Florida Corrections Officer Tells Man it’s Illegal to Video Record Inmates in Public

Perhaps there was a day when law enforcement officers were able to cite some nonexistent statute to scare citizens into following unlawful orders.

Those days are pretty much over considering citizens today are much more aware of their rights and the law thanks to the internet (and sites like Photography is Not a Crime, thank you very much).

In this case, it is a Florida corrections officer who cites the nonexistent statute to Michael Burns after he was video recording a group of inmates in public.

We’ve been through this before with PINAC editor Jeff Gray who was told it was a felony to video record inmates in public.. Perhaps they are just embarrassed at how Florida uses jail inmates as slaves to work on public projects.

The corrections officer, who identifies himself as John Meeks, writes down Burns license plate number, ensuring he is going to “report it.”

“You can’t take pictures of these inmates without authorization,” Meeks says. “If you show me you have authorization, that’s one thing.”

“Constitution,” Burns responds.

And yes, that’s all the authorization he needed considering public photographer and videography has long been protected by the First Amendment.

This is how Burns describes the incident in his Youtube description:

I had been taking pictures for like 20 minutes and circled a few times to get closer pictures from in the car… When I parked and got out to take pictures (after asking the store owner if I could park there) he came over so I switched it on live which is why he was already right up on me when it starts… I will post the other video later also I was using a dash cam so if that wasn’t zoomed in to much at a different angle that will be up as well. gotta all my mom and warn her police may or may not show up asking why I was there…going back to see him again later… its not over but my battery was about to die so could not be out of the car longer than about 5 more minutes.

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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  • Joel Chandler

    Where was this?

    • Mic

      Sounded like Lakeland Fl.

      • http://www.eyesonauthority.com/ Eyes On Authority

        Avon Park, Fl. Highlands County

        • comrade

          More like Communist Russia.

  • Farid Rushdi

    I just don’t get this. All it would take is one press conference from the governor saying, “Anyone who works for the state has no expectation of privacy and can be recorded. Prisoners have no expectation of privacy. If you hassle the citizens for recording you, you face a 30-day suspension first time and termination the second.”

    It’s not hard. Because those in power don’t say it, the inference it–wink wink–that it is tolerated.

    I love the police and those in authority. Most all of them would take a bullet for me. But when they aren’t saving my life they are making it difficult with this kind of attitude.

    • Guest

      “Because those in power don’t say it, the inference it–wink wink–that it is tolerated.”

      Not just tolerated. These violations of people’s rights and violations of their oath to support the Constitution of the United States are encouraged from the very top down. Police are trained and encouraged to be traitorous criminal rights violating thugs.

  • hazy

    Looks like the video was taken in 1980.

    • http://www.eyesonauthority.com/ Eyes On Authority

      its bambuser.. I chose low quality over a higher quality that may be choppy and important things get missed.. last time I tried high quality the video was great but it would go out for seconds at a time missing entire conversations it was so bad

      • rick

        But after live streaming Bambuser gives you the option of uploading all unsent data. The option can be found in settings.

        • http://www.eyesonauthority.com/ Eyes On Authority

          what will that do fix the quality after the fact? after I stopped filming it uploaded but I did not think you could make the quality better once it has already been recorded… unless your the fed or something

          • rick

            Your original comment suggests to me that you are downloading your videos from Bambuser prior to the unsent data being uploaded. In my experience once all the unsent data is uploaded the complete A/V record is preserved on their site.
            Try it out. Record at highest resolution for 1 minute and press stop. Download your video from Bambuser. Now upload all unsent data. Wait a minute or two and download the video again (give it a different name). The first video will be choppy and incomplete, but the second video should be whole.

          • http://www.eyesonauthority.com/ Eyes On Authority

            aw man if thats true I have thrown out a lot of what would have been great footage because it was so choppy.. took good still shots out of it but it sucked.. I will try that next time but it seems as soon as i press stop recording. it automatically starts to upload.. guessing i can set it not to do that but figured if I am getting arrested when I press stop I want it to upload? bah.. will look into it but thanks for the tips.. always looking for a way to take better videos.. extended version of this video is now on my channel

  • inquisitor

    The photog bailed. Would have been interesting to see the interaction should cops had shown up. But probably not a good idea with a half-smoked joint in the ashtray.

    • Carlos_Miller

      He went back with a buddy and talked to the cops and they set the corrections officer straight. He just messaged me and said he is uploading the new video.

    • http://www.eyesonauthority.com/ Eyes On Authority

      I went back.. my phone had 6% left when i got out of the car.. had 2 other cameras on me but knew if I left, charged my phone & got friends to go back with me he would still call the police.. He did & that video will be up soon..

      • inquisitor

        Thanks for the elaboration.
        I am very interested in seeing your interaction with the police.

        • http://www.eyesonauthority.com/ Eyes On Authority

          just ff through the correctional officer stuff on this copy, the police come shortly after https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAgDzmLCoz0

          • inquisitor

            This was handled quite well. Good job.

          • http://www.eyesonauthority.com/ Eyes On Authority

            Thank you.. you couldn’t tell it by my voice by my nerves still make me tremble when anything with a badge approaches.. even this one with no gun and the power of the “I am going to call you in”.. glorified security guard.

  • hal

    sounds like a plan, next time i see them in public down here in south fla. i will have to video and watch, if anything, happens. as i have said before, who the hell does this COP think he is! i would talk to his commander to find out what he was to say! now that should be interesting to say the least! wonder what this COPS answer to me telling him that he is a liar, and i tell him either stop or i will file charges! they have no legal right to tell me i am breaking the law when they in fact know that i am not! do they? lying is one thing, are they not suppose to be law enforcers? fact is: they cannot enforce something they do not know, can they? so when i say to this COP, your lying, there is no law/statute. what is he going to do then? arrest you for telling him he is a liar, and your aware of that fact? it is insane! [INQUISITOR-the photog may not have had a choice, he said he battery went out, didnt he?]

  • Boomer

    Meeks added a new phrase to my list of idiot cop remarks, such as “Here’s the deal”, and “Stop resisting”, and “You’re not allowed.” Thanks to Meeks I’m now adding “That doesn’t matter” to my ever growing list of poorly thought out remarks made by law enforcement.

    • discarted

      Don’t forget “Do me a favor.”

      This “favor” request tactic is used by police to get people to do things without actually giving the person a lawful or unlawful order. It’s a simple tactic to skirt actual law.

      Next time you encounter police, pay close attention to the language they use. If an officer says, “Do me a favor and move across the street or down the block.” Say, “Are you asking me to move, or are you giving me a lawful order to move.” And of course, make sure you’re recording the encounter so you can prove you were given an unlawful order if it comes to that.

    • free2film

      Or, my all time favorite,”Let me see your permit”.

      • Ian Battles

        My permit is the pocket constitution I carry around with a printout of the wiki page for “Mills v Alabama”, “Terry v Ohio”, and “Glik v Cunniffe”

        • urbusted

          And don’t forget that all time classic cop response “Rights don’t matter”.

    • Fotaugrafee

      This often reminds me of my own line of work, whereas a boss will “imply / suggest” you to do something, rather than order you to do something. Much the same, usually something he realizes is above his scope of duty, and illegal for such a request to be made.

      The sad part is, we’re not allowed to technically have even audio or video recording devices for such instances. If we do not follow an obvious implication, it doesn’t mean anything (although they can “say” they ordered us). However, if we were able to catch an order to do something illegal & turn it into the Feds, they’d have a field day with said management.

  • rick

    It must be entrapment if they bring inmates out into public where cameras are on every building corner and in every pocket.

  • Tijuana Joe

    What a scam. If you are booked, even if charges are dropped, your name goes on
    google images for the whole world to see. Mugshots.com etc. But if you
    photograph casualties of the Prison Industrial Complex, you are committing a crime??

    I call bullshit.

    PS Is this the same guy?
    Hillsborough Community College Ybor City Campus
    Criminal Justice Institute

    John Meeks,Director
    2112 North15thStreetTampa,Florida
    Email: jmeeks@hccfl.edu

    • http://www.eyesonauthority.com/ Eyes On Authority

      not sure I will look for him on facebook/twitter later.. still editing part 2 when the cops came.. don’t want 1000 people calling the wrong guy now.. please do research of some sort before making the wrong guy go nuts and sue me :).. criminal justice.. makes since.. id say he’s around 30-38.. depending..cj adds up but doesn’t seem like director material

      • Tijuana Joe

        There’s a PDF with his face on one website

        for that college…Bald, pale, looked like the same guy. Said he was a cop previously and works
        with probation, etc.

        So I posted info.

        • http://www.eyesonauthority.com/ Eyes On Authority

          its ok if its the right guy.. would rather the 1000 people call the highlands county sheriff and remind Sheriff Susan Benton I sent her a settlement/demand letter for one of her boys pulling me over for flipping them off… making my kids freak out about opening the windows during love bug season (they hate those things).. oh yea.. finger was out the window & above the car only after he slowed down and gave me a dirty look.. kids didn’t see my finger. they did hear his rudeness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEbhdemQgtY

          • Captain Quiznos

            Is this the guy?He oversees a variety of criminal justice training programs including law enforcement, corrections, probation, junvenile justice, security guard, private investigation, recovery agent, process server and bail bonds.

          • http://www.eyesonauthority.com/ Eyes On Authority

            99% no.. unless he got a tan and grew younger..plus he was way to dumb to have this guys sheet

          • http://www.eyesonauthority.com/ Eyes On Authority

            so if you can.. remove that guys info quick before he gets harassed.. I will try to find the right one tomorrow unless someone wants to try again

          • Tijuana Joe

            Why would he be harassed? It’s overwhelmingly clear it’s probably not the same guy. You must think readers of this blog are hair-trigger vigilantes or something.

          • http://www.eyesonauthority.com/ Eyes On Authority

            guessing you have not been a part of a call flood before… just trying to preemptively stop one on the wrong person… by all means occasionally the wrong person is harassed over something because someone on the internet posted the wrong information…

    • http://www.eyesonauthority.com/ Eyes On Authority

      no way to delete this comment? the new video has close ups with good clear cameras and its not the same guy.. as I said.. he was to dumb for this guys qualifications.

  • Voice_Of_Concern

    Umm.. what happened to the link for the inexpensive Veho Muvi that was posted?? I wanted to get some

  • Prisoner416

    That flashing introduction with no audio is annoying as hell. Also, wish he had stuck around and forced an incident.

  • Fotaugrafee


  • moon

    to me all the officer was doing was his job. maybe not intelligently but his job non the less. how does he know or not know that the person video tapping isn’t trying to plan an escape for one or more of those inmates. tell me something if he hadn’t done anything and there was an escape and a free world bystandered and suffered for it would the public be pissed he didn’t do anything. damned if you do damned if you don’t. he’s just keeping the institution the inmate and the public safe from said kinda of scenario. come on people wake up. and don’t give me that using inmates for slave work. they can refuse any time they want to. they volunteer for jobs like that. gets them off the unit with a but of fresh air. so lay off. makes me sick how little the public knows about corrections

    • Guest

      “makes me sick how little the public knows about corrections”

      It makes me sick how little law enforcement officers know about the laws and the Constitution that they swore an oath to support and uphold.

    • Boomer

      Moon, that’s so terribly sad, and a weak defense of this officer.

      He has one responsibility, to keep those inmates under his control. The video taping is not part of his job description. I know this, because he had to invent what his concerns were. If he had simply told Burns he was concerned and to please keep his distance from them, I don’t think we’d have even seen the video. It wouldn’t have been remarkable in any way.

      And yet, Meeks gave anyone who looked at that with an unbiased eye clear evidence that he was just giving Burns a bad time because he felt he could. He wouldn’t identify himself when asked to do so, even though the law requires that he give his name and badge number when ever asked for it. And as I noted before he was unwilling to even listen to a perfectly reasonable answer as to why Burns was filming them.

      In fact, Meeks went so far as to tell Burns “that don’t matter”, and, grammar aside, any time a law enforcement officer tells me the laws that protect me don’t matter, it causes me great alarm.

      I’m sorry you don’t see what the majority of us here see so clearly. Perhaps one day, you will. I pray that it doesn’t happen to you.

  • inquisitor
  • http://www.policemisconduct.net Film The Police Always

    Amazing how idiots like this guy feel they are so damn important that they want to CONTROL someone else. I really hate people sometimes. I don’t understand the thought process in humans sometimes when they are ignorant to a rule or law, but instead turn their belief into a law. I’m in a position (job) where I have amazing powers and responsibilities, but my power and control are completely in check and I respect my employees and treat EVERYBODY with the utmost respect. Jesus Christ, but will people PLEASE stop being a DICK!

  • EZ

    Under Florida Statute anyone who interferes with the good behavior of an inmate is guilty of a crime punishable under florida law. What this person was doing was purposely distracting the officer

  • ugh

    How is an inmate on a work party = Slavery? Pretty pathetic, but it fits your agenda right?