Story line by Jeff Gray of photographyisnotacrime.com
Multiple recording devices, both audio & video, are needed by ordinary citizens in the face of any/all encounters with public officials because of their tendency to lie/exaggerate, even under oath and the penalty of perjury. Apparatchiks understand their official positions give them automatic credibility whereas the ordinary citizen has little or none in our hallowed halls of justice.
Documenting public officials is a well established liberty protected by the 1st Amendment. Unfortunately, engaging in this activity can be very dangerous for the observer. Over the years, while running the Youtube channel HONORYOUROATH, one photojournalist has learned how critical it can be for your safety to record all encounters with public officials.
A perfect example of how a seemingly ordinary encounter with public officials can turn into a disaster for the citizen is the story of Rita Hutchins, a petite Idaho woman, who last year was requesting public records in Sandpoint City Hall for a lawsuit against the city when she was bullied by government officials, ordering her to leave.
She allegedly threw down a pen in frustration, which ricocheted off a desktop and grazed a city clerk, leading to her being charged with criminal battery.
Things spiraled out of control to the point where police raided her home late one night as can be seen in the video below.
Rita Hutchens, a middle-aged quilt artist from Sandpoint, Idaho, experienced the dreaded “midnight knock” — the hallmark of a totalitarian police state — as part of a Soviet-style campaign of official persecution. Her “offense” was to seek redress for being assaulted by a police officer in what was ruled to be an illegal arrest. (This is the teaser for a full-length documentary.)
If you don’t protect yourself by recording, it comes down to your word against the word of police, meaning you’re screwed.
Experience has shown in encounters with public officials, not only is it vital to record, but to record with multiple devices.
Police Lying Routine Rather Than the Exception:
On July 10th 2013 in Palatka, Florida, the recorded victim was cuffed and detained by Deputy Griffen of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office while legally openly carrying a firearm. Even though Deputy Griffen terminated the recording on both of the victim’s cameras, the audio recorder in his back pocket went unnoticed, thus continued to record throughout the duration of the detainment.
As you can see in Deputy Griffin’s incident report, what he says happened and what actually happened are quite different.
In June of 2013, Assistant Warden George Dedos of the Lake City Corrections Corporation Of America snatched this victim’s main camera from his hands and terminated the recording. Unknown to Warden Dedos, a back-up camera continued to record uninterrupted.
In a typical display of arrogant incompetence, the LEO in the following video argues that freedom of the press belongs only to journalists who are ‘credentialed’ and have the state’s blessing to act in said capacity. Of course, were it the case such permission was required, the press would not be ‘free’ by definition. This tautology appeared lost on this particular LEO and many like him. The violation of the photojournalists civil rights affected the LEO like water off a duck’s back.
Brevard County Sheriff deputies tried their best to intimidate PINAC editor Jeff Gray from video recording a traffic stop last month before they lost all patience and slapped the camera phone out of his hand, telling him photography “is a crime” (without ‘permission’) after he informed them he was working for Photography is Not a Crime. In fact, the press has no special privileges/legal rights beyond that of any citizen. But, it also has no less.
The LEO’s were unaware of a back-up camera on his ear, which picked up the action after his iPhone had shattered on the sidewalk. According to well established federal case law precedent, LEO’s who violate fundamental civil rights, such as this photojournalist’s, LOSE their qualified immunity status and may be held personally liable in a law suit or criminal prosecution for the same.
On October 23 2013, the victim was arrested by two Game Over Task Force Agents from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. At the point of arrest, one of the Task Force Agents struck his wrist with great force knocking the iPhone from his hand, shattering it on the asphalt. He believes the agents’ intent was to damage the iPhone so badly the recording would be stopped and destroyed.
At the time, he had four other devices recording. One of these devices was a dash board camera located in his vehicle. Three of his recorders were seized as evidence, but, the audio recorder and the dash cam were not seized.
It was the dash cam video which his wife published on YouTube the same day of his arrest. The YouTube video showed the arrest was questionable. It unleashed a social media frenzy and flood of calls directed at the sheriff’s office protesting the arrest.
It doesn’t take much money to invest in multiple cameras. During the Brevard County arrest, the victim was wearing an audio recorder on a lanyard around his neck, which costs less than $15, as well as a bluetooth spy camera, which can be purchased for $99, and a dash cam, which costs about $100.
PASS CODE & LIVE STREAM:
Sometimes it’s not enough to merely carry multiple recording devices. Countless stories on PINAC reveal police deleting video or losing the camera. If you record with a smart phone, you must have the pass code activated to protect the video recording from being deleted. It is also a good idea to use a live streaming app in case your phone is damaged or disappears. After the arrest in Brevard County, the reporter now uses the live streaming app called Bambuser.
A good example of Bambuser being used was during Pete Eyre’s arrest for jaywalking last month. He was able to continue recording, even after cops believed they had turned off his camera.
At all times carry at least three fully charged recording devices with plenty of available memory space. While most people aren’t going to engage in cop-watching activities, such precautions may prove cheap insurance to prevent you from being seriously victimized by the police (e.g. Olympia’s Scott Yoos in a trumped up charge of assaulting a LEO). It can also act as a prophylactic/cure for corruption in some violent street elements such as the more radical self described (A)narchists hostile to photojournalists. Odds are high, today, most of us will experience an unwanted encounter with law enforcement at some point or violent street elements. It is best to be prepared and have in your possession at all times the equipment necessary to protect yourself.