It’s been a while since we’ve run an installment of Our Dumb State. This week we have not one, but two items that fit squarely under that banner. First, over in Brevard County, the deputies cowboys in the sheriff’s office don’t seem to know that it’s not a crime to photograph or videotape law-enforcement officers. On Oct. 23, they arrested a guy named Jeff Gray, an expert cop-watcher who routinely posts videos of officers behaving badly to YouTube under the handle Honor Your Oath (he was also recently named an editor for photographyisnotacrime.com). Gray was videotaping a traffic stop in Brevard County when officers told him to leave. Instead, he relocated and continued filming, so he was arrested. Meanwhile, his wife, Teresa, was sitting in a nearby vehicle videotaping the officers arresting her husband. A deputy spotted her, approached and told her that Gray was being arrested for “impeding” the investigation by making the officers nervous.
“Get that camera out of my face,” the officer demands in the video she made of the incident. “I’m telling you one time and one time only,” he tells her. “Take this vehicle and leave this parking lot. You’re not free to be on the roadway, county right-of-way or this parking lot. You’re now trespassing.”
He tells her that her husband is being taken to the Brevard County Detention Center. When she asks him where it is, the officer simply says: “I don’t have to tell you.” And he doesn’t. Instead, he says: “If you’re not going to cooperate with me, I’m not going to cooperate with you.” Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah.
The sheriff’s department confiscated Gray’s iPhone and camera, which they are now holding as “evidence” in a case they’re trying to build against him for trespassing and resisting arrest.
Now Gray and photographyisnotacrime.com are on the offense against the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, bombarding their Facebook page with comments about what they are calling an illegal arrest.
For the record: According to the American Civil Liberties Union, documenting police activities with cameras is a constitutional right. Videotaping or photographing police officers at work is legal, as long as you aren’t truly interfering with officers’ ability to do their jobs and as long as you aren’t breaking any other laws; police officers are not permitted to confiscate cameras or insist on viewing your photos without a warrant; officers cannot delete or destroy your photos or video; and they can only insist that you stop using your camera if you’re actually creating an obstacle to their activities.
In the meantime, if you value your iPhone, our best advice is that you not aim it at any Brevard County Sheriff’s deputies. Obviously, they don’t give a shit about your First Amendment rights.
Next up from the Our Dumb State files: Remember last week how Billy Manes gave you a list of Halloween costume ideas that you’d best avoid if you want to keep your dignity and good character intact (“Don’t even think about it,” Oct. 23)? On that list, he pointed out that it’d probably be pretty shitty to, say, dress as George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin. Just not funny. A few people asked us whether we thought anyone would really even do such a thing. Well, two guys in Cape Coral, Fla., did, and they posted their bad-idea costume to Facebook, where it was then discovered by not just national media (TheSmokingGun.com, Mediaite.com) but international media, as well (The Daily Mail, UK). Way to make sure Our Dumb State look even dumber and more insensitive than ever, guys.
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