Texas cops handcuffed and detained PINAC reporter David Worden earlier this month, threatening to jail him for breaking a make-believe law for recording police station from a public sidewalk.
The Missouri City police station, southwest of Houston, is in plain view of the public right of way.
And if you can see it from public, you can photograph it as well.
But it does not appear that Missouri City cops have received the memo that photography is not a crime, even though it’s been proven by numerous court decisions, including a 2010 settlement that required Homeland Security to inform its employees not to harass citizens photographing federal buildings.
The Missouri City police station is not a federal building but the laws still apply.
Video of the incident shows two Missouri City officers in typical good-cop-bad-cop fashion attempting to intimidate Worden into providing his identification, even going so far as threatening him with arrest for the crime of failure to identify, a class A misdemeanor in Texas punishable by up to a year in jail.
But 38.02 of the Texas penal code states a person is only required to comply with the officer requesting identification unless they are under arrest for a crime, have been lawfully detained or a witness to a crime.
And as we’ve been saying for ten years now, photography is not a crime.
The February 16 video begins with Missouri City Police Sergeant Phillip Englishbee extending a handshake to introduce himelf.
But the cordiality ended with Englishbee telling Worden his right to personal privacy didn’t matter even though the sergeant acknowledge he was committing no crime.
Footage shows Englishbee accompanied by a subordinate officer interrogating Worden in typical good-cop-bad-cop alarmist fashion for “being a suspicious person.”
It’s all something Worden has heard many times before while conducting civil rights audits, a free service he provides for departments across the State of Texas, which can be seen in over 400 videos uploaded to his youtube channel News Now Houston.
“Suspicious person? Is that a misdemeanor or felony?” Worden quips, knowing it’s neither.
“You’re a suspicious person,” Englishbee explains.
“We’re investigating who you are while you’re taking photographs of the police department, so we’re going to need to see your ID.”
“I’d rather not give my ID.”
“Sir, you don’t have a choice at this point. I’m asking you to identify who you are at this point, ” the sergeant tells Worden before cautiously stating his next words. “As a suspicious person call . . . that we just dropped . . . taking photographs of the police department.”
“Am I under arrest? Am I being detained?”
“Or you could provide him your name and date of birth,” Englishbee suggests, pointing towards his partner.
“You could possibly be [detained or arrested] if you don’t provide your ID at this point, yes sir,” he says. “And I know that you are recording. And, and we are recording as well so…”
“I haven’t done anything wrong, sir,” Worden repeats his innocence.
“I realize that,” Sgt. Englishbee admits. “But we have a right, at this point, to identify who you are since you’re out here taking videos and everything of the police department.”
“It’s a public building, sir.”
“I understand,” the Sgt. says, acknowledging Worden wasn’t suspected of committing a crime.
“I’m on public property.”
“And we’re doing our justified right. At this point,” Englishbee says, pressing his lips together
“Respectfully . . . I haven’t done anything wrong,” Worden says, implying a detainment would not be justified.
“I’m sorry you do not have a choice,” the Sergeant claims. “And I’m being very respectful.”
We’re doing a field investigation to identify who you are, at this point, as a police investigation,” the Sgt. insists, not yet articulating reasonable suspicion Worden was suspected of any criminal activity.
“So . . . please provide your driver’s license, at this point, and your name and date of birth. So that we can properly identify who you are. And that’s it. And then you can be on your way.”
“Well, if I’m under arrest and I’m not being detained…”
“You will be detained if you don’t provide your driver’s license, because that is a law.
Worden, familiar with 38.02, attempts to inform Englishbee the specific requirements for arrest under the penal code stature.
“You will be detained if you don’t provide your driver’s license, because that is a law,” the Sgt. threatens. “Failure to Identify is a criminal offense in the state of Texas.”
Except for that’s not true.
Especially since the Sgt. conceded several times suspicion of a crime was not his motive for wanting to detain Worden, freely admitting it was for recording.
Without just cause, Englishbee orders his subordinate to cuff Worden before taking him inside the station.
Handcuffed and detained for photography, Worden requests to speak one of the two police chiefs he’d learned about while taking pictures from the sidewalk who serve simultaneous leadership roles at the department.
Englishbee disappears momentarily then returns with a thick law book in-hand to teach Worden a lesson in Texas law.
In a rather priceless moment, Englishbee indeed laid down the law once and for all.
“A person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested the person and requested the information,” he reads aloud. “A person commits an offense if he intentionally gives a false or fictitious name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested the person or lawfully detained the person.”
Englishbee slams the book shut closing the case once and for all, not realizing the law did not apply to Worden because he had not been “lawfully arrested” because as we keep saying, photography is not a crime.
“So, there’s the statute with the formal requirements,” the sergeant says with a straight face.
“That’s all we need is your name and date of birth then you’re released from detention and you’re on your way.”
“I’m engaged in a Constitutionally protected activity. You cannot criminalize a Constitutionally protected activity for the purpose of detention,” Worden asserts.
“Sir, as far as a field investigation we are justified in identifying who you are.”
“OK,” Worden says. “I’ll tell you what I told him. Bring the chief. I want the assistant chief out here.”
Englishbee finally exits to fetch the chief.
Meanwhile, in the lobby, his subordinate offers to loosen Worden’s handcuffs.
“No, they’ll be coming off in just a minute.”
A few minutes later a department chief arrives with the keys to freedom.
“How are you doing?” he asks.
“I’m doing good,” Worden replies. “But you’re not going to have a good day.”
“Why is that?”
“And who are you?”
“I’m the assistant chief,” he says motioning his hand towards the door. “Have a nice day.”
“Oh, no, no, you wanted my information,” Worden told the chief before handing him press credentials.”Where’s that other gentleman?”
“Are you just freelance?” the chief asks, attempting to hand back Worden’s business card.
“Keep it. You’re going to want it.”
“By the way, you guys are being livestreamed to the internet.”
Video of the incident as well of his follow up attempt to file a complaint are below.