Florida Police Accused of Harassing Citizen Filming in Public and Then Making Anonymous Calls of Possible Crime

florida-cop-frames-activist-masturbation.sivideo cameraThere is a controversy surrounding another confrontation between a police officer and a citizen over filming officers in public. We have been following the continuing abuse of citizens who are detained or arrested for filming police in public. (For prior columns, click here and here). Despite consistent rulings upholding the right of citizens to film police in public, these abuses continue. The latest story has a weird twist. Critics are alleging that, after Michael Burns had a confrontation with Lakeland officer Javier Perez, the officer allegedly placed an anonymous call to claim that Burns was masturbating in his car.

The video shows Burns at a considerable distance. The officer questions him and demands his name and identification. The officer pushes for his name and identification. Later an officer confronts him and tries to rip the camera off his wrist. He tells him to stop filming even though he has a right to do so and says that he does not have a right to film but then says that the camera will be seized for “evidence.” The officer fails to identify a clear criminal charge while the officer keeps repeated the same statement that just by refusing identification he has committed a crime. The suspicion seems however to be the fact that the camera is the basis for the possible crime. By simply claiming he is under investigation, the officer demands the camera and other information. He then says that the camera will be subpoenaed for his camera.

Weblog Photography is Not a Crime detailed the original confrontation:

“Turn the camera off or else I’m going to seize all your equipment”

Can you get the sheriff?”

“I can but I won’t.”

“Can I get the supervisor?”

“I am the supervisor. I’m in control and you’re not.”‘

“No sir, I’m a citizen. I’m ok.”

“What you need to do is be quiet.”

“No, sir, I’m allowed to talk.”

“No you’re not.”

“First Amendment, yes sir.”

“I’m fixing to put you under arrest.”

“For what?”

No answer.

“You think I make up stuff?”

The officer is also quoted in refusing to give his badge number:

“Can I have your badge number?”

“No, you may not. When I arrest you in a minute, you can have it.”

The officer invoked “post-9-11” as the basis for these actions out of concern that he is filming them and “county buildings.”

Now another website is claiming reported that Burns filed two public record requests with police on his record and found that two calls were made by an anonymous caller to report a “suspicious person” masturbating inside a car. Burns told the site that “I did a Spokeo search and it came back to a Javier Perez. I then Googled the name and discovered a Javier Perez had been hired by the Lakeland Police Department.” He says that he cannot make a concrete link but that, according to the site, “a sergeant has confirmed that police are looking into claims that Perez has made false 911 calls.”

That is a very serious allegation and could be the basis for defamation by Perez if untrue. If true, it is equally serious for Perez. Florida states that:

817.49 False reports of commission of crimes; penalty.—Whoever willfully imparts, conveys or causes to be imparted or conveyed to any law enforcement officer false information or reports concerning the alleged commission of any crime under the laws of this state, knowing such information or report to be false, in that no such crime had actually been committed, shall upon conviction thereof be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.”

What is clear is that the video shows what does appear to be harassment and baseless claims by the police to stop this citizen in the exercise of his first amendment rights. The attempt to seize the camera in the name of “evidence” shows a new spin in police seeking to stop filming by citizens.

Kudos: Michael Blott

36 thoughts on “Florida Police Accused of Harassing Citizen Filming in Public and Then Making Anonymous Calls of Possible Crime”

  1. Wyden Statement at Intelligence Committee Hearing: Why Hasn’t The Executive Branch Stopped Vacuuming Up Americans’ Phone Records?
    Thursday, June 5, 2014

    Let me start by talking about the fact that the House bill does not ban warrantless searches for Americans’ emails. And here, particularly, I want to get into this with you, Mr. Ledgett if I might. We’re talking of course about the backdoor search loophole, section 702 of the FISA statute. This allows NSA in effect to look through this giant pile of communications that are collected under 702 and deliberately conduct warrantless searches for the communications of individual Americans. This loophole was closed during the Bush Administration, but it was reopened in 2011, and a few months ago the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged in a letter to me that the searches are ongoing today.

  2. Ah… Florida. The “You can’t have the evidence” State.

    U.S. Marshals Seize Cops’ Spying Records to Keep Them From the ACLU

    The surprise move by the U.S. Marshals Service stunned the American Civil Liberties Union, which earlier this year filed the public records request with the Sarasota, Florida, police department for information detailing its use of the controversial surveillance tool.

    The ACLU had an appointment last Tuesday to review documents pertaining to a case investigated by a Sarasota police detective. But marshals swooped in at the last minute to grab the records, claiming they belong to the U.S. Marshals Service and barring the police from releasing them.

    ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler called the move “truly extraordinary and beyond the worst transparency violations” the group has seen regarding documents detailing police use of the technology.

  3. Here’s the big picture.

    It was stated today by a CNN consultant that many legal results “were not in the Constitution but created by the courts.”

    This cop took the law into his own hands. The Supreme Court has done the same thing for 200 years. The SCOTUS has taken the Constitution into its own hands. It involves legislating and executing from the bench. The decision on the Affordable Care Act is a prime example. The SCOTUS has caused the state wherein “the Constitution has evolved” according to the ex-Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke. That is insurrection, Ben.

    The SCOTUS has ignored the Preamble and Constitution, the intent and the law, and ruled by subjective and arbitrary decision, negligence and omission. Further, it is not possible that the writings of the Founders, Preamble and Constitution can be read nine different ways. It is not possible that the Founders established the SCOTUS to act as representatives of ideologies or political parties; yet it has.

    The duty of the SCOTUS was never to differ, but to decide by consensus that a legal matter was measured and considered by the intent of the Founders, Preamble and Constitution. It is not the function of the SCOTUS to issue decisions on which there is disagreement. It is the function of the SCOTUS to agree that the intent, Preamble and Constitution prescribe decisions with specificity and particularity.

    Again, the CNN consultant said that many legal results “were not in the Constitution but created by the courts.”

    That is damning of the SCOTUS.

  4. looks like upholding citizen rights is something that keeps being flushed down the toilet!

  5. US domestic police forces have redefined their motto from:

    “To protect and serve”


    “Let them hate, so long as they fear” ~ Lucius Accius

    Additionally from this point forward all members of the public shall be re-classified from citizen to subject.

  6. These are two unrelated incidents. The 1st is regarding a Lakeland police officer, Javier Perez, allegedly calling in a false report to the non-emergency police line and accusing Michael Burns of masturbating in his car. This was supposedly done because Officer Perez was upset by Mr. Burns video taping him in public.

    The second incident was another person, not Michael Burns, being harassed for filming a traffic stop.

    In my mind both incidents are examples of bad police conduct that tries to stop or intimidate citizens from exercising their right to video in public. But they are 2 separate and distinct incidents.

    1. “bad police conduct”? Oh yeah; I know what that means. We have another name for it where I come from.

      We call it “Fascist Police Crime” deserving of more severe punishment than any crime a civilian can commit; short of murder or child molestation.

      Lock these Cops up in General Population and their punishment shall be manifest.

      On Fri, Jun 6, 2014 at 1:23 PM, JONATHAN TURLEY wrote:

      > Chris commented: “These are two unrelated incidents. The 1st is > regarding a Lakeland police officer, Javier Perez, allegedly calling in a > false report to the non-emergency police line and accusing Michael Burns of > masturbating in his car. This was supposedly done because” >

    1. That’s one down and ? more to go. How many Cops are there in Florida anyway?

      On Fri, Jun 6, 2014 at 11:59 AM, JONATHAN TURLEY wrote:

      > Michaelb commented: “The offending officer no longer works at the > department….or so the PR person claims” >

  7. This post is confused with a different circumstance   Michael Blott,D.C.

    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”                   -Martin Luther King Jr. 

  8. Yesterday, the New Hampshire House and Senate gave final approval to a bill which bans government officials from obtaining “information contained in a portable electronic device” without a warrant “signed by a judge and based on probable cause.” It now goes to the Governor’s desk for a signature.

    House Bill 1533 (HB1533) was introduced by Rep. Neal Kurk and passed both the House and Senate by unanimous voice votes.

    The bill sets up a direct legal conflict with federal surveillance programs as well. It reads, in part:

    “Government entity” means a federal, state, county, or local government agency, including but not limited to a law enforcement agency or any other investigative entity, agency, department, division, bureau, board, or commission, or an individual acting or purporting to act for, or on behalf of, a federal, state, county, or local government agency. “Government entity” shall not apply to a federal government agency to the extent that federal statute preempts state statute.

    Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey sees the inclusion of federal agencies in this clause as an important part of the bill. “Including federal agencies in this prohibition on obtaining electronic information without a warrant does two important things,” he said. “It will force the federal courts to take a position on the constitutionality of mass federal surveillance programs, since federal statute cannot preempt if it’s not constitutional in the first place,” he said. ‘It also brings to the forefront that each state does indeed have a role to play in rejecting unconstitutional spying programs, whether they’re state or federal.”

    1. That sounds good but it only works if the Police obey that law. Once a device has been confiscated and destroyed; who is to say there was or wasn’t anything to see. Police, Criminals, Thieves, Racists, Muggers and Killers of our children. Same critter.

  9. There are two unrelated incidents being posted here. The Michael Burns alleged masturbation video is here — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nv117wJSVGs The above video is more recent, out of Pampa in N. Texas, and filmed by a wholly different person. As for seizing the video in the name of evidence. That tactic has been used in a number of cases. Courts have ruled however that a video can only be seized if the video equipment itself was used in the commission of a crime. Some good news. There are ways to recover footage if it has been taken, and deleted by cops to cover their crimes. http://www.cardrecovery.com/?rid=google&kid=cr2101. There is also another program that will stream your videos live to an off site server while you are recording. bambuser.com This, by the way is my personal favorite. If the cops take my video, delete it, and claim I was lying about taking video. Then I have the original as proof, and I can nail the offending officers on destruction of evidence, and obstruction of justice. Add that to 1st, 4th, 14th amendment civil rights violations, and you have one scrambling department. Cheers..

    1. JH

      I saw that your comment at 11:48 went into moderation because it contained more than two hyperlinks. The system does not allow more than two per comment. I have de-referenced the last hyperlink so that it would post for you.

      If you would like to provide more than two links, you can do so by making additional comments for the extras.

  10. Training; they get. What they need is a new career. It is useless for the Right to claim they want these abuses to stop when it is so clear that they are the reason these Outlaw Cops get away with this to begin with.

    Oh no; I’m stupid enough to believe it doesn’t tickle you on the underside when an average citizen (as opposed to a republican) is abused and falsely accused by these Florida Stormtroopers.

    But wait; is Flroida a Right-Wing state?

    Why; yes. Yes I believe it is. Imagine that.

  11. Cops won’t come to terms w/ the ubiquity of video cameras until they are FORCED to by laws. They’ll still fight it, but @ least there will be designated rules and consequences. We need new laws SPECIFIC to the videotaping of police officers. You would think the very fundamental concept of, “If it’s in public, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy,” would do it. But, as we see here on a regular basis, that just doesn’t cut it.

  12. The evidence excuse is for the later “oops, it somehow got destroyed in transit’ excuse.

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