From Jeff Gray:
Back in May of 2011, I had an incident with two Florida Highway Patrol Troopers from FHP Troop G while taking photos and video of their Command Center Bus at a gas station.
Trooper Michael badge #2154 incorrectly claimed that it was illegal to film both him personally and the Command Center Bus. He also claimed that he had the authority to “snatch” my camera without a warrant or due process!
I sent an email along with a link of the video to Lieutenant Bill Leeper who was the commander of Troop G at the time. Here are the email exchanges between Lt.Leeper and myself.
Sent: Friday, June 03, 2011 8:33 AM
To: Leeper, William
Subject: Video FHP Trooper say’s 1st and 4th amendments “don’t matter”!
This happened at the Shell Station on Normandy Blvd at 295.I wanted some video and pictures of your mobile command unit when I was immediately confronted by 2 Troopers.I was told that I could not film (1st amendment violation) and that if I continued to film my camera would be “SNATCHED” (4th amendment violation).When I mentioned that this is a first amendment issue I was told that it does not matter!
Please compare the difference with how your troopers behaved and how this Green Cove Springs Police Officer behaved.
This could have been a good PR opportunity for your Troopers instead of an embarrassment.Please get the word out to your Troopers that PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT A CRIME
As you can see Lt. Leeper was prompt in his response and to my concerns and his claim that his Troopers would be better educated on citizens rights to record LEO’s was satisfactory.
Fast forward to March of 2012 and I have had yet another incident with an FHP Trooper from Troop G. SGT.Thompson approached me in an aggressive manner while I was gathering content for my Click It Or Ticket videos. Sgt.Thompson demanded my ID,refused to answer if I was being detained,incorrectly claimed that it is illegal to film her without her permission,and she actually assaulted me by shoving my camera. On Monday March 25th I sent an email to Troop G’s Public Affairs Officer SGT.Dylan Bryan and have yet (Thursday March 28th) to receive a response. Here is the email I sent to SGT.Bryan,
SGT.Ryan, I am writing you in regards to an incident that occurred on Friday March 15th involving SGT.Thompson while I was gathering content for a story I’m working on about LEO’s not wearing seatbelts. 1st I would like to address the seat belt issue.I have recorded numerous Troopers not obeying the seat belt law that they enforce. Knowing that 547 LEO’s have been killed in traffic accidents while on duty (from 2002-2011) and many more have been injured, I find it troubling that so many Troopers are not wearing their seat belts. In the video (that I’m sure you’re aware of) in an effort to keep the video short I only showed 4 Troopers not wearing seatbelts but I have documented many more. Isn’t it not only FHP policy but also law that Troopers are required to wear seat belts? Also I find it necessary to point out the double standard that FHP has issued thousands of seat belt tickets while so many Troopers aren’t wearing them their selves.
Second I would like to address the incident with Trooper Thompson. I was astonished that SGT.Thompson was not knowledgeable about the right of citizens to record public officials,in a public space,while performing their public duties. Not only did SGT.Thompson incorrectly believe it to be illegal to record her without her permission,but she actually placed her hand over my camera and shoved it away from her causing me to stumble backwards. By definition of the law wouldn’t that be SIMPLE ASSAULT?Many people have encouraged me to press charges and file an official complaint against SGT.Thompson. However,at this point I am not interested in such action if I can be assured an effort will be taken to better educate troopers about citizens rights to record public officials. Below I have links to two videos involving incidents with Troopers from Troop G.
From: Leeper, William
Sent: Friday, June 03, 2011 2:38 PM
Subject: RE: Video FHP Trooper say’s 1st and 4th amendments “don’t matter”!
I apologize for what happened. I didn’t see anything in the video that shows you doing anything wrong. The bus is something we utilize as a mobile command center during hurricane details and anywhere else we need it. I will pass this along to our training coordinator to use as we try to educate the officers and you are right it could have been a good PR opportunity. Thanks for sharing it with me.
Lieutenant Bill Leeper
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Thank you for the quick reply! I hope I didn’t get any one into any trouble.
I will be out and about getting more film. I am the guy with the yellow camera. I do not interfere, I just observe and document.
It would be an honor if you use that video as a training piece.
Thanks again, God bless and stay safe.
PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT A CRIME!
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