, noting that SFPD is prohibited from commenting on matters that are in pending litigation.
"Interacting with naked people while on duty is required of San Francisco police officers at least annually," wrote Slate wryly. "If one is not assigned to provide escort for the doms and slaves at the Folsom Street Fair, then there is the gay pride parade to contend with."
AOL Jobs noted that, while Hansen's issue may be a special case, the outcome has the potential to have wide-ranging implication for government employees around the country who are engaged in outside activities their employers may find distasteful.
Check out these [NSFW] shots of Hansen's art: