By Tim Elfrink
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By S. Pajot
By Tim Elfrink
By Tim Elfrink
By Kyle Munzenrieder
When Robert Hammonds and a friend, Brent Bredwell, finished filming a DJ show at Jazid in South Beach, it was around 3 a.m. on a Sunday in September. A few minutes later, after they jumped into a car and headed down Washington Avenue, a drunk-looking driver swerved across traffic and cut them off.
Hammonds leaned out the window and yelled "What the hell are you doing?" at the guy.
Next thing Hammonds and Bredwell knew, a beefy cop was pulling them over. Holding his Sig Sauer .40 caliber gun at his side, the officer angrily thrust his hand into the car through the driver-side window and waved his walkie-talkie.
"Are you a fucking idiot?" the cop screamed. "Doing that in front of me? Asshole!"
Hammonds, in the passenger seat, was discreetly filming the outburst. When reinforcements arrived to put Bredwell through sobriety tests, Hammonds kept taping and agitating. "Oh, it's martial law now!" he yelled.
Another officer gestured at Hammonds. "Take the camera," he said to a colleague. "It's evidence now. Take it."
On film, the frame shakes violently and Hammonds yells, "I do not release this camera!" But then an officer grabs it and shuts it off.
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're part of a simmering national fight between citizen journalists and police departments that believe subjects have no right to film them. The battle over whether cops can arrest you just for videotaping them is quickly becoming the most hotly contested corner of American civil liberties law.
"As more professionals and amateurs use equipment to record police activity, they're facing the ire of officers who just don't want to be recorded," says David Ardia, director of Harvard University's Citizen Media Law Project. "We need a clear answer from courts that this is legal, or else police officers' instincts will always be to snatch the camera."
It might seem like an open-and-shut argument — cops are public figures, after all, and they're operating in plain view on the street. But it isn't, at least in the dozen states, including Florida, that require both parties in any conversation to consent to audio recording.
Since video cameras also record voices, police argue, citizen journalists are breaking the law when they record cops without permission. Publishing cops' photos also jeapordizes their safety, says Detective Juan Sanchez, a spokesman for Miami Beach police.
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.
Police around the country agree with him. Last May, a man in Maryland named Anthony Graber posted a YouTube video made with a helmet camera. It showed a state trooper drawing a gun and threatening him during a traffic stop. A few days after the clip was posted, police raided Gruber's house and charged him with "illegal wiretapping."
In South Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the City of Boynton Beach this past June on behalf of a local woman named Sharron Tasha Ford. She had gone to a movie theater to pick up her son, a minor, whom police accused of trespassing. Ford said she had "a bad feeling" about the arrest, so she took a camera with her. When she refused to stop filming, she was arrested and charged under State Statute 934.03, the "two-party consent" recording law.
"It really is a perversion of this statute to try to apply it to filming or recording what public officials are doing in public," says Randall Marshall, legal director of ACLU Florida.
Hammonds and Bredwell didn't know about the legal infighting when they pulled out their camera on Washington Avenue 16 months ago. They just acted on instinct. "It's your responsibility as an American to monitor authority and to speak up when it's being abused," Hammonds says.
Hammonds is a 30-year-old Indianapolis native with shoulder-length hair, a goatee, and a perpetually aggrieved voice. He moved to Miami five years ago to study film at Miami International University. That's where he met Bredwell, a soft-spoken, six-foot three-inch filmmaker whose father is a cop in Fort Myers.
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.
"It might seem like an open-and-shut argument — cops are public figures, after all, and they're operating in plain view on the street. But it isn't, at least in the dozen states, including Florida, that require both parties in any conversation to consent to audio recording." So, can we citizens tell them to stop recording US when they pull US over?
Simple solution to all this - > Tape records without voice, its what security cameras do anyway, oo and by the way put a tag on your shirt that you ar eunder surveillance. :)
oh and another thing...stop putting people face down with your knee on their neck after they are in cuffs...wtf
thats a public position they hold...if they are not doing something they shouldnt who are they to object...what are they affriad of being identified later...are they not proud of the work they do...is it so unreasonble to think they should be scrutinized...just whats the objection...police if you have an answer i would love to hear the opposition
now what if the person being pulled over doesnt consent to the officers patrol cam recording the incident?
How can cops in Florida cite the dual consent laws when all types of video is used to monitor activities in public spaces obviously without the consent of those being filmed.
Your first sentence is far too broad to be acceptable. "Anyobstruction...by physical or verbal interferance...should not betolerated", is far too empowering. Police seem to want to be ableorder anyone onto the ground face down at anytime because they feelthreatened or are fearful for their safety. This is simplyunacceptable, a certain amount of risk comes with any job, being a cophas inherently more risk than some other professions. Don't become acop if you are just too afraid to deal with the public on at leastequal footing. I know you qualified your statement by saying, "his orher lawful duties". The problem is that cops and courts often classifyeverything they are doing as lawful. Even if someone is stopped for amere traffic violation, we can see them being forced to assume theprone position on the street or ground (Cops and Youtube). This is nota state of affairs that can be supported long term. Police must seethe public as their superiors even when making an arrest, andespecially when only making a "stop". If you are too afraid to talk tome face to face, then don't stop me. Most officers have a taser, anight stick, a gun, a partner, and nearby backup. Why are they afraidfor their safety often enough to justify "Terry" stops? Sometimes anofficer's fear is surely warranted and correct. But how often are"Terry" stops a tool to stretch the long arm of the law, and notstrictly a safety measure?
The laws should (and many under-enforced laws do) actually requirebetter behavior from the police than they do from the citizen. This isnot supposed to be an equal relationship. The officer is a servant tothe people, and if she cannot handle that with class, style, andskill, he or she should just go back to being a member of the public.Instead of a system that punishes officers more severely for crime, itcoddles them. How many times have you heard of an officer receivingdisciplinary action when an average citizen would be facing prison orat least jail time? Again the relationship is upside down. Officersare not the only source of blame. The government seems bent oninventing as many ways as possible to raise its "states rights" overthose of the people. The interest of the state or the city incollecting fines, fees, and convictions violates the right of theindividual to enjoy the fruit of his labors, rights, and duties.
As an example take jury nullification, why do authorities rail againstits use? I've read more than one judge claim it is illegal. Why shouldit be? The idea that a jury could hear the prosecution's case and sayto themselves, "everything the state claims is true, but this guy orgal still should not be in jail", makes sense to me. If those sametwelve people chose to convict, will the state argue that they arewrong? Not likely, only if they dare say to the state, "I hear yourcase, and so what?", only then will their decision be labeled illegal.A state trying to increase its power is all around us. The policeshould not have the added burden of furthering the state's power grabagenda. It diminishes them in the eye of the public and tells thecrooks that the cops have other priorities.
The cops are on the payroll, they should be on the videotape too, itisn't up to them, its up to us. No government employee has a right toprivacy while on the clock, period. That is the nature of publicservice. If you cannot stand in the sunshine, you are not serving thepublic.
Any obstruction of a police officer from performing his or her lawful duties either by physical or verbal interferance or obstruction, should not be tolerated however, the laws must clearly state, without question or need for interpretation, exactly what those forms of interference or obstruction shall be. .
Conversely, there should be no laws applying to citizens should that should not equally apply to law enforcement officers, elected officials or governmental employees. If a law enforcement agency is permitted to use dash and/or body cams then, the same law should apply. If the law of the state or jurisdiction prohibits filming/recording without consent of both parties, the public agencies must also abide by that same rule. If a court wiretap can be obtained by the police (or governments) upon presenting allegations of 'probable or possible unlawful activity' then, that same right should be extended to citizens based simply on the probability that those aforementioned agencies might possibly engage in unlawful activities against citizens.
Unfortunately we have allowed the justice system to work against the people. Go to JoaneofArc1 on you tube and watch those videos, you will see the police actually admitting to bad behavior, threatening people and making false alligations against inocent people.
Good job and keep it up!!! Everyone should be held accountable for their actions.
TrEs said:"really...those cams don't record voice, therfore making it legal".
Yeah, but the cops' dash cams typically *do* record voice, in addition to video.
Well, Miami cops are both crooked and cowards - of course they don't want to be filmed doing their dirty work. And filming cops actually makes them safer..
If the two party rule applies to videotaping/recording public events than all security cameras and traffic cams and weather cams and web cams violate that rule.
really...those cams don't record voice, therfore making it legal........wouldn't it be better to film the polictical figures, like commissoners and mayors who really a crooked and make the little people suffer GREATLY....not the working man (PIG)
Dude, you're on to something! If you get caught at one of those "red-light" camera intersections, you can always argue that you didn't agree to a photo! :D
If the cops are charging under the two party consent law, how do they get away with squadcar mounted dash cams?
Youtube or Google "Oscar Grant BART" and witness why it is imperative not have these rights stripped from us...
"Some of what you see on this video is clearly attempts to incite police officers," whines Delrish Moss, a police spokesman. Question: are police officers such babies that they react to the "incitement" posed by video cameras by going bonkers? To ask the question is to answer it. These pathetic thugs need to be fired, if not prosecuted.
Record them anyway, then place charges on them for stealing and harassment and interfering with your business of filming.
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.
Americans used to hiss at the screen when the slimy SS officer would sidle up and demand "your papers, please", in the movies.
Yeah, I went there. Hey, if the jackboot fits...
It's unfortunate that the article's author is either lazy in his research or intentionally trying to mislead.
Elfrink mention Graber's arrest and illegal wire-tapping charge in Maryland and then cites Manzelli's conviction in a different State as a "similar conviction". Graber wasn't convicted! In fact, a judge threw out all charges against Graber because Graber hadn't violated any LAW in audio/video taping the tax-feeding thug, who pointed a gun at him for doing nothing more than speeding.
Cops are the biggest criminals out there. Here were I live they tasered a man in a car who was having a seizure and lost the ability to use one side of his body. He was trying to drive himself to the hospital and had pulled over to the side of the road and flagged a passing police car. When he was unable to follow their commands to get out of the car and couldn't speak because of the seizure, they tasered him. Cops are always shooting unarmed people who have a cell phone or something like that in their hand. They are just a bunch of pussy cowards who have to have 3 or 4 against one. One on one they lose.
Fascist c-suckers. IF your going to video them and post it I think it would be prudent to block out their faces.I understand that safety argument. But I think if they can video you (dashboard) and use redlight cameras, it should work both ways. If the cop is acting professionally , whats the problem? If they cant handle a little incitement and razzing from some guys with a handycam, maybe they should look for a job they are actually qualified for.
Shows the true insecurity and complete lack of authority the police department has over the officer and his/her attitude. Bunch of punks with a badge, trespassing, pissing on the laws they swore a duty to uphold. Not everyone needs to be dealt with like a child/dirt bag. If I remember correctly, these so called "COPS" have been given the training, and it is up to the department to uphold the standard.FAIL. Someday, some officer with poor moral intention will be dispatched with extreme prejudice while committing a felony, and an honest citizen will have to pay.... oh wait.... sounds like a story where the names have been changed to protect the "innocent".
Assuming what they say occurred, I couldn't agree with them more. I was a policeman for 27 years and understood that I was helping to provide a country that was open/transparent. I never understood the imperious attitude of some of my fellow officers. We must not be above the law. Good luck guys.
If they're on duty and not on private time, as public employees they should have no problem being filmed if they aren't doing anything wrong. If they don't want to be filmed you can be 100% certain it's because they have something to hide. They don't want to end up like that cop in NY who got into trouble for assaulting the guy on the bike, which the video clearly showed was totally random and unprovoked, just because he felt like assaulting someone today. Now they're trying to get all these laws passed to make sure they don't get caught like that again.
If anyone would like to film me doing *my* job they're more than welcome. I don't know why they'd bother but I certainly don't have anything to hide.
75% of cops--except in NY where it's more like 95%--are thugs and bullies who've figured out how to hide in plain sight--wear a uniform.
Don't cops always say, "If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about"?What are the cops worried about?
I agree, I was stripped searched and accused of selling crack. Once it wasn't found on me they let me go however I returned for the officers badge number. He refused numerous times and then stated if I asked again I would be arrested for loitering. So I did and I was then I sued them. During the pre-trial I had a chance to hear the cop tell his side of the story. He stated I ran and was refusing arrest. That day has changed me forever.
Screw the gun, its the badge that gives them power. Any of those thugs is useless without it, regardless of their firepower.
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