After subjecting Jeff Gray to five separate police investigations involving at least eight officers during his latest investigation, it appears the people guarding the Seminole County Juvenile Justice Center are either truly concerned about people taking pictures of juveniles in public, or they are desperately hiding something.

As Gray walked down the street with his camera, he was first stopped by a woman who appeared to be a facility administrator. “Have you taken pictures of our facility?” she asked. “We can’t have you taking pictures of the juveniles.”

When Gray explained that he was a journalist gathering content for a story and his purpose was to photograph the building and the juveniles, the administrator left and called the police. From there, five different police officers questioned Gray about his purpose, which he had already explained, and tried to get his identification.

The first officer to question Gray eventually respected the law, saying “I can’t tell you not to take pictures here, but I prefer not any of the kids in here.”

The second officer to question Gray tried to get Gray’s ID by inventing the idea of a journalist license, saying “You have ID for journalist? You supposed to have it.”

The third officer to question Gray said, “Why are you taking pictures of a police station? You have any ID on you? You’re taking pictures of a police station, it’s suspicious.”

Gray lawfully refused to provide ID, saying, “You think it’s suspicious, I think its Constitutionally protected activity safeguarded by the First Amendment, so unless I’m being detained, you can have a nice day.”

After three separate police officers questioned Gray and failed to obtain his ID, the fourth officer to question Gray, Officer Taylor,  detained Gray, saying, “You’re not allowed to take pictures of juveniles inside a fenced-in compound. You’re being detained…you’re definitely not free to go. You’re taking pictures of children that definitely don’t belong to you. You’re being investigated for allegations made against you for you taking pictures of children.”

Of course, there is no law against taking pictures of juveniles in public, making Taylor’s detention of Gray illegal. After Officer Taylor obtained Gray’s ID under threat of arrest for a made-up crime, Gray asked the officer if it is illegal to take pictures of juveniles, to which the officer said, “Yeah it is, as a matter of fact it is.” (In that case, someone should alert the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, because their Facebook page is plastered with pictures of children.)

The fifth officer to question Gray alleged that Gray is a “sovereign citizen” – after Gray handed him a card restating the Bill of Rights, an act which would lead most to believe Gray is a U.S. citizen.

“Do you have any other type of ID, uh, any other type of sovereign identification?” asked Seminole Deputy Robert Futch, after trying and failing to quiz Gray on the Fifth Amendment. “What are your political beliefs?” Incidentally, Deputy Futch was arrested by Florida Highway Patrol in March for a DUI after driving 60-70 mph in a 35 mph zone and swerving across the road.

After questioning Gray’s “political beliefs,” Futch then proceeded to watch Gray as he continued recording video, and followed Gray down the street along with another officer and a police car, stalking Gray all the way back to his car.

Gray was then followed out of town and down the highway by an unmarked police vehicle, which likely ran his plate through the DAVID system without probable cause, an illegal act which Florida police have now committed over 300 times against Gray alone.

The extreme police reaction may well be explained by the well-documented history of abuse at facilities like the Seminole County Juvenile Justice Center. In 1996, the Orlando Juvenile Justice Chief was demoted and reassigned after an employee was arrested and charged with raping a female inmate and having sex with four other girls. More recently, it has been discovered that the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, where boys in Florida were sent in the early Sixties for as little as skipping class, or being orphans, was rife with beatings, torture, rape, and even murder, as the bodies of 55 children have been found in unmarked graves as of today after authorities excavated only 5 of the facility’s 1400 acres.

Perhaps more than any other story, these public abuses of children explain why Gray stresses the importance of government transparency, especially regarding access to public records and the right to record public officials.
PINAC Open Records

Meanwhile, PINAC has recovered emails and phone calls from public officials speaking of Jeff Gray as if he were a sex offender, alleging that Gray is a “sovereign citizen” and acting like Gray is somehow entrapping poor innocent police officers by recording in public.

As a final thought, PINAC reader, let’s ponder why a justice center administrator and several police officers’ first thoughts are “sex offender” when confronted with the mirror shine of a camera lens.

For news tips on aerial photography and drones, contact Andrew Meyer, PINAC’s staff writer covering UAV photography, the First Amendment, and more. Follow him on twitter @theandrewmeyer.