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Community activist questions police presence at refinery

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - A community activist was stopped in his tracks. An off duty police officer prevented him from filming near a refinery. Now he's questioning the officer's presence and right to stop him.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - Jesse Fruhwirth claimed he was documenting pollution at the Tesoro refinery.
But the filming came to a stop when an off duty police officer stopped him outside the gates of the refinery in Salt Lake City.
On the Youtube video Fruhwirth can be heard asking the officer why the questions.

“Can you say again why you're stopping me?” asks Fruhwirth.
“Yeah, because this is a critical infrastructure and you're taking pictures of it and we don't know what your purpose is," the officer responds.

Later, the Salt Lake City police officer admits she's working for Tesoro.

“Does Tesoro pay you?” asks Fruhwirth.
“We work for Tesoro yes,” the officer responds. “Do you have any other video?”
“I don't feel like I should be answering all these questions,” Fruhwirth answers.
“This is a homeland security issue because we have issues of people taking pictures of inside the refinery,” the officer explains. “So that's why I'm here."

Fruhwirth was never arrested and got to keep his video. That was two weeks ago. Tuesday Fruhwirth told ABC4 Utah his concerns with the confrontation.

“Naturally neighborhoods who are being killed by polluters will someday get very curious about those abuses and want to document them,” says Fruhwirth who calls himself a community organizer. “The police are pretty much all set up to be the guards that prevent anyone from asking any questions."

Places like the refinery or the malls prefer police for off-duty help. A spokesman for Salt Lake City police says they’re allowed to do that but an officer doesn’t set policy while on duty just enforces potential crime.
And spokesman Dennis McGowan says there's no expense to taxpayers.

“The private company pays those fees,” says McGowan. “The company pays the officer and there's a surcharge or fee that the company also pays Salt Lake City police department.”

Fruhwirth also claims his fourth amendment rights were violated.

“Police are not allowed to just canvas suspicion across any person who might be in an area,” he says.

But according to a national security expert refineries are off limits

"Because of the Patriot Act, because of the post 911critical Infrastructure Act of 2001 you are not allowed to film a refinery, storage facility or any type of critical infrastructure that's deemed to supply essential services to the public," says Tom Panuzio.

A trial attorney calls what happened at the refinery a gray area of the law.

“What he did was absolutely legal,” says Clayton Simms. “But they're concern is we don't know what his intent was, what his purpose is."

Fruhwirth says he was not arrested or given a citation. But Panuzio says Fruhwirth’s name will go on a list.

“He’ll be scoped,” says Panuzio.

He says the refinery will put Fruhwirth’s name into the national database where security experts will look into his past, present and for future reference.
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