Wally Sullivan walked into a federal building in Tampa while video recording this week, hoping to make a public records request, but was informed he would have to turn off his camera.
When he asked what law or policy forbade him from entering the Immigration and Naturalization Services building with his camera, he was directed to a wordy document posted on a wall behind him.
But before he could find the section that addressed photography, a security guard assaulted him, forcing the camera off.
If only that security guard would have taken the time to read the section from the General Services Administration, which states the following:
Photographs for News, Advertising or Commercial Purposes
§102-74.420—What is the policy concerning photographs for news, advertising or commercial purposes?
Except where security regulations, rules, orders, or directives apply or a Federal court order or rule prohibits it, persons entering in or on Federal property may take photographs of—
(a) Space occupied by a tenant agency for non-commercial purposes only with the permission of the occupying agency concerned;
(b) Space occupied by a tenant agency for commercial purposes only with written permission of an authorized official of the occupying agency concerned; and
(c) Building entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors, or auditoriums for news purposes.
Like anything handed down by the feds, the policy is contradictory because it states that permission is required to shoot non-commercial photos in the “space occupied by the tenant agency,” unless that space happens to include “building entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors, or auditoriums” and the photography is for news purposes.
Considering he had not yet crossed the metal detector security checkpoint and was trying to document a public records request, it certainly doesn’t look like he was violating the policy because making a public records request is a very journalistic procedure.
But as we’ve seen so many times when dealing with security guards, they seem incapable of comprehending the rules and regulations they are paid to enforce.
We’ve seen it several times with 50 State, the company I am suing over repeated assaults for taking photos on the Miami-Dade Metrorail system (trial is scheduled for May), and we saw it last month with Alutiiq, the company paid to supposedly protect federal courthouses in Miami as well as with the idiots from 50 State again who are paid to protect Miami’s criminal courthouse.
Now we’re seeing it with Paragon Systems, the Virginia-based company contracted to keep cameras out of the INS building in Tampa, despite what the policy clearly states on the wall that anybody can read.
Of course, that assuming the guards can read.
Sullivan returned the following day to find out why he was kicked out despite the policy saying he was allowed to record.
Because he did not want to get assaulted again, he walked in with his camera off.
This is how he explained it in an email:
I asked for the big guy that had told me to leave on Monday (His name is Leroy Lee). When he responded, I asked him to define the statute as he was applying it, he said, that he made the decision that no videos could be shot in the lobby because the statute said so.
After a few minutes of showing him how the statute actually reads, and how vague it is, he decided to call the Field Security Manager, Robert M. Russell, and I asked him how he defined the statute…He said it said that I could not film in the lobby.
Then I asked what justified him deciding this, he went into the security reasons as they usually do and after I showed him what I had showed Leroy, he then told me that he didn’t need me to quote statute to him and that it was a regional decision made by the United States Customs and Immigration Offices, so I asked who was the person there that had decided to define the statute this way.
He said, for me to find out more I would have to call PIO Sharon Scheidhauer, in Orlando at 407-237-8837.
Mr. Russell then asked me to step outside to continue our conversation, On the way out I asked if I could get his comments on public record…He said, no!…I asked again and he replied the same, No! So from there he went back to the safety issue again and gave me the number to the privacy office in Orlando ( 407- 237 8825). I managed to bring up my concerns with trading any issues of security verses freedoms and this seemed to upset him, he then told me that If I had no business concerning immigration, that I would not be welcome on the property anymore.
So perhaps we all should give PIO Sharon Scheidhauer, in Orlando at 407-237-8837. And maybe even Paragon System headquarters at (703) 263-7176 to see what are the hiring qualifications for security guards.
And perhaps we should see how our local federally funded security guards interpret the rules they’re suppose to enforce about recording inside federal buildings to see if they’re any different than the idiots in Florida.
Paragon also has a Facebook page where they told all their 121 followers (what it was at the time) that they are “security officers,” not security guards.
Semantics doesn’t mean anything when you come across like thugs on video.
UPDATE: Then there is this comment on their Facebook page, unrelated to the other comments regarding this story.