February 4th, 2010

Photographer receives apology after armed guards harass him for shooting video 0

By Carlos Miller

Rob Hurlbut was standing on the platform of the San Diego Trolley when he saw a group of armed security guards tackle a man for smoking a cigarette.

He began shooting video with his digital SLR, prompting a female guard to tell him he was not allowed to take photos.

Hurlbut continued shooting as three guards struggled to handcuff the man with one of them driving his knee into the man’s face.

The guards would tell the man to stop resisting but the man wasn’t resisting. He was, in fact, telling the guard that he was trying to cooperate, but they were hurting him.

As Hurlbut continued shooting, a couple of the guards positioned their bodies around the melee on the ground in an attempt to prevent him from filming it.

The guards finally handcuffed the man and walked him off. Hurlbut followed behind him with his camera.

One of the guards pointed at him and said, “Go over and get that guy right there.”

Another guard said, “Stop him from taking our picture.”

And another guard walked up to him and demanded to see his trolley ticket, which Hurlbut produced.

Here is the dialogue that took place between Hurlbut and the guard:

Guard: “All right, we’ve asked you not to take pictures, so no taking pictures.”

Hurlbut: “Am I in violation of the law?”

Guard: “Yeah, no pictures.

Hurlbut: “What about video?”

Guard: “No  no video. Nothing.”

Hurlbut: “Is it against the law?”

Guard: “We don’t want it.”

Hurlbut: “But it’s not against the law.”

Guard: “It’s against our rights. Please stop.”

Hurlbut: “Should I go over there?”

Guard: “We don’t want pictures taken at all over here, sir.”

Hurlbut: “But it’s not illegal.”

Guard: “We don’t want you taking pictures.”

Hurlbut eventually stopped filming and that satisfied the guards for a few minutes. But then they got back on his case, as he explains on his website.

ANOTHER trolley cop approached me about three minutes later & asked for my trolley pass again. He actually took it from my hand because he wanted to “check the authenticity.”

He then said, “If you miss the next trolley…” and shrugged. Then added “Do you get what I mean?” I said I did and made damn sure I caught the next trolley.

The incident occurred September 5, 2009. By September 18, the head of Heritage Security Services, the company that employed the guards, issued a public apology.

The story was reported on the local NBC station, which you can see below. Here is the apology from Ken Moller, president of Heritage Security Services.

“We have no right to tell people they can’t shoot (video) down there. My officers were wrong in telling him that. And I put that word out as soon as I saw the video. It’s a public place and people can certainly shoot video down there if they want to.”

After seeing the video, it’s a little surprising that these security guards are not cops. In fact, they are known as “trolley cops.”

But according to a discussion on a police forum, they are not sworn officers and considered to be beneath cops. Or as one officer put it, “not of the highest caliber.”

That is probably the understatement of the year.

February 3rd, 2010

Miami Beach police accused of wrongly arresting gay men (and photographers) 0

By Carlos Miller

It used to be that the Miami Police Department was the most notorious law enforcement agency in South Florida.

But that was before the Miami Beach Police Department started giving it a run for its money.

Besides shooting and killing two unarmed suspects in a span of four days last year (by the same officer, nonetheless) and building a reputation for racial profiling and unlawful arrests on Memorial Day Weekend, the Miami Beach Police Department is now accused of beating and wrongly arresting gay men.

In other words, they are being accused of hate crimes.

The ACLU on Wednesday announced its intent to sue the police department, citing an incident involving Harold Strickland, a gay man who called 911 last year to report two officers beating and kicking a gay man who lay handcuffed on the ground.

Strickland was assaulted and arrested himself in an incident that was recorded on a 911 dispatch tape.

Naturally, the police report contradicts the events that were recorded.

Officers Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi claimed Strickland was breaking into cars and took off running when they approached him. The recording proves that Strickland was cooperative with police.

Besides, when was the last time you heard of a car thief dialing 911 in the midst of a crime spree to report police brutality?

In its letter to Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower, the ACLU also brings up the excessive arrests that occur every Memorial Day Weekend when throngs of young black people descend upon Miami Beach for the annual hip hop fest.

They are accused of arresting people for photographing incidents of police misconduct and seizing their memory cards and cameras.

If you remember, I was one of the photographers arrested by Miami Beach police last Memorial Day Weekend. This is from the ACLU press release.

MBPD officers also have an alarming history of arresting individuals, particularly African-American men and women, who witness police misconduct. During Urban Beach Week over Memorial Day weekend, the ACLU of Florida received reports that MBPD officers threatened and then arrested people of color who observed and photographed officers’ unlawful arrests. MBPD officers forcibly seized SIM cards from observers’ cell phones after they used their cell phone cameras to document incidents of police misconduct.

Besides the Memorial Day Weekend Blitzkrieg, the ACLU says there is an ongoing pattern of harassment against gay men, which might be surprising to some considering that South Beach has long been considered a mecca for homosexuals.

The announcement of the lawsuit comes on the heels of a Miami New Times article that described Miami Beach as one of the most dangerous places in Florida for homosexuals to live.

The article prompted criticisms from Miami Herald gay issues reporter Steve Rothaus and Miami Beach’s gay publication, Wire Magazine as being exaggerated and sensationalized with both publications stating the numbers cited in the New Times’ article were misleading.

But if it is true that the Miami Beach Police Department has an ongoing systematic pattern of unlawfully beating and arresting gay men, then it’s a sure bet those numbers were understated.

February 2nd, 2010

Where do you stand on the political compass? 0

By Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller’s political compass.

Johnny Law’s political compass

I was checking out Johnny Law’s blog the other night and discovered that he is actually quiet a centrist when it comes to politics.

At least according to the Political Spectrum Quiz he took. I took the same quiz and confirmed what I always knew, that I am left of center with a strong libertarian bent.

Johnny Law, on the other hand, leans more toward the authoritarian side. As if we should be surprised by that.

The quiz requires you to answer about 50 questions and it takes a few minutes, so I was hoping some of you would take the quiz and post your results, just to get an idea of where my readers stand politically.

I suspect the results will reveal a significant number of libertarians.

If the comment section does not allow you to post the code, then send it to me and I’ll add it to this post.

Update: Below are the ones which readers sent me the code for.

Booker’s Political Views
I am a right social libertarian
Right: 4.04, Libertarian: 3.88

Political Spectrum Quiz

February 2nd, 2010

Virginia police file report on woman photographing flag at federal building 0

By Carlos Miller

A woman who goes by the username rose_peacock on Flickr tells the “funny story” of how a Fairfax County cop blocked her car, demanded her ID and ran it through the system before informing her that he was going to write a report on the incident because she was seen photographing a federal building.

That tells me Fairfax County police will always have a record on her as being suspicious. And will probably not hesitate to use it against her in the future.

Rose_peacock didn’t seem to have a problem with the incident because as she explains, “better to be safe than sorry.”

Safe from what? Terrorists or terrorizing cops?

While rose-peacock seemed to be amused by the incident, the people commenting on her Flickr post were not laughing and a couple even told horror stories of their own.

Mariah_morningstar said:

Last week Maxx and I were taking pictures of a building in the Woodlands (near Houston) when a security guard came out and asked us to stop. Apparently the building houses an oil company and they said they were concerned about activists taking pictures to figure out how to get in… (Green Peace).

And cnuicu said:

I had that happen to me at the city transportation depot in Greensboro, NC.

But the best comment came from discarted, the photographer who was detained by a Los Angeles deputy last year and accused of being in cahoots with Al Qaeda. And not just because he linked to my blog, but because he offered the soundest advice. 

you should’ve done what joel chandler did here.


what state are you in?

you should research your stop and identify laws

Unfortunately, most Americans don’t have Chandler’s balls.

February 1st, 2010

N.M. cop fired for beating handcuffed teen on video, rehired by neighboring PD 0

By Carlos Miller

A New Mexico police officer who was fired after a video showed him viciously beating a handcuffed teen suspect was immediately hired by another department in the same state.

Only time will tell when Officer David Smoker will erupt again.

Smoker’s temper violent has already cost Santa Fe taxpayer’s $15,000 from a lawsuit that was filed against him from the beating.

But that didn’t stop the city of Cuba, New Mexico from deciding to take a chance on him when they hired him in February of last year.

It is not clear why criminal charges were not filed against Smoker.

The video was finally made public last month, almost a year after he had been hired by the Cuba Police Department.

It shows two other officers just watching nonchalantly without intervening as he continually beat the handcuffed teen. They were also disciplined including one who lost his job.

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