South Florida cops detained a man after he recorded several officers running a stop sign outside the police station where his wife works last month.
The Delray Beach cops never admitted they detained him for recording them blatantly violating traffic laws.
But a recording of the call to dispatch reveals a department employee placed the call to report a “suspicious man” she observed backed into a parking spot “pointing a Sony camera where police vehicles are exiting.”
The call alarmed the cops enough to send several officers to stand by while a couple of them interrogated the man, who spoke to PINAC but wishes to remain anonymous.
When the man mentioned his right to be free from search or questioning without being suspected of a crime, Delray Beach cops said they had the right to detain him because of “weird times nowadays.”
“It’s just weird times nowadays, sir. We just wanna I–make sure you’re doing things right,” one cop said.
“Do you suspect me of [committing] a crime?” he responded.
“Your suspicious behavior,” Lieutenant Vinnie Gray says.
“Is that a crime?” the man asks calmly.
“The video camera is right on the dash at the level of the dash where the lens would be to see these vehicles exiting,” the department employee can be heard explaining to the dispatcher.
“I mean, you know, you can video tape the PD all you want, but that’s just weird.”
“Of course it’s weird,” the dispatcher snapped.
The police employee reported to the dispatcher she couldn’t see the man very well, and couldn’t really determine what the man was doing that would warrant contact from police, because of the glare on his windshield.
Gray, along with eight other cops, eventually arrived to deal with their perceived threat.
“What’s going on?” Gray asks in a friendly voice.
“I don’t know,” the man shrugs. “I’m sitting here waiting for my wife, OK? I’m filming four or five or six cop cars blow that stop sign,” he says pointing to the sign.
“And I think it’s funny. You know, that you guys enforce the law…. So, I’m just sitting here and all of a sudden, this guy rolls up like a SWAT team or something, like I’m doing something wrong here. All I’m doing is filming you guys run the stop sign as I’m waiting for my wife come out.”
“Does that seem like suspicious behavior to you?”
Lt. Gray leans his head into the driver’s side window and asks the man to roll down his window.
“No. I’d prefer not to, with all due respect. OK?”
“You’re waiting for your wife, getting your wife involved, if you would have just let officers know why you’re here, you would have been done,” Gray suggests
“The point I’m trying to make is maybe you escalated this to where it shouldn’t be,” Gray added.
“I escalated it? You guys approached me. I didn’t’ do anything to you.”
“Think about all the things going on in today’s society,” Gray said, sharing his alarmist perspective.
“I haven’t done anything to warrant this level of attention,” the man pointed out as several cops stood outside of his SUV with their cars blocking him from exiting. “You guys could just walk away and forget that this incident ever happened.”
“And that would have happened if you would have simply said I’m here to get my wife. Have a great day.”
“But that’s not true, because that’s exactly what I did. And here you are.”
“Well . . . like I said, I know very well, and she’s spoken of you several times. I’ve never met you before, but I feel like I know you,” Lt. Gray says charmingly.
“So . . . I think it could have been resolved in a much better fashion,” he added, insinuating the man should have given up his basic rights because his wife works in the same department as the cops running the stop sign.
“I still haven’t done anything to warrant this level of attention, in my opinion,” the man repeats again.
“Well . . . all they wanted to know is what happened, what you did. You have the camera. They just want to know what’s going on.”
“I’ve told the story three or four times now,” the man reminded the Lieutenant. “Does it sound like I’ve done something to warrant this level of attention to you?”
“Yes, it does. If you would have told them right away what you’re here for, they would’ve left.”
“I’ve told the story three or four times now,” he repeated again.
“How many more times do I need to tell the story?”
Three cops, including a Sergeant, stand directly outside of the man’s driver’s side window, apparently attempting to intimidate him into cooperating with their requests to identify himself, which they obviously know he isn’t required to do.
Inaudible dialogue can be heard over a nearby patrol car. Lt. Gray turns to the Sergeant saying something about forms, but it’s not exactly clear.
“Yeah, he refused to provide any identification,” the Sergeant replies to the Lieutenant.
“Alright,” the Lieutenant nods to the Sergeant before turning to the man.
“Do you want to provide any identification?”
“I’m not obligated to. I haven’t committed a crime.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Lt. Gray insists. “Officers get paid to be nosy.”
“Yeah, I know that,” the man acknowledges adding the monetary costs associated with interacting with police. “You get paid to put me in jail and dig into my pockets, and I’m not going to let that happen if I can prevent it.”
“We’re not going to dig in your pockets,” Lt. Gray says after the man’s comment went over his head. “But they do get paid to be nosy, asking why you’re here. It’s messy business . . . this stuff that’s going on.”
“I understand that; and I respect that. And then when you say, ‘oh, he’s just filming our guys breaking the law, you’ll let me go on about my way. OK?”
Both men pause for a moment.
“Right? You could do that.But no, oh we can’t let him get away with the evidence. He’s filming our guys running the stop sign over there. We gotta castle this guy and make sure; we don’t want to let the citizens…”
“I highly doubt that the officers were concerned about you video taping them rolling through the stop sign.”
“Why else are you here?”
“Because,” Lt. Gray pauses, searching for an answer. “We want to know why you’re back in, and have a video camera.”
“Do you know I’m in this parking lot twice a day for the past two years?”
“Maybe nobody noticed.”
“I’m here every day; every day I back in. OK? She said it was ‘suspicious’ that I backed in to my parking spot. How is that suspicious? I don’t know.”
“Do you know that I’ve spent hours in this parking lot waiting for my wife. And she’s never on time. I love her but God bless her. She’s never on time. I sit here for hours sometimes,” the man explained.
“And I’ve never had this level of attention until the very day I decide after watching you guys watch that stop sign for days and days and days. And then I decide, you know what? I’m going to film that. I think that’s funny. And then all of a sudden one, two three…eight, nine officers,” he counts the cops standing around his SUV.
“Because I filmed you.”
Dialogue ensues for several more minutes as Lt. Gray attempts friendly banter, presumably after it dons on him the recorded interaction doesn’t bode well for him, but then blames the man for “embarrassing his wife in front of all the people she works with every day.”
The man pointed out cops had no reason to ID him.
“You have your opinion of the law, I know the law.”
Apparently, Lt. Gray never got the memo that photography is not a crime.
Interestingly, to his credit, in 2014, Lieutenant Gray received a $225,000 payout along with a promotion and in a whistleblower lawsuit he filed after he was retaliated against for blowing the whistle on inappropriate actions by Assistant Police Chief Ralph Phillips, according to the sun-sentinel.
Gray proceeded with an investigation against Phillips’ son who demanded Gray drop which led to a probable cause affidavit being issued for Scott Phillips’ arrest that ended with charges of fleeing and eluding law enforcement being added the ones Gray arrested him for.