A recently obtained dashcam video reveals some rather suspicious dialogue between two Orlando police officers who retaliated against PINAC’s Jeff Gray for recording them on a public sidewalk.
As we reported in early February, Gray was arrested shortly after conducting one of his famous First Amendment audits where he was recording outside the Orlando Police Department to see if officers were adhering to the same seat belt statutes they proudly enforce.
That led to Gray getting detained and harassed by several Orlando officers before he was eventually allowed to return to his vehicle.
However, one overzealous officer who suffered a bruised ego from the encounter was not going to let a citizen simply exercise their rights and walk away without some sort of recourse.
So, officer Donald LaCentra stalked Gray back to his vehicle and pulled him over for an “obstructed” license plate as he drove away – which turned out to be a bogus claim considering the dashcam video records him reading off Gray’s license plate number to dispatch.
After Gray handed over his papers, he explained to LaCentra that he had a “disqualified” commercial drivers license (CDL), but did in fact have a valid motor vehicle license.
As Gray predicted, the dysfunctional Florida drivers license system showed him as having a disqualified CDL and much to LaCentra’s delight, the dispatcher could not find a valid class E license on file.
LaCentra wasted no time putting Gray in handcuffs, arresting him for driving with a suspended license “with knowledge,” a charge that would be dismissed a few months later.
As if the arrest was not egregious enough, what transpired in the dashcam video below is now raising questions about the discussion between officer LaCentra, and officer Ramon during the arrest.
The video shows that after placing Gray in the back of his squad car, LaCentra radios his colleague, officer Ramon and instructs him to go “car-to-car,” to presumably talk off-the-record without being recorded on the main scanner feed.
Once Roman switches over to the car-to-car frequency, LaCentra asks:
“Hey, do you want me to go straight to BRC (booking and release center) or do anything special?”
What additional “special” activity could possibly be conducted outside of driving straight to jail? And why was it necessary to ask that question on a private channel?
Surely LaCentra was not referring to the special treatment like Freddie Gray (no relation) received in the back of a Baltimore paddy wagon which resulted in a fatal severed spine, right?
I might have given LaCentra the benefit of the doubt until I heard Roman ask if their conversation was being recorded.
“Are you recording yourself?” Roman asked.
“I only have same car right now, but the mic is running.” answered Lacentra.
The evidence is pretty damning that these two officers had something to hide and went out of their way to avoid the public record. If the officers had good intentions, they wouldn’t be concerned with being recorded.
In fact, they would most likely want their good behavior to be documented. Unfortunately, this interaction appears to be in the category of nefarious.
Soon after the odd discussion, LaCentra announces that he was going to switch back to the “primary” frequency.
Another officer can then be heard coaching LaCentra how to write up his arrest report right before the officer Gray a scolding.
“With all the stuff going on right now, and with you taking pictures of us and officers getting killed – how do you you think we felt,” the unidentified officer said.
Gray quickly interrupts the officer, “I’m not answering any questions.”
The officer continues his rant by clarifying the real reason that Gray was arrested.
LaCentra stated that they received a call from a concerned citizen about Gray photographing police vehicles and that he should have contacted the public information officer to essentially get permission.
Apparently this officer believes that First Amendment activity should be cleared with his department first or be subject to arrest.
I have a feeling that the Orlando Police Department will soon learn the hard way that Photography is not a Crime!