Miami Beach Police Spokesman Calls Cop "Immature" for Shining Light in my Camera Lens (Updated II)

Less than two days after a Miami Beach police officer shined his flashlight into my camera lens in an attempt to thwart me from video recording them making an arrest, a department spokesman said his behavior was “immature” and that he would be dealt with appropriately, if he hasn’t already been dealt with by his superior officer.

The officer, who still remains unidentified, was the only cop out of a group making an arrest who decided to resort to intimidation tactics to prevent from being recorded – which is direct violation of the photo policy that the Miami Beach Police Department introduced in the wake of the 2011 incident when they confiscated cameras from witnesses and reporters after shooting an unarmed man to death.

“Pointing the light just to be annoying to the reporter, there’s no excuse for that,” said Sgt. Bobby Hernandez, the department’s public information officer, in the interview with Photography is Not a Crime correspondent Jeff Gray aka HONORYOUROATH, which you can hear in the video above.

“And trust me, we are going to find out who that officer is and we’re going to deal with him if he wasn’t dealt with. There’s no need for that. What did he resolve by doing that? Other than being a little immature in my opinion.”

Beach cop with flashlight
When I asked this cop for his name, he said, “none of your business.”


The fact that the cop refused to provide me his name when I asked him was also a violation of departmental policy

“He should have given you his name and if he didn’t, you should have requested a supervisor to come provide that for you,” Hernanez said.

Hernandez explained that the department has made great efforts to educate officers about the rights of citizens to record them in public since the 2011 incident in which 22-year-old Raymond Herisse was shot to death, an incident that still remains “under investigation.”

In fact, the department’s policy is the most thorough out of any South Florida police agency, thanks to the National Press Photographers Association, which assisted them in drafting it.

But a policy is only worth the paper it is drafted on if the officers are not following it.

Jonathan Piccolo, who sits on the board of directors of the ACLU of Florida said he was on South Beach Saturday night documenting arrests with his camera and was harassed by Miami Beach police officers.

One officer shined his flashlight at my camera every time I lifted it up to shoot. I just left my camera trained on the officers until he got tired of holding up his flashlight and then took the pics. Also, they were pretty keen on taking my photo as if to mock me (they did this last year as well). One officer came over and stood behind me and said nothing. I was wearing an ACLU shirt that said “legal observer” on it so perhaps they wanted to read what it said.

So now I’ll be meeting with the ACLU next week to see how we can prevent this from happening in the future.

From Gray’s interview with Hernandez:

“I know after the 2011 incident when this all came to light, the officers just did not know, they see a channel 10 reporter and had his camera taken away just because he was videotaping a crime scene,” Hernandez said.

“Well, that kind of put it into perspective and we said we got to come up with a policy because a lot of (officers) just don’t know what the do’s and don’t’s are of dealing with media and cameras and the public.

“It’s pretty much, we’ve had to explain it to them, ‘act like they’re there all the time’ because now with cell phones and iPads, you’re always being videotaped. And there’s nothing wrong with that, they’re just videotaping you doing your job.”

Hernandez also brought up the March incident in which PINAC reader Taylor Hardy was aggressively confronted by an irate Miami-Dade paramedic because he was video recording the landing of a helicopter.

The story, which was first published on PINAC, ended up making the rounds in all the local television stations and apparently all the public information offices of local agencies.

“Everybody was sending it to everybody, this is how not to handle the media,” Hernandez said.

And he told Gray he was relieved to learn that the officers who harassed Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo because he was video recording them making arresting a group of men turned out to be federal marshals instead of Miami Beach police officers as you can see in the second video in this story.

Hernandez also suggested that I may have instigated the incident by not explaining myself, but I tend to keep quiet as to not distract them. I make it obvious that I am recording and they are welcome to come up and talk to me if they wish.

Or they can just shine their lights at me and order me away under threat of arrest, which is usually the case.

Gray, who spent 19 years as a truck driver and has received no formal journalistic education, is proving to be the epitome of the modern-day citizen journalist, demanding accountability better than the mainstream media does.

The video might be long at 14 minutes, but it’s worth a listen in order to learn how to do the same with other police departments in the future.

Hernandez is also the epitome of a modern-day public information officer because he clearly understands that the right to record includes all citizens, not just those working for the corporate media.

A complete contrast from our friend, Nancy Perez, the public information officer of the Miami-Dade Police Department who singled me out from a horde of corporate journalists covering the Occupy Miami eviction last year and arrested me, later telling my attorney that blogging is what kids do.

UPDATE:  Jonathan Piccolo, the ACLU board member who said he was harassed for taking photos, sent in the following two photos showing just that.

He believes the officer was from the Miami Beach Police Department but it is difficult to tell from the photo because he is wearing a black t-shirt, meaning he could be from another local police agency.


Piccolo Photo 1
Memorial Day Weekend 2013 on Miami Beach (Photo by Jonathan Piccolo)
Piccolo Photo 2
Memorial Day Weekend 2013 on Miami Beach (Photo by Jonathan Piccolo)


UPDATE II: Piccolo just sent the following photo, which is a zoomed-in crop of the previous photo and it looks like this officer is definitely from the Miami Beach Police Department, meaning he should have been trained not to harass or thwart photographers.


A zoomed-in crop of the above image shows he is likely a Miami Beach police officer.
A zoomed-in crop of the above image shows he is likely a Miami Beach police officer.


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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  • Jaysin R Clifton

    that douchecop would have fit in well in Nazi germany

    • Pissed Off

      But…but… he’s was just following orders!!!

  • harry balzanya

    Using a device to physically infringe on the free exercise of the press is not a policy violation its a federal crime. Light is not passive it is a beam and a wave and has a physical effect on devices being used to record the news it is prior restraint plain and simple. They are pyhsically preventing you from gathering news.

    • Wandering_Bard

      And if that beam of light damaged your imaging sensors (unlikely, but stranger things have happened) a civil suit would be in well in order.

    • T Bob Trasman

      What if the flashing had triggered an epileptic seizure? It can and does happen. Who would carry the medical cost of your care? It could have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting, loosing and paying the law suit. But, I guess the immature cop would have gotten his wish, it is hard to record while you’re having a seizure.

    • Yogi Beaty

      Let’s leave the strange science out of it. There’s plenty of reasons to not want your video interfered with; we don’t have to reach this far. We lose a lot of public credibility when we go out on the skinny branches and start screeching at the cops.

  • io-io

    The officers know the policy and the rules. They also know the law well enough to find all the holes and twist and bend it for their own purposes. The only looser in all of this are the general public at large who must to pay for all of this crap.

    How will it change. Fire the police chief, and the officers (along with their immediate chain of command) who think that they are being cute with their stupid games. The department has been trained, they – the line officers are just not following their training.

    Hold the Mayor and the City / County Board of Supervisors accountable. Ask why they permit their police department to get away with such games.

    • Difdi

      The RICO Act was enacted to deal with organizations where the rank and file routinely and habitually break the law, but the bosses keep their hands clean. Under RICO, it’s possible to go after a crime boss even though you have no court-admissible evidence whatsoever that he is guilty of any actual crime directly.

      Very few police agencies would survive being scrutinized through the lens of the RICO Act and similar legislation.

  • tiny

    this will continue until i think we demand what has been posted here! [“Hold the Mayor and the City / County Board of Supervisors accountable.
    Ask why they permit their police department to get away with such games.”], demand they in charge be fired,plain and simple, when those on the street are dealt with my who they answer to, which is us, then they wont stop. create a board created from people they do this to, and it will stop.when they know they will get fired the first time this crap happens, they will be in the food line, they may think before even allowing a partner getting away with this crap. all the leo’s will be trained, if you see it, report it! just like they want us to do? good for us, good for them! time for a 0% tolerance like they have in the south florida school system!

    • T Bob Trasman

      Zero tolerance is a bad idea at almost any level. You should restrain yourself from thinking in absolutes. Like the school policies “zero tolerance” policies get carries to the ridiculous long before they do any real good. Do you really think the weapons on the little green army guys is a problem? Yet they’re cut off and they are no more a “weapon” than a #2 pencil, in fact less so. Do you think that an aspirin is a illegal drug? Do you think a child’s right to privacy ends at the schoolyard, there are no HIPAA issues there?

      Zero tolerance rules/laws will always bite somebody in the ass. You can only have one zero tolerance law that will work, the exception rule applies to prove it, and that is a zero tolerance for any zero tolerance laws.

      Try to remember that “zealot” and “zero tolerance” are fairly synonymous.

  • Virtualfrog

    Carlos: I may be just a small citizen photog but you are clearly and without a doubt a well published journalist. Is it time to start using “Prior Restraint” against them? Shining a light in order to prevent your taking video/pictures is
    exactly that.

    When the officer mentions YouTube or other media they are, many times, admitting their actual reason for their action and therein is the restraint. They would not have to actually arrest anyone but purposely prevent them from collecting video.

  • RaymondbyEllis

    An immature cop, how could that be?

  • Tijuana Joe

    “Very few police agencies would survive being scrutinized through the lens of the RICO Act and similar legislation.”

    odd Ric “the DIck” Bradshaw (PBSO) and such badged goons haven’t been
    prosecuted under these statutes, given their track record. They make the
    Bloods and the Crips look like Boy Scouts. Or Florida in general, the corrupt fucks down their can’t even count votes.

  • Proud GrandPa

    Sounds pretty good to me, Carlos. This made my day:

    Hernandez explained that the department has made great efforts to educate officers about the rights of citizens to record them in public

    Sounds like progress.
    Yes, we can all agree that there remain a few bad apples in the corps, but the top kicks are doing their job. Mission Accomplished (legally) at the top levels. Now it remains to be enforced by everyone down to street level.
    That is why we have lawyers…

  • Carlos_Miller

    Article has been updated with new photos.

  • Antonio Buehler

    Kudos to Miami PD for at least acknowledging the immature behavior of one of their cops. Austin PD has done this to the Peaceful Streets Project dozens of times, without a single apology.

    Here are some examples:

    • Difdi

      I wonder what the result would be if you got a tactical flashlight, something in the 600-1000 lumen range, and when a cop shines his light in your eyes, you shined yours right back into his? A ‘mere’ 200 lumens is painfully bright. 600+ will ruin your whole night.

      Your arrest for assault would no doubt follow. But here’s the thing: Police authority doesn’t extend to assaulting randomly chosen people out in public. A cop cannot walk down the street and punch every third person who passes him. It would be an unlawful use of force. If shining a light in someone’s eyes is assault, then a cop doing it to random people who are not violating any laws is assault as well.

  • JdL

    Hernandez’ statement is better than nothing, but please forgive me if I’m skeptical that the offending cop will be identified and/or disciplined.

    It seems lately that there’s at least one new cop every day displaying his complete and total cowardice by refusing to give his name. Have I missed a sentence in the cop recruitment ads, that says “Cowards only need apply”?

  • Difdi

    So what do you suppose would happen if you had a flashlight just as bright as that cop in the update picture, and shone it into his eyes? An arrest for assault, no doubt. Yet assaulting random people on the street who are not breaking any laws is a-okay?

    • MeFein

      Carry a small mirror. Then the light in his eyes is his own.

      • Difdi

        Get a parabolic mirror and make the light that comes back to him ever more focused than what his flashlight emits.

  • LBrothers

    “… because a lot of officers don’t know what the do’s and dont’s are of dealing with media and cameras and the public.” Bullshit. They all know. They watch Youtube. They read the papers. They watch the news. They all know. They’re just bullies with IQ’s of 90 who don’t give a shit.

  • Jeff

    Great job (again) by Jeff Gray. I can’t help but start to think that this is not nearly as much a case of police thugs as it is union thugs. Listen to what this PIO really has to say. Read between the lines with him. He seems extremely honest and forthcoming. Listen to what he says. He really seems to be on our side. All across the country people are coming to realize the damage that unions are doing – and the police all below to a union. The PIO very likely DOES NOT belong to a union – being a management position. I think they actually need our help. It sounds to me like he is diplomatically suggesting that we get a supervisor to the scene to correct this bad behavior on the spot. I don’t want to get into a huge union debate here but really take a close look at much of the police thug behavior and tell me if it is not exactly the same as other non-police union thugs. This is not nearly as much a case of police being thugs as union members trying to assert their will and keep their jobs. That’s what this is all about – union thugs all have an us against them mentality. For the longest time the “them” has been their bosses and management. Now the “them” is people with cameras that help show job infractions by video taping them. It really sounds to me like this PIO is frustrated too and wants this to change. More and more I’m am getting increasingly convinced this is union thuggery as much or more as police thuggery.