Albany County Sheriff’s Office Comes out Shining in Viral Youtube Video

By now, I’m sure everybody has seen this video and I’m just late to the game, but I had to watch it several times to make sure I wasn’t imagining things.

And it’s a 13-minute video, which means it sat on my Facebook wall for 48 hours before I had the chance to view it.

But by then, I had heard all about it from several people, so I knew what to expect.

An Albany County Sheriff’s deputy named Stan Lenic is being celebrated throughout the internet as a Constitutional hero after standing up to a pair of activists inside the city’s airport, including one who was video recording.

While Lenic deserves all the praise he gets, the entire Albany County Sheriff’s Office deserves praise because it is obvious they have solid leadership.

The activists, videographer Jason Bermas and Ashley Jessica, were from Infowars and were passing out flyers urging passengers to video record TSA screeners while opting out of the controversial body scanners.

They were quickly confronted by the airport’s director of public affairs, a man named Douglas Myers who told them they were not allowed to record within the airport, which we know is false. Especially in an airport owned by Albany County.

When videographer Jason Berman stood up for his right to record, Myers called the sheriff.

I’ve been in that position many times whether it is inside an airport or not and it’s always a scary feeling because you just never know how the cops are going to react, even if you know you’re not breaking the law.

But the first deputy who arrived, whose names appears to be Weiss, actually took the time to find out what was happening instead of just following the orders from the public director as what would normally happen.

While Myers and the activists bickered over the camera, the deputy stayed quiet and read the actual flyer. And then he took the time to speak to each group individually.

He remained calm and professional, never once mentioning that he was bothered by the camera.

He then went to consult with Deputy Lenic who got on the phone with his superiors as to what to do because it was obvious they weren’t sure but it’s also refreshing that they didn’t try to pretend to know either.

Meanwhile, the public affairs wanker kept going off about the camera, telling the activists they needed a million dollar permit to record within the airport.

The key moment comes in at 5:22 when Lenic returns to the activists and tells them the following:

“Obviously, this is your Constitutional right. As far as we’re concerned, you’re not breaking any laws.”

He then went on to say that they were possibly violating some airport rules, but that was not up to him to enforce.

This, of course, flustered Myers who then went on to close off the entire second floor to non-ticketed passengers.

Meanwhile, the CEO of the airport, John O’Donnell, told Lenic that it was ok for them to continue recording but he didn’t want them passing out fliers.

And Myers kept going on about this insurance policy because they were shooting “commercially,” which, of course, they weren’t.

And when that didn’t get Berman to stop recording, Myers demanded his identification, which Berman refused to provide.

Another key moment is when Myers asks Lenic to get their names, winking at the detective to do him the favor, but Lenic refused, saying he had no authority to do that because they were not suspected of a crime.

“If I was to ask for his identification he does not have to give it to me because he’s not doing anything wrong,” he says.

By then, Myers had given up. With the deputies refusing to stop them, the activists continued handing out their fliers without interference.

The video has racked up more than 100,000 views since it was posted Tuesday and has also generated local news coverage as well as at least one meme.  Not unlike the photo that went viral of a New York City police officer buying boots for a barefoot homeless man.

The photo of the NYPD cop tugged at the heartstrings of America because he didn’t have to buy the homeless man boots. That’s not even close to his job description but he did anyway, so he deserves our respect.

But here we have a case of an entire law enforcement agency abiding by the Constitution because it’s obvious that this professionalism stems from the top down.

We saw that in the manner the first deputy handled the situation upon arriving and in the way Lenic handled the situation after consulting with his superiors.

So we should also praise Sheriff Craig D. Apple and Undersheriff William Cox.

Apple, in fact, is the only sheriff I’ve come across that has his own website where he makes himself readily accessible to the community.

Three days ago when the Youtube video was posted, he tweeted it to his followers, congratulating his deputies for upholding the law.

He’s obviously one of the few good apples in law enforcement.

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

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  • nrgins

    In thinking about how some cops hate being photographed, while others not only are fine with it, but protect others’ right to do so, I’m reminded of the words of Jesus: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” These Albany County cops obviously have nothing to hide.

  • Frank Ney

    However, they are still under orders to arrest Vermont residents who
    don’t have NY pistol permits when they bring their cased and locked guns
    to Albany International in accordance with the Firearms Owners
    Protection Act. So don’t slurp their badges too hard.

  • steveo

    This complaint by the airport about handing out brochures, I’m going to research because I remember the huge controversy in the 70’s and 80’s over the Moonies and Scientology handing out stuff in the airport and that went to the scotus. They were actually selling books and panhandling, not only handing out literature. Not sure what happened to them, I remember being surrounded by a group of guys that looked like Buddist monks, but were some kind of off beat religious movement.

    Upon further research, it was the Hari krisnas (what the heck happened to them?)In 1982 the United States Supreme Court struck down a Minnesota law which had imposed registration and reporting requirements on those religions that receive more than half of their contributions from nonmembers as being contrary to the First Amendment. This probably applies to the freedom of the press as well as freedom of religion . Here’s the case.

    • hass

      There’s another Krishna case that is relevant when it comes to photography:
      International Soc. for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee
      505 U.S. 672, 112 S.Ct.

      “Airport terminal was nonpublic forum for First Amendment purposes”
      And once it is deemed a non-public forum, there is effectively no “right” to photograph. Photography can be banned as long as it is “reasonable” to do so.

      • steveo

        okay, if you all can read through krishna v. lee and come to a conculsion, you are a better man/women than I. I don’t believe krishna v lee says that at all. Videographers have the absolute right to record in public places and airline terminals haven’t proven that the property is “private property” yet in any court

        I can only comment on my State because I am contitually researching our state laws and precedents of Florida, but our Constituition says Art. 4 Section 1….”no law can be enactied that abridges the right of speech, assembly, press or religion.” That’s fairly clear to me . No government entity including an “airportboard” can abridge the right of the freedom of the press.

        I think from my own understanding, that Krisna v lee was addressing mainly the solicitation of money for their books and the promotion of their religion, but not the disemination of their literature. And the court talked about “reasonalbeness in the fact that is the ‘normal course of traffic was constricted by the Hari Krisnas’. Here in this more modern case the course of traffic was not obstructed.” So, handing out literature should not be restricted in this case.

        • hass

          “No law” doesn’t really mean no law. The First Amendment too says “Congress shall make NO LAW… abridging the freedom of speech” but surely child porn, false advertising, defamatory speech, disclosure of national security secrets, etc. CAN be prohibited even though they constitute “speech”.

          • steveo

            But there are some expressions that the Scotus has interepted as “not protected speech” like child pornography, libel, defamation, certain disclosure of classified documents and a few others, In this case with these citizen journalists, no one can say that they weren’t entitled to freedom of assembly, speech and press because they weren’t expressing any non-speech activity that the court has previously defined as not protected speech.

            Alot of the cases involving the Hustler guy, Larry Flynt went into defining what is protected speech and what is not protected speech. The concept of “protected speech” is very important. Child pornography, libel, defamation and other forms of speech may not be “protected” speech. Here in this instance, I don’t think we are talking about whether this is protected speech or not protected speech.

          • hass

            Correct, those aren’t protected speech, thus validating my point that when the Constitution says there can be “no law” restricting speech, doesn’t really mean no law at all, it means that SOME restrictions on speech are in fact allowed.

  • hass

    I think once you take the time to do the actual legal research, you’ll be disappointed to learn how UNprotected free speech in an airport actually is. And yes, the Port Authority of Trans-Hudson (PATH) which controls the airports, ferries, bridges, tuinnels and some subways in NY does have a law against public photography. They require following very onerous and deliberately vague permit requirements that are intended to defeat any request,and they WILL enforce this rule with the PATH Police Department. This was the subject of a law review

    Note that PATH subway stations are deemed to be public forums (MOSKOWITZ v. CULLMAN 432 F.Supp. 1263 D.C.N.J. 1977)

    Some photographers have been trying to find legal representation to challenge this permit requirement’s constitutionality. None of the usual civil liberties organizations have thus far stepped up to the challenge due to a lack of awareness of the issue, or the funds The Professional Press Photographers Association has written a few letters about it, but backed off when the PATH system threatened to pull their photo passes. The NJ ACLU says it doesn’t have the resources. The NYCLU thinks it is a NJ jurisdiction issue (it is not.) And private NY-NJ law firms all do too much business with PATH to challenge it in a pro bono project.

    • steveo

      All states have there own statues and ordinances to promote non-transparency in govt and to circumvent the publics’ right to know. But that doesn’t make it right. In my state FL, our Constitution says Article 4 Section 1, “no law(that means no law) can be enacted that restricts the right of the freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, or the freedom of religion.” So videographers in my state just have to rely on the Constitutional law of the State in going about their activity, because our Constitution allows photography in public places.

      • hass

        But some states say train stations are not public places.

        • steveo

          like my previous pt, states counties, municipalities, and other quasi-government boards like airport authority, fire administration districts, hospital boards, all these rule making institutions make some rules in violation of the US constitution and the State constitution and it is up to individual citizens to bring injunctions against these unconstitutional and vague laws and rules in order to train government functions that there is a law higher than whatever they want to acheive.

          • hass

            Amen. but who is going to get this injunction? Thus far more than a decade has passed and no one has challenged the PATH photography ban.

    • RowanWood

      I don’t think the ACLU really cares about civil liberties any more. It seems to have become an identity group instead.

      • hass

        I tried to bring this to the ACLU’s attention. The only attention they paid was to put me on their junk mail list and call me for donations. This is a rather important issue. Photographers who take photos of the PATH property (which includes NYC bridges and PATH subways) are being placed on “terrorist watch-lists” and no one is doing anything about it. Note that PATH is the only mass transport system that prohibits public photography — the NY subway system does not, the New Jersey Transit system does not, the Long Island Railroad system does not.

        • steveo

          This is the kind of nonsense that I dislike. Quasi-government boards making laws that clearly violate the Constitution. ACLU has a million things to do, with the onset of the police state. It’s heartening that people recognize the growth of the police state and try to delay it’s claw grip control.
          Marx said that the historical dialectic makes it impossible to stop the growth of the police state, but anything that we can do to at least delay the total imposition of tyranny is a step in the right direction.

          • hass

            The PATH rule prohibiting photography without a license predates 9/11 and has been there for YEARS, and no one has done anything about it. They make it practically impossible to even apply for a permit, but if you do manage to get the form and apply, you have to do so in person during very limited hours, and then you have to pick up the permit over very limited hours, and they can deny it for very vague reasons defined so broadly that it amounts to no standard at all and which essentially gives them arbitrary power over the decision-making, and they then require you to have a PATH chaperone accompany you and OK every single shot you take — but since chaperones are never available, in effect you can’t take photos even if by magic you manage to obtain a permit. It is a total farce, legally. And yet no one has challenged them on it.

  • RowanWood

    Such a wonderful story and I hadn’t heard about it until now. Thank you for brightening my day.

  • Alex

    Did anybody notice that ol’ Mean-man Myers had a camera of his own @ 8:18-8:23. What is that supposed to be Kryptonite for photographers?

  • robin

    The link to Albany County Sheriff’s Office is broken btw.

  • Bob

    A tip of the hat to an apparent real class act, Deputy Stan Lenic and wishes for an impending and evidently overdue retirement for the pompous old white guy.

  • putaro

    You’ve got a typo that should be fixed. “…after standing up TO a pair of activists…” – I think you really want that to be “standing up FOR a pair” – I had to read another couple of paragraphs before I was sure your lead wasn’t just being sarcastic.

    Kudos to Deputy Lenic and the Albany County Sheriff!

  • mancavedude

    He gets the Serpico award

  • FirstSergeant

    My wife and I had the pleasure of passing through Albany County Airport this past fall (2013) to visit our daughter who was graduating from Army Basic Training in Oklahoma. Planning to do some hiking in the back country during the trip, I decided to take my old service revolver from when I was a reserve officer (Suffolk County NY) back in my younger days. This of course necessitated a check-in with TSA and the Sheriffs. The sheriff’s deputies were almost startingly polite ans supportive. The only unfortunate part of the encounter was that they called over more cops to admire my old gun, causing my wife and I to have to hurry to the airplane. While this may not be as popular a cause on this website, the Second Amendment is very much part of our Constitution as well. I support both the videographers and the police in this situation.