When Photography is Not a Crime’s own Jeff Gray is not being detained by law enforcement for exercising his rights, he is auditing bureaucrats to ensure they comply with Florida open government laws.
Typically, submitting a request for public records is a mundane affair.
However, Gray is constantly crossing paths with overzealous, temperamental government representatives who lose their mind when a camera is pointed in their direction. His latest video below is no exception.
Upon arriving at the St. Johns County Health and Human Services Center on June 12th, Gray checked in with two security guards at the front desk and clearly informed them that he was making a public records request.
Nonetheless, Kenneth Judge of Giddins Security Corporation found it necessary to escort Gray to where he thought was the Department of Children and Families (DCF) office. After a quick elevator ride, Judge instructed Gray that recording was not allowed and that he would need to turn off his camera.
Gray politely refused to turn off his camera and reiterated the fact that he was recording a public records request for public record. Judge then threatened to call the sheriff’s office since Gray was refusing to comply to his illegitimate demands.
Eventually, after shaking off the agitated security guard, Gray approached one bureaucrat behind a window to submit his public records request. Judge kept insisting that Gray could not record in the building and even went as far as holding his hand over Gray’s camera.
After a quick conversation with the clerk behind the window, Gray learned he was at the wrong office and doubled back to the elevator waiting area where he was again met with resistance from the guard who nearly begs Gray to get in the elevator and go back down stairs.
Gray refused again, instead giving the guard a quick education about his right record in a public space where public officials are conducting business as held by the 11th Circuit in the landmark case, Smith v. City of Cumming.
“I do not need to have their permission, this is a public building. You are incorrect.”
Sensing he had met his match, the guard stood in silence, holding his radio in hand as Gray continues to find the correct office. Just before approaching the DCF office, Judge’s supervisor can be heard on the radio instructing Judge to call the sheriff’s office on Gray for no other reason than recording in a public space.
Amazingly, when Gray finally reached his destination, he delivered his public records request in a matter of seconds, without any questions from the representative of DCF. What should have been an uneventful transaction, turned into a major spectacle made possible by one man, who is completely unaware of the law when it comes to recording inside public buildings.
The video ends showing a St John’s County Sheriff deputy arriving shortly after Gray had left the property. This just goes to show that government bureaucrat’s and their associated security are largely unaware of open government laws. Without citizen journalists holding them accountable, who would?