Miami Police vs. Citizens With Cameras

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

I’ve written quite a bit about the cops vs. cameras issue over the last couple years. I can’t recall a story as egregious as this one, from the Miami New Times. It’s about four men who suffered the wrath of Miami police after they filmed a frightening confrontation with a cop who nearly killed them by cutting them off in traffic, then pulled them over, then screamed at them for filming the encounter.

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 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…

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.

Sorry, but while “pissing off an officer” isn’t advisable, it also isn’t a crime. And if you arrest someone who merely pisses you off but has committed no underlying crime, you’re violating his rights and you’re violating the law.

It gets worse.

The day after Hammonds’s arrest, Miami Beach police printed a flyer with mug shots of Hammonds, Bredwell, and a friend, Christian Torres. Headlined “FYI Officer Safety,” it warned that the trio “were seen filming the Miami Beach Police Department” and were “extremely hostile” and “looking for a confrontation.” Anyone who spotted them “should use extreme caution.”

“They make us sound like terrorists for filming a protest,” Hammonds complains.

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. “Post 9/11, and in keeping with homeland security, the filming of any possible location which could be considered a target… arouses suspicion.”

Either way, the flyer was effective, the friends believe. In the months that followed, the three — along with a fourth member of their crew, Klemote McClean — were pulled over and detained more than a dozen times.

The group filmed almost all of the confrontations. Though their cameras were repeatedly seized, they’ve gotten all equipment back save for one camera, which the Miami Beach police claim to have no record of.

It goes on like that, including incidents where the men were arrested for filming police from their own property. There are also more quotes from police spokesmen claiming that by making video recordings, the four were trying to “incite” police. They’ve been arrested multiple times on vague, catch-all charges like resisting arrest or obstruction. The charges are always dropped.

I hope they consider filing a lawsuit. Florida is an all-party consent state, but the law does include the provision that the non-consenting party have an expectation of privacy. This is brazen, systematic abuse. The four are now selling a DVD of their encounters, titled Man vs. Pig. I wish they had picked a less inflammatory title. But if this article is accurate, you can hardly blame them for being angry.

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23 Responses to “Miami Police vs. Citizens With Cameras”

  1. #1 |  Brandon | 

    Have we reached the point yet where they should be glad they weren’t medically paralyzed and manually sodomized?

  2. #2 |  balloon spews | 

    I find the reporting on this dubious. How do we know you’re not just in the pocket of Big Camera??

  3. #3 |  Andrew S. | 

    And people who know me wonder why I look at Miami cops with contempt.

    Thanks to the two cops being shot here a couple of weeks ago, there is NO criticism of cops allowed. None. There had been 6 police-involved shootings within a 6 month (or so period). The media and politicians were beginning to question it. Nobody’s questioning it anymore.

  4. #4 |  Robert | 

    Frankly, I couldn’t think of a better title for the DVD.

  5. #5 |  SJE | 

    An inflammatory title will get the Miami PD up in arms, get more attention to the video, and then they will have explain why they are engaging in intimidation. OTOH, it doesnt help for a lawsuit: it makes them look like they are trying to piss off the cops.

  6. #6 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    More on cameras: Houston Channel 13 aired the vid of cops beating a surrendering teen. Good for them. Note that city fired several cops…but union got them back on the force.

    Must get union job.

  7. #7 |  derfel cadarn | 

    The police are THUGS plain and simple. I refuse to entertain the few bad apples scenario,if the remainder of the “good” cops cannot prevent all this abuse then how can “mere” citizens? The police a agents of the gov. for the gov.. When We the People return control of the gov. to the People then our political,bureaucratic and law enforcement betters had best hope that the People are feeling magnanimous, it is doubtful that that course of action will be taken. After decades of lies,cheating and multitudes of abuses by these petty tyrants it is uncertain that the citizenry will not require retribution for the years of vassalage. If the American People were fully cognizant of the cost in money,suffering and human dignity that has been perpetrated upon them by their government and its hoards of petty tyrants the People would break out the pitchforks and torches and hold necktie part in every village square and green. To all those tyrants they have played your song now it is time to pay the piper,so no whining you knew it was wrong when you did it.

  8. #8 |  nemo | 

    The Largest Street Gang in America.

  9. #9 |  perlhaqr | 

    9/11! 9/11! Surrender your liberties now! 9/11! 9/11!

    —-

    But gosh, if the cops aren’t doing anything wrong, why do they have anything to hide?

  10. #10 |  omar | 

    Isn’t it great we don’t live in Egypt where the police act like an armed gang of street thugs?

    Everything is the same everywhere.

  11. #11 |  Tweets that mention Miami Police vs. Citizens With Cameras | The Agitator -- Topsy.com | 

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eric Dahms and Joshua Holland, The Mighty OCD. The Mighty OCD said: Miami Police vs. Citizens With Cameras http://bit.ly/eh6S75 #stasi […]

  12. #12 |  RomanCandle | 

    Agree with the criticism of the inflammatory title. It’s self-defeating and will alienate a ton of potential supporters.

    The smart movie is to keep a cool head. That doesn’t just go for initial encounters where the adrenalin is pumping, it goes for the moments days, weeks, and months after the fact.

    The goal is to portray yourself as a calm, rational, law-abiding citizen. You want people to know that you’re just after the bad cops, not cops in general. Selling the DVD is brilliant, but calling it “Man vs. Pig”, while emotionally satisfying, is ultimately counterproductive in the long run.

    That being said, I hope these dudes sue the crap out of the MBPD and get their asses paid.

  13. #13 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Omar, Cairo police were 100x more peaceful than US cops have been in face of protests.

  14. #14 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    “#7 | derfel cadarn | February 3rd, 2011 at 3:49 pm ”

    “I refuse to entertain the few bad apples scenario,if the remainder of the “good” cops cannot prevent all this abuse then how can “mere” citizens?”

    That’s the thing about the bad apple adage, people always leave off the end.

    “A few bad apples SPOIL THE BUNCH” – As in, if you don’t remove the damned things immediately, they turn the entire crop into a putrescent, useless mess.

  15. #15 |  Mannie | 

    “police spokesmen claiming that by making video recordings, the four were trying to “incite” police.”

    Thus demonstrating that the Miami cops are nothing more than armed thugs. You can’t incite professionals.

  16. #16 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    Hate to say it, Radley, but “Man vs. Pig” nails it.

  17. #17 |  travis | 

    I want to see the videos. Links?

  18. #18 |  TC | 

    Boyd you bring up a good point, if the equivalent was happening here the body count would be staggering, especially if the armed forces had not shown up.

    But the way the world is going, I suppose we will get to test this out within months.

  19. #19 |  Resistance | 

    Vindictive assholes. Just the kind of people you want in LE, carrying guns. +1 if they’re adrenaline junkies to!

  20. #20 |  SayUncle » The war on cameras | 

    […] egregious tale of some guys with cameras v. the Miami police. Police begin harassing the guys for recording […]

  21. #21 |  IllyAlley | 

    Roman Candle –

    What are you talking about? “You want people to know that you’re just after the bad cops, not cops in general.” The problem is cops in general, and they are the ones I am “after.” If it were not for the endorsement, acceptance, and complicity of cops in general, this type of horseshit could never occur, and certainly could not occur so systematically as it does. The administration of a metro police department puts out a flyer falsely characterizing civilians and targeting them for abuse, and more than a dozen pigs choose to victimize them in response. This, to you, indicates that there is no problem with “cops in general?”

    It is senseless to offer palliatives to this group of disgusting, cretinous thugs and those who are allied with them. By toning down one’s response, one merely creates the impression that the anger level has not reached the point it is has, and accountability for these pigs’ actions will not be exacted in harsh terms. Pox upon it all, I say! Man v. Pig is precisely the right title, and anyone who finds themselves alienated by it is a self-deceptive, hopelessly naive buffoon whose support would only be vacillating and meaningless.

  22. #22 |  JOR | 

    #21,

    That’s perhaps the first comment that’s made me wish for karma buttons. Right on.

  23. #23 |  Archie | 

    There is a cause of action, and it is a criminal complaint, called “official oppression” by which a state official abuses his powers to oppress a citizen. It appears that this type of activity should fit the bill. Go to the FBI, file the complaint, give them copies of the video if you have any.

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