Police from Hialeah, "City of Progress," Stealing Cameras from Citizens


The Hialeah Police Department has gone on a camera-grabbing, rights-squashing, charge-trumping rampage against citizens in recent weeks without any apparent fear of repercussions, proving to be one of the most power-abusing police departments in Miami-Dade County.

And that’s saying a lot considering the rampant police corruption within the multitude of police departments down here.

The incidents began last month when a group of college students organized a “Harlem Shake” video, which is a recent fad where young people gather in public to perform a comical dance in costumes for the benefit of Youtube.

It’s a silly trend that was further popularized in South Florida by the Miami Heat who are currently riding a 24-game winning streak, the second highest in NBA history, with ten wins away to surpass the record set by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1971.

But the event organized by Florida International University students on Facebook was hardly worth anything more than mere police observation, considering it was scheduled to take place on a public greenspace at the north entrance to Hialeah, a working class municipality long been known for its corrupt politicians.

Although the concrete welcoming wall on the greenspace reads, “Hialeah, City of Progress,” locals know the city is about as progressive as Havana.

That’s why nobody was surprised when the Harlem Shake quickly turned into the Hialeah Shakedown.

Police swooped in and started making arrests while the youngsters were still setting up, incarcerating three people and confiscating two cameras – including one that has yet to be returned.

Police arrested three men on trespassing and resisting arrest charges, who spent an uncomfortable night in the Dade County Jail before visiting a judge the following morning, who wasted no time in dropping their charges.

However, police are refusing to return one of the cameras and only reluctantly returned the other camera after they viewed its footage and determined it contained no incriminating evidence against them.

“The only way for me to get my camera back is if the officer releases it,” said Eric Faden, a 22-year-old FIU student and outspoken libertarian.

But when he approached the cop, Hialeah police officer Fritz Generivie refused to give it back.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated series of incidents, Hialeah police confiscated two cameras from another man trying to hold them accountable.

Juan “Biggie” Santana

I wrote about Santana earlier this month when police confiscated his Sony Bloggie, claiming they feared it was a gun, which produced a sardonic laugh around the country.

They returned it a few days later but only after they had deleted his footage.

Officer Antonio Sentmanat also called code enforcement officers on Santana claiming that he was in violation of a municipal code because of a trailer he has on his property, which he says is acceptable because it doesn’t come close to surpassing the 30-foot length restriction.

Santana, 30, a heaving man of more than 500 pounds who plans to run for Hialeah mayor this year (as he recovers from a sleeve gastrectomy surgery he has planned next month where he expects to lose 180 pounds) is a longtime rabble-rouser.

So it’s not surprising the city’s mayor called him a “bully to Hialeah” when he stood before the city council earlier this week and complained that police had violated his First Amendment rights on several occasions.

Mayor Carlos Hernandez is a former cop, after all, having spent years working the beat in Hialeah.

Vowing to fight his code violation citation, Santana ventured to city hall to view the municipal codebook, which apparently is kept under lock and key by city officials.

He placed a Looxcie camera on his ear and entered into the city manager’s office, being quick to tell the administrators he was video recording them.

One city official told him he was not allowed to record. He quickly corrected her. A man behind a desk permitted him to record as long as he kept the camera trained on him.

The man then started claiming he was not allowed to record, so Santana turned it off for the time being, his goal only to record the text from the book that would help him win his case.

But they called the cops anyway.

Within minutes, eight cops arrived, including Commander Oscar Amago, who is described as a “thug” and the “mayor’s personal enforcer” by Pulizer Prize winning former Miami Herald reporter Elaine de Valle, who now runs a local blog called Political Cortadito.

She also referred to the city’s mayor as Carlos “Castro” Hernandez on her blog after Amago forced her out of a press conference because she didn’t have mainstream media credentials.

“I have made abuse of power reports to the Miami Dade and FDLE Police that have gone nowhere,” she said in an email.

“That police department needs intervention and oversight. They are a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

One cop told Santana he could be a terrorist because he was wearing a camera on his ear.

Amago threatened to arrest him if he did not turn the camera off.

“You entered a secured area in a government building which you are not allowed to tape,” Amago said.

“You need to shut that down right now. I have to impound that and show it to our detectives.”

Santana agreed to turn it off, but said he was doing it “under duress.”

“As soon as I turned the camera off, he snatched it right out of my ear,” Santana said.

Then they ordered him into a room where he was interrogated for an hour, before he was allowed to leave without his camera, so he could retrieve the cable that would allow them to view his footage.

Then they viewed the footage and determined he had not been “disruptive,” as the city workers had accused him of being.

But they warned him against posting the video he had shot inside the clerk’s office because a special needs student volunteer had been sitting in a chair and had been captured on some of the video.

They claimed there was some Miami-Dade County Schools policy that made it illegal to video record special needs students, even though there are surveillance cameras in that same building.

Santana knew there was no law against posting the student, but asked me to edit him out to keep the city officials focused on the actual law and not some stupid school district policy that probably doesn’t exist anyway.
Hialeah Shakedown

Santana is lucky he now has both his cameras back, even though he is still trying to recover the footage from his Sony Blogger that was deleted by police last month.

It’s obvious that police don’t want to return Faden’s camera because it contains footage that shows them tackling him from behind.

But it’s been nearly a month since a judge dismissed his charges and Fritz Generivie has refused to return it.

“He told me to give him proof that it got dismissed and I’ll tell them to release the phone,” he said in a telephone interview.

When Faden offered to show him the proof from the county clerk’s website, he refused to look at it.

“He said, ‘I don’t have time for that,’” Faden said.

Faden says police have been hounding him for the code to his phone so they could examine the video but he has refused to give it to them.

Faden says the footage will show just how berserk police went as they tried to pull off their Harlem Shake video shoot, in which one student dressed in a banana suit was reportedly kicked out of the police academy because of his arrest.

“They started telling everybody to get out,” Faden said, which was very confusing because there was no question it was a public space.

Faden pulled out his cell phone and began recording, which was like waving a red flag in front of a matador.

“He goes fucking nuts,” Faden said. “He told me, ‘turn it off.’”

Faden began walking away, holding the phone so it would record behind him as Generivie and other cops chased him down.
“They put their foot out and trip me,” he said.

He jammed the phone in his pocket as several cops piled on top of him, one of them stuffing his hand in Faden’s pocket to remove the phone.

He ended up in handcuffs in the back of a police car. He now has a lawyer.

But Hialeah is not afraid of lawyers. And they’re not afraid of the local media either considering anything that does get reported rarely sparks any solid investigations.


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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  • Rob

    The person that uploaded those videos made them private for some reason.

    • Carlos_Miller

      Sorry about that. They should be public now.

  • Brett Schnaper

    Hialeah police think they’re more powerful than federal law, and than federal law enforcement? A good many local law enforcement officials wind up with very short careers as a result of that misconception. If the federal government doesn’t want you in law enforcement at any level, then you’re out. The Justice Department has been clear and unequivocal on the matter of recording in public, particularly recording public employees engaged in nonclassified activities. Hialeah police would do well to understand that they’ve made themselves objects of national interest, and that means that the Justice Dept. is also watching.

    • http://excoplawstudent.wordpress.com/ ExCop-Lawyer

      Hialeah has a long and distinguished history of abusing the First Amendment, see Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993). The city lost.

  • Common Sense

    Wow! That “commander” must have been absent the day they taught law in the academy! Looks like Juan got some great footage for a civil rights case!

    Lets see, he appears to be in a “public” area, yes a government building, however open for the public to come in and there is no mention of “no photography” signs. They may call it secure area, but it sure looks like a public area to me.

    The recording was NOT done in a secretive fashion. He told everyone what he was doing. Juan obviously provided a reasonable explanation as to why he was there and what he was doing and identified himself and yet they continue on in this “bully” fashion.

    LOL, lets say for example, there had been a crime recorded. That IDIOT “commander” just threw ALL evidence obtained from the video out when he ILLEGALLY reviewed it. This is taught in COP 101! What a schmuck!

    Not to get side-stepped, but if there is actually a “ruling” on recording disabled students, when they volunteer, that should not be placed in a position where they could be recorded. Sounds like the City is negligent there. Just a side note, the real story is the abuse of power.

    Sure would be nice to get the FBI in to investigate this. However, we all know better, they don’t care either! Besides, anyone who has ever worked with them knows the real work is done by real cops, the “locals” as they like to call us. Sorry South Florida, your screwed on this one.

    To the “commander” as a LEO you are a disgrace to the office, uniform and profession. You are nothing more than the little boy who was bullied on the school yard and now you have a badge and wish to be the bully. Just what FSS did you think you would arrest him on? Oh yeh, the catch all, resisting! LOL, that’s just a charge used when you don’t know what to do! You may wish to read FSS sometime. It really does have some GREAT information in it. You might even learn how to be a LEO.

    Just one PROFESSIONAL FL LEO’s opinion!

    • steveo

      Not so sure that the FBI wouldn’t investigate if the newsgatherers complain on the color of law web site for the local office. The head lawyer who wrote the Sharp vs. Baltimore brief was just nominated by Obama for the Dept. of Labor.

      It’s worthless to complain to the PD or the city. But you should go right over to the circuit court and file an emergency motion to have your camera returned. On the court’s web site they explain how to file an emergency motion, which means they’ll set you up over lunch time, if you’ve notified the attorneys for the other party. Maryland vs. Macon is always the case cited when govt agents take 1st amendment protected property.

      If the head judge won’t give you a hearing, you can take a writ of mandamus to the appellate court, the third district in your area. The address is 2001 S.W. 117 Ave, Miami, FL 33175-1716. But the circuit court will hear your motion, but after you serve the paperwork on the city attorney or state attorney if you were arrested, they’ll tell the PD to give the camera back, (right now) and you won’t have to go to court. There are no legal precedents in the history of the US to uphold a prior restraint which is what the govt agents are doing. Leos and FD personnel cannot set themselves up as the government censors. Ask Larry Flynt.

    • juan santana

      hey man we need to talk i like what you said i need to make you cheif of hialeah

  • steveo

    This would be a good place to go to public meetings, like the Code violation bureau, or the zoning board, or the beautification panel and set up a tripod and start recording. Probably get arrested , but that would lead to Iacobbci v. Butler. The plaintiff was the newsgathering tripod guy and Butler was the head of some city agency. Cost the city 400 grand in 1999.

    • http://excoplawstudent.wordpress.com/ ExCop-Lawyer

      Iacobucci v. Boulter, 193 F.3d 14 (1st Cir. 1999) is out of the wrong circuit, it’s only persuasive authority, not binding. Better would be Smith v. City of Cumming, 212 F.3d 1332 (11th Cir. 2000) (First Amendment right to photograph public officials in public places); Blackston v. Alabama, 30 F.3d 117 (11th Cir. 1994) (citizens may tape-record public meeting); Williamson v. Mills, 65 F.3d 155 (11th Cir. 1995) (citizens may photograph police officers in a public place, including undercover officers); and Abella v. Simon, 831 F. Supp. 2d 1316 (S.D. Fla. 2011), vacated on other ground 482 Fed. Appx. 522 (11th Cir. 2012) (citizen may photograph police officers in public places), all of which are binding authority.

      • steveo

        yeah, good research, my pt was that Mr. Iacobucci was kind of a dick, sorry to say a lawyer, but he made them pay through the nose.

        • http://excoplawstudent.wordpress.com/ ExCop-Lawyer

          No, I thought it was great that you brought up that case. It just tweaked my mind, so I looked up 11th Circuit cases on it.

  • tiny

    anyone going any time soon to any public meeting in HIALEAH? post when and where and there may be a few there to watch your back, just saying. [or to ride the metro snail? BTW-does anyone know the policy on taking a BIKE onto the METROSNAIL? they allow it or what?

    • juan santana

      you can take your bike all the way on the back of the train and i think there is a meeting on next tuesday

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1357833535 Elaine de Valle

    Okay… I’m in. I say we all go to the next Hialeah meeting, armed with cameras and camera phones. You all can record it as I am illegally trespassed yet again. Who’s with me?

    • juan santana

      i am

  • Daverator

    Those cops DO know that Hialeah is part of the United States, right?

  • NorthoftheBorder Gold

    Terrorism: the 24-7 excuse to violate your rights!! Maybe one day we can have our rights back??

  • Rob

    “Faden pulled out his cell phone and began recording, which was like waving a red flag in front of a matador.”

    I could be wrong, but I believe you meant ‘bull’, not matador. The matador (photographer) is the one that waves the red flag, and enrages the bull (cop), before the matador pulls out his sword (Bill of Rights) and slays the bull.

    • Carlos_Miller

      Yes, I pulled an all-nighter, but I’ve corrected it. Thanks.

  • Proud GrandPa

    Get a lawyer involved. One person can be overwhelmed, but the force of law equalizes power.
    Form a coalition with many other people. Let’s face it. This man and these collegians cannot be the only victims. It will be a massive project and expensive. If you do only one thing right in life, why not let it be this battle? You can win.
    Most important: Who are the good police officers in town? I am sure there must be some. Find them and build a winning coalition.

    • JdL

      Most important: Who are the good police officers in town? I am sure there must be some.

      What do you base this assertion on, other than wishful thinking?

      • Proud GrandPa

        I take it your question is rhetorical only, but I’ll respond just the same. I know there are good cops because I’ve met many of them over my lifetime and have read and heard of many others.
        It is basic human nature to want to do the right thing, and that includes police officers. Sure there are a few (or many in some departments) who are just plain bad cops. The good cops need our support in weeding them out.
        One of the most counterproductive things a person could do is alienate the good ones by stereotypes. Please say a kind word of appreciation for the good police officers. Suggestion: Google ‘good cop’ or similar.
        The Bible teaches me to give honor to whom honor is due. I try.

        • Kenneth Bankers

          Here is the issue with saying there are good cops. If there are truely any out there they would stand up to the corruption of their so called Brothers. If they cant do that then they are just as guilty as the one who shoots an innocent person or the one that delets that video. That being said if they are out there and they are doing this and being shunted away why isnt it being reported? The easy answer is because good cops dont exist. Now i am not saying that there arnt any but i want proff that they are. They treat us as Guilty tell proven innocent i am going to treat them the same way. They are rotten tell they have shown they aren’t

          • Proud GrandPa

            Kenneth, What do you think of the UK survey cited by Jefft90 in the post above? Atlesat in the survey of 520 officers there were 54% good ones. Please try to remember this when judging police. I think studies would show the majoirty are honest.

            You raised a very valid point. Why don’t the good police officers arrest all the bad ones? I suspect that they would if they could. It happens, but isn’t easy. This links to the most extreme non-lethal story of a good cop vs police courruption. I really respect this one. Please check it out.


          • Kenneth Bankers

            Thats the problem it is an annon survey. The reality of what I have seen (even in my home town now ) there is only 1 cop who has my respect and i can say is a good cop. He snatched my camra away from the cop who took it and told him to get a Fucking warrent and not to be such a duesh to his face. Entell they start arresting i will treat them exactly like the treat me.

  • Freedom_Fighter_of_America

    Let me tell you how terrorism works. Terrorism is when police use their position to threaten force for doing something they don’t want you to do but have no legitimate authority to make such an order. That’s what the real terrorism is. These officers should be arrested for terrorism.

    • Ed

      Pffft. The terrorists are going to arrest terrorists? Don’t think so. However, no one cares when terrorists die so get busy making them die.

  • IceTrey

    For god’s sake people STREAM your cop vids to the net!

  • JdL

    Every time I hear of cops deleting a video from a confiscated camera (which, judging form Carlos’ accounts, is about 80% of the time), I reflect yet again that cops are the biggest cowards on the face of the earth. They’ve got the guns, the badges, and a nearly free pass in courts of law to engage in any gratuitous brutality they please any time they please, yet they shit their pants at the thought of being documented.

    Pretty pathetic.

    • Difdi

      There are fewer than 1 police officer per 1000 citizens. The only thing that allows them to survive abusing the population is keeping the majority of the citizenry ignorant that the abuse happens at all.

      That is why the idea of being documented scares bad cops shitless.

  • Vil

    It’s time to stop thinking that this can be changed without bloodshed. Until the streets run red with the blood of pigs and patriots, there will be no THOUGHT of change. Such a fight is also unwinnable, but it beats the Hell out of being obedient.

    • Difdi

      There’s an old, very apt quote on the matter:

      “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.” –Thomas Jefferson

      I’m not a police officer, but speaking from a common sense perspective, I’d rather have a situation where only 1 person in 10,000 shoots at me, than armor that will stop 999 out of every 1000 bullets. Especially when I’m outnumbered by more than 1000 to 1 and my armor only stops 99 out of 100 bullets.

  • http://www.tlroars.com/ TigerLily Gonzalez
  • MiamiSlaveCounty

    Courts have long held that recordings made by private citizens of police conduct or other items of public interest are entitled to First Amendment protection. See, e.g., Glik, 655 F.3d at 84-85 (finding First Amendment right to record “clearly established”); Smith, 212 F.3d at 1333; Fordyce, 55 F.3d at 439; Blackston v. Alabama, 30 F.3d 117, 120-21 (11th Cir. 1994); Lambert v. Polk Cnty., 723 F. Supp.128, 133 (S.D. Iowa 1989).
    Similarly, the Supreme Court has established that journalists are not entitled to greater First Amendment protections than private individuals. See,e.g., Nixon v. Warner Comm., Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 608-09 (1978) (“The First Amendment generally grants the press no right to information about a trial superior to that of the general public.”); Branzburg, 408 U.S. at 684 (“It has generally been held that the First Amendment does not guarantee the press a constitutional right of special access to information not available to the public generally.”)

  • MiamiSlaveCounty

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  • Difdi

    I saw an article a couple years ago, that looked at FBI arrest record stats, and compared general public rates of arrest per 100,000 individuals to the police rate. Note that this wasn’t conviction rates or severity of penalties, or even whether charges were filed at all. It was just arrest reports.

    For every single crime on the books with one exception, police were within a few decimal points of the general public. The one exception was sexual assault, where police were just short of three times the rate of arrest for the general public as a whole.

    When combined with the reluctance police have to arrest fellow police, these are truly terrifying numbers.

  • Nemo

    Any time I see someone say “I know/have met a lot of cops who are great guys”, I have to ask: how many of those “great guys” have arrested fellow-cop[s when they /know/ those dirty cops have committed crimes, such as illegal theft of cameras?

    Any cop who turns a blind eye to a crime committed by another cop is just as “dirty” as the criminal-in-uniform who committed the crime. By that standard, the vast majority of cops are bad, regardless of how “likeable” they are, since they passively protect overt criminals.

    • Difdi


      A private citizen is considered an accomplice or even a conspirator for knowing a crime was committed and not reporting it. A private citizen has not sworn an oath to uphold the law, nor is the private citizen professionally employed at taxpayer expense to uphold the law.

      A police officer on the other hand IS sworn to uphold the law and employed at taxpayer expense to do so. So why do people excuse them for being an accomplice or criminal conspirator, and consider them good cops as long as they don’t personally do wrong directly?

      I could go to jail for knowing my business partner committed a felony and keeping quiet about it, let alone helping him cover it up. Why are the laws on what makes you an accomplice or conspirator not applied to police? Simple: if those laws (or the RICO Act) were applied to police, we very soon wouldn’t have any left. And the government knows this.

  • Difdi

    That’s not the one I saw, but it’s still informative.

  • Damien

    Sounds like it’s time to take the fight right to the PIGS!

    I say, It’s open season on the PIGS!

  • http://www.richardfordphotography.com/ Richard Ford

    People – stream this stuff like to a server on the net to record it. Put a wifi hotspot in your pocket and a wifi card in the device and live stream/record it. Or record it to another device in your bag. Cops are dim witted and wouldn’t work out one end of a cable from the other end of their dicks.

  • http://neville6000.deviantart.com/ Neville Ross

    Maybe having OJ verdicts is what we need to change the way society regards law enforcement and how its allowed to get away with things.

  • Chris Meyerson

    Screw them get a good lawyer and sue the hell out of them…. I would hope that it meets the test for personal liability so you can go after the cops personally as well

  • Puce Buzzard

    That claim that “special needs” students are “special” and need “special” protection is a total red herring… I was a “special needs” student.

  • Freedom_Fighter_of_America

    More officers to add to a terrorist watch list. People shit take photos and put them on Wanted terrorist fliers and put them around town.