Risking arrest on several occasions, PINAC correspondent Jeff Gray proved how citizens can single-handedly ensure that law enforcement officials respect the rights of citizens to record in public.
Gray, who is also known as HONORYOUROATH on Youtube, was motivated by my incident on the Miami-Dade Metrorail in January where I was placed in a chokehold and dragged down an escalator because I refused to turn my camera off.
He started visiting the Jacksonville Transportation Authority Skyway, which is that city’s rapid transit system, to see how they react to photography.
Not surprisingly, he was told that photography was not allowed due to Homeland Security laws – even though there is no such law in the books.
He even called a spokesperson from JTA, who told him he was allowed to record within the stations as long as he gave prior notification, which is also absurd.
And more recently, he was threatened with arrest on trespassing charges if he did not stop recording. When he asked the Jacksonville sheriff officers for their names and badge number, they refused to provide that information to him.
Gray is persistent but polite so he ended up interviewing a Lt. Grant from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office who told him on camera that departmental policy requires officers to provide their name and badge number upon request.
Lt. Grant also said he had every right to record within the transit system because it was public property. Grant assured Gray that he would ensure officers that they be reminded of this fact.
Gray was skeptical so when he returned to the station the following week to test out their knowledge of the policy, he was received with open arms.
The sheriff officers he came in contact with not only readily provided their names and badge numbers, but told him some good areas within the train station where he could take some good photos.
While many people might think his efforts were a waste of time, Gray reminds us in the above video of what took place on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in 2009 when a police officer shot a man named Oscar Grant in the back, only for it to be caught on video by at least two citizen cameras.
It was that evidence that led to the conviction of BART police officer Johannes Mehserle on manslaughter charges.
Had there been no video, he would no doubt have claimed that Grant was reaching for what appeared to be a weapon, which made him fear for his life.
So it’s important for us to establish our right to record the most mundane incidents on public train systems so there will be no doubt about our right when it really matters.