There 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.
“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.”
“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