Videotaping and photography are constitutionally protected free speech, but in South Carolina, a few police think free speech is a crime.
“What crime have I committed?” asked the citizen journalist recording video in the back of a municipal city center’s parking lot in Greer, South Carolina.
Quickly and thoroughly, the South Carolina cops were about to violate that citizen journalist’s 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th Amendment rights, all in one short video which you can see below.
“Videotaping our parking lot and walking around the police department,” replied City of Greer Police Lieutenant Jim Holcombe ( , who is their Public Information Officer and still didn’t know that photography is not a crime
Photography is in fact a Constitutionally protected First Amendment right.
“Right now in the day and age we’re dealing with it is,” said the South Carolina cop standing near Main Street in the lot used by anyone going to the Greer Municipal court, where the citizen journalist had every right to occupy in the middle of the day, “Any time there’s a suspicious person…”
“You’ve got the count of three and you’re going to be under arrest. One, Two Three,” said the Lieutenant as if magic words would make his unconstitutional arrest legal, Holcombe spoke in the deliberate manner one might address a child to the articulate citizen journalist.
“You’re under arrest.”
Just like that, police crossed the line from failure to exposing their small town of 30,000 residents to legal liability for a civil rights violation, but they didn’t stop there.
Citizen journalist ‘Trey Citizen’ on Youtube was recording in Greer, South Carolina this past weekend weekend, and knew his rights.
But Greer Police blew it when they arrested him for harmlessly video taping the parking lot of the small town’s combined municipal court/fire/police complex.
Lieutenant Holcombe plainly confused First Amendment protected free speech, ie. the right to record and photograph protected by our Constitution, with a crime.
The three South Carolina cops knew just a little about the law which they’re paid to enforce, but couldn’t articulate a crime.
They knew a commendable amount of rote knowledge about notable Supreme Court decision Terry vs. Ohio, which requires reasonable suspicion of a crime to be articulated in order to invoke an investigatory detention or arrest. It’s the basis of stop and frisk and stop and identify laws – which generally are passed only on a state by state basis too.
One South Carolina lawyer’s website seems to indicate that police there may use “stop and identify.” He cited this passage from the famous decision:
We encounter yet another situation where the Government attempts to meet its Terry burden by patching together a set of innocent, suspicion-free facts, which cannot rationally be relied on to establish reasonable suspicion.
Notably, it is the facts which must cast suspicion, not the suspicion itself which empowers police to conduct a limited detention.
South Carolina doesn’t have a state law for stop and identify or stop and frisk on the books, so it’s not entirely clear under what authority these officers felt empowered to make a “Terry Stop” in the first place.
But the South Carolina cops were still unable to reasonably apply Terry vs. Ohio to a real-life, low pressure situation where an unthreatening, but conversant citizen journalist holding a camera left them with little law to back themselves up, and a whole lot of horrible policing to follow.
The incorrect Terry stop violated Trey’s Fourth Amendment protection under the Constitution, against unreasonable seizure of person.
The trio of lawmen were just getting started.
“I would like to not speak to anybody until I have a lawyer present,” said Trey off camera, after the arrest as the camera continues to roll, “Please.”
“Guess what,” Lt. Holcobme says loudly off-camera, “That’s not a right.”
He is dead wrong.
His arrestee tried to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and free from questioning and his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and both of which should’ve limited the questioning that followed from officers.
But the end of the exchange when Trey invoked his Constitutional rights and was summarily denied, tells you exactly how ignorant of the law Greer Police’s Public Information Officer Holcombe really is; the utterly plain and articulated ignorance from he who is paid a public salary to convey factual information about incidents involving law enforcement.
“That’s a right to stay in jail, a right to stay in jail because if we don’t have an id or anything,” said the South Carolina Lieutenant who could articulate anything to violate citizen’s rights, but couldn’t articulate one suspicious fact.
“Then you stay in jail until we figure out who you are.”
All Trey had to comment about this incident is in his original YouTube video caption:
Lt. Jim Holcombe
This police department needs to be under investigation total police misconduct.
Violated my rights. What a disgrace Greer PD!!!!
Notice around 7.55 into the video there talking about trying to delete my footage.
He’s right too.
The South Carolina officers can be heard saying at the 7:55 mark that they’re going to delete the entire cellphone (a major First Amendment Violation) after downloading everything (a Fourth Amendment violation) without a warrant.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that warrants are always required to search a cellphone.
It was unanimous.
In just under 10 minutes these officers violated four civil rights which any American cop should know, especially an officer and most especially a Public Information Officer.
Because if a Public Information Officer doesn’t know the constitution, then how can the public trust that public servant to faithfully carry out his official duties?
Clearly, his response to this First Amendment audit is an epic fail.
So watch the video below and decide if you’d trust this South Carolina cop, who thinks civil rights are something used to keep you in jail.