Police

Miami Beach Police vs. Citizens With Cameras

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I've written quite a bit about the cops vs. cameras issue over the last couple years. I can't recall a story as egregious as this one, from the Miami New Times. It's about four men who suffered the wrath of Miami Beach police after they filmed a frightening confrontation with a cop who nearly killed them by cutting them off in traffic, then pulled them over, then screamed at them for filming the encounter.

That confrontation, filmed in 2009, was the first of dozens that Hammonds and three friends caught on tape. They've paid dearly, spending thousands on legal fees and tickets, and sleeping multiple nights in county lockup. They've even seen their faces plastered on a warning flyer sent to departments around Miami-Dade County…

They never planned to become police agitators. But when Bredwell tried to retrieve his seized Sony camera the day after that first incident, he says Miami Beach police claimed not to have it in the evidence room.

A week later, the friends returned to police headquarters to try again. This time, they brought a full assortment of cameras and mics. They shot footage of the cops stonewalling Bredwell again. When officers noticed the cameras, they arrested Hammonds and charged him with obstruction of justice, loitering, and trespassing. He says an officer grabbed him by his hair in an interrogation room and then locked him in a sweltering van for two hours in 90-degree heat…

Miami Police Department officers, meanwhile, say they only arrest camera-toting civilians like Hammonds when they harass cops and break the law. "When you go beyond filming to trying to piss off an officer, you're subject to arrest," says Delrish Moss, a department spokesman.

Sorry, but while "pissing off an officer" isn't advisable, it also isn't a crime. And if you arrest someone who merely pisses you off but has committed no underlying crime, you're violating his rights and you're violating the law.

It gets worse.

The day after Hammonds's arrest, Miami Beach police printed a flyer with mug shots of Hammonds, Bredwell, and a friend, Christian Torres. Headlined "FYI Officer Safety," it warned that the trio "were seen filming the Miami Beach Police Department" and were "extremely hostile" and "looking for a confrontation." Anyone who spotted them "should use extreme caution."

"They make us sound like terrorists for filming a protest," Hammonds complains.

Sanchez, the Miami Beach Police Department spokesman, says the trio acted suspiciously. "[They] were claiming they were filming in part for a documentary, [but] they had no credentials," Sanchez writes in an email statement. "Post 9/11, and in keeping with homeland security, the filming of any possible location which could be considered a target… arouses suspicion."

Either way, the flyer was effective, the friends believe. In the months that followed, the three — along with a fourth member of their crew, Klemote McClean — were pulled over and detained more than a dozen times.

The group filmed almost all of the confrontations. Though their cameras were repeatedly seized, they've gotten all equipment back save for one camera, which the Miami Beach police claim to have no record of.

It goes on like that, including incidents where the men were arrested for filming police from their own property. There are also more quotes from police spokesmen claiming that by merely making video recordings, the four were trying to "incite" police. They've been arrested multiple times on vague, catch-all charges like resisting arrest or obstruction. The charges are always dropped.

I hope they consider filing a lawsuit. Florida is an all-party consent state, but the law does include the provision that the non-consenting party have an expectation of privacy. This is brazen, systematic abuse. The four are now selling a DVD of their encounters, titled Man vs. Pig. I wish they had picked a less inflammatory title. But if this article is accurate, you can hardly blame them for being angry. 

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  1. Agree – calling it “Revival of Looney Tunes, Featuring Porky” probably would have gone right over the averaged buzz cut head, thus been less problematic.

    1. B-dee, b-dee, b-dee, that’s resisting arrest, folks!!!

  2. Anyone who spotted them “should use extreme caution.”

    Perfectly reasonable. They might hit the cops with the cameras.

    1. When officers noticed the cameras, they arrested Hammonds and charged him with obstruction of justice, loitering, and trespassing

      Also reasonable: Everyone knows that police are too delicate to do their jobs if they have to worry how their hair looks, and that ‘civilians’ aren’t allowed in a police station unless they’ve been arrested.

      1. Well, duh – photographing them not only steals their spirits, but publishing the video on YouTube ranks right up there above waterboarding, but just short of connecting a car battery to their genitalia.

  3. Hey, it’s not Friday! What’s with the Thursday Balko Ballkick(TM)?

    1. It’s all part of the training.

      Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.

    2. Dont come back tomorrow, he is setting us up for something huge.

      1. You cannot predict the hour, nor the day of the Balko Jimmy Tap.

  4. The War on Copz? continues to escalate.

    Except in this war, the enemy are the people that the cops are supposed to protect and serve, and they are pointing cameras instead of guns. But otherwise it is totally a war.

  5. Replace references to Miami with Cairo, and Florida with Egypt, then the MSM would be appalled. Otherwise, these guys got what they asked for.

    1. I think that they fear the precedent being set that “the press” doesn’t just mean them (the MSM that is).

  6. More on topic – I see this as a predictable outgrowth of the ‘militarization’ of law enforcement, with the equally predictable, and now very obvious fostering of an “us vs them” bunker style mentality and approach.

    Even with hundreds, if not thousands of years of practical experience with the problems that can easily run rampant when power and outsized or inflated egos are officially sanctioned, why is it still so novel to expect that people, in general, would have cracked the freakin code on the whole deal?

    Why is it that effective plans and safeguards to eliminate this kind of crap have never enjoyed widespread adoption?

    Or are we (not so) secretly a species of masochists?

    1. why is it still so novel to expect that people, in general, would have cracked the freakin code on the whole deal?

      Well, when you have The Right People? in charge….

  7. Threadjack (Sort of):

    Has Balko covered this story?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTru1Q9uEMY

    1. I remember hearing about that, so I would suspect that he has.

      1. I’ve done a search and I can’t find Balko talking about it anywhere. It seems like just his type of story… you know? The kick-in-the-balls type.

        1. The search function here is pretty horrible, and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have heard about this story from anywhere besides Reason. We’ll find out soon enough, I’m sure.

          1. It’s posted here by another commenter: https://reason.com/blog/2010/09…..lice-in-no

            Doesn’t appear to be anything by Balko. Perhaps he figured this nutpunch would be too much and kill all his readers.

            1. Radley linked to the issue on The Agitator a few weeks bag and mentioned in the comments there yesterday that he is looking into it as we speak.

              That cop was just on trial for the shooting here. I don’t know what the verdict is yet.

              1. It wasn’t a trial, but an inquiry to decide whether there should be charges and a trial… I think.

          2. Well that ruined my day. Of course I should know better with a comment on a Balko article.

          3. I googled it. There’s nothing from Balko.

            1. My point being that I would not have googled that, or anything like that. The Balko articles are about as much as I can stomach, but there are always other instances of these incidents brought up in the comments, and I know that, but I’ll still always click the link if someone (non-troll or bot) posts it. That’s all I was saying.

              1. My reply was to Vermont GO, thought I understand your point.

                1. Ah yeah that makes more sense. Stupid “reply to this” functionality…

            2. Yeah, it must have been that comment Applederry linked to.

    2. Found a mention of it at The Agitator afternoon links from last fall:

      http://www.theagitator.com/201…..-links-39/

      1. He also hinted at future work on the case in his latest Balloon Juice smackdown:

        http://www.theagitator.com/201…..orruption/

      2. Thanks for the link Rhayader.

  8. “When you go beyond filming to trying to piss off an officer, you’re subject to arrest,” says Delrish Moss, a department spokesman.

    Oh, you mean this Delrish Moss?

    And, haha, here is an interesting story about the Miami police chief bailing his son out of jail – apparently violating a departmental policy barring cops from bailing anyone out of jail. And this came at a time when he was “still under fire for accepting a free SUV from Lexus of Kendall last year.”

    Amazing. I guess I shouldn’t be amazed, but seriously. You’re subject to arrest if you “piss off an officer”?

    1. You are subject to arrest if you TRY to piss off an officer.

      1. What if I’m not trying? Can I just do whatever the hell I want? Does that mean only intent matter not actions? Awesome, I’m off to pave the road to hell…

    2. Due to their sensitive natures, it counts as an assault on an officer.

  9. There are also more quotes from police spokesmen claiming that by merely making video recordings, the four were trying to “incite” police.

    The temerity of these serfs to dare question our authority!

    1. There are also more quotes from police spokesmen claiming that by merely making video recordings, the four were trying to “incite” police.

      That sounds like a problem with the police and not the people recording.

      1. Stop it! You’re inciting them!

  10. Why have I not seen this at PINAC? It’s in Carlos Miller’s backyard.

    Well at least they’re making money from it instead of fighting it out in some slanted courtroom. Props for innovating.

    1. Actually, that’s a very good point. I don’t think the odds are very good for getting any sort of justice either through criminal or civil channels. Too much vested interest in protecting criminal behavior within the court system.

  11. Can anyone point me to a link with good summary information of the laws in each state in regards to video recording police in public?

    1. I have no idea how accurate this information is, but it seems like what you’re looking for.

      http://www.rcfp.org/taping/states.html

  12. I wanted to leave a Crime Tip about some Chief that was abusing citizens constitutional rights…
    But was afraid of getting abused in return…
    so I chickened out…

  13. “[They] were claiming they were filming in part for a documentary, [but] they had no credentials,” Sanchez writes in an email statement. “oh, and, TERRORISM!!11oneoneone!”

    *pees pants*

  14. “Man vs Pig”

    Yes, I can’t imagine anyone but a reefer crazed loon taking that-or them seriously.

    1. The fuck would reefer have to do with that? When properly stoned, the DVD’s title conjures exactly one thought: delicious bacon.

      1. You’ve convinced me. I apologized to all the reefer crazed loons reading this blog.

  15. Man vs. Pig seems accurate. Derision where it is deserved and earned is not a bad thing.

  16. Your opening paragraph is wrong. The bad actors here are the Miami BEACH police. Miami Beach is an entirely independent municipality and operate their own police force. Your subsequent paragraphs identify them correctly but your opener doesn’t match.

  17. “And if you arrest someone who merely pisses you off but has committed no underlying crime, you’re violating his rights and you’re violating the law.”

    Correct pronouns! Balko, this is [the other] reason I read your articles. So many dumb journalists would have written “they” instead.

    1. There is a movement (of which I am a part) that advocates the usage of they/them/their as a gender nonspecific third person singular pronoun.

      1. I am also a part of this movement as well, please join!

      2. There is already a gender nonspecific third person singular pronoun: it.

  18. They’re part of a simmering national fight between citizen journalists and police departments that believe subjects have no right to film them.

    Ahhh, now it all makes sense! In the minds of police, everyone is a subject to their royal authority. What a delightful conflation of meanings.

  19. Of course these camera folks are purposeful agitators, not innocent bystanders. The police need to ignore them and they’ll get bored and go bother somebody else. http://www.granitesentry.com

    1. Right, kick ass. Well, don’t want to sound like a dick or nothin’, but, ah… it says on your chart that you’re fucked up. Ah, you talk like a fag, and your shit’s all retarded.

  20. There are also more quotes from police spokesmen claiming that by merely making video recordings, the four were trying to “incite” police.

    Any insinuation that civilians are in any way their equals “incites” the baboons with guns.

  21. The four are now selling a DVD of their encounters, titled Man vs. Pig. I wish they had picked a less inflammatory title.

    I like it. It’s edgy like me.

    1. Take your subpar trolling and begone, Rather

      1. I will if you try my cunt pickle.

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