Civil Liberties

Law Student Calls Out Cops Trying to Ticket Him for Playing 'Fuck Tha Police'—So They Find Other Reasons to Ticket Him, Obviously


Yesterday I blogged about Amy Barnes, a Georgia woman awarded $100,000 in a settlement with cops who arrested her for shouting "fuck the police" at them. Today, another tale of cops who can't take that particular criticism—even when it merely happens to be coming from the radio of a nearby car. But the ending in this case (so far) isn't nearly so happy.


Cesar Baldelomar, 26, was driving to his parents' home in Hialeah, Florida, on Thanksgiving morning when he pulled up at a stoplight near where Hialeah Police Officer Harold Garzon was standing. Garzon was filling out paperwork from a traffic accident, according to Miami alt-weekly the Miami New Times. Baldelomar had his radio turned up loudly, and while at the stoplight the N.W.A. classic "Fuck Tha Police" came on the air. 

"Really?" Garzon said to Baldelomar through his open car window. "You're really playing that song? Pull over."

Garzon is a buzzcutted cop with sleeve tattoos and sunglasses. He's also a 17-year veteran with 16 internal affairs cases against him, according to records. (It's unclear how many were sustained; Hialeah PD didn't respond to New Times' requests for comment.)

But Baldelomar is no Hialeah bro. He's a double Harvard graduate now studying law at Florida International University. So when Garzon told him it was illegal to play loud music within 25 feet of another person, Baldelomar called bullshit. "In 2012 the state supreme court struck down any law banning loud music," he says. "I knew that because it was a case I had actually studied in law school."

Garzon grew angry, though, when Baldelomar told him that fact. He called over two other cops and then demanded proof of insurance. Baldelomar pulled up his info on his phone, but Garzon waved it off, saying, "It's got to be paper." (It doesn't. Florida changed the law a year ago.)

This didn't stop Garzon from writing Baldelomar three tickets: one for the insurance (non)violation, one for not wearing a seat belt, and one for having an out-of-state license plate while a resident of Florida. Baldelomar maintains that he was wearing his seat belt, and he doesn't have a Florida license plate because he is still legally a resident of Massachusetts. 

Baldelomar told the New Times he plans to fight the violations in court; hopefully a judge will throw them out as quickly as the judge did in Barnes' case. Baldelomar also said he plans to file a complaint against Garzon. 

"I'm educated. I know my rights. And I speak English, so I can fight this," he points out. "But what about when this happens to someone who's not so lucky? Policing has to change in this country."

In other words…

* The headline of this article originally described Baldelomar as a Harvard law grad; he got his undergraduate degree from Harvard and is now studying law at Florida International University.