Florida Cops Harass Man for Video Recording Jail Before Pulling Him Over and Citing Him

Cops will always demand your identification, even when they have no reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime, but they really dislike providing you with their name and badge number.

However, there is no legal requirement for you to hand over your identification if they cannot articulate a specific crime they suspect you have committed.

And almost all law enforcement agencies have policies that require officers to identify themselves to citizens when asked.

Unfortunately, these realities are rarely played out on the streets when cops confront you for legally recording from a public sidewalk.

The latest example comes to us from Central Florida where Michael Burns stood outside the Polk County Detention Center video recording from a public sidewalk at around 5 a.m. earlier this week, only to be harassed by a group of detention officers, claiming he was somehow a safety threat.

When he started demanding their names and badge numbers, they huddled for a few seconds before one of them warned him against trespassing onto jail property, even though the area he was referring to was the visitor’s center, which is open to the public.

But the detention officer was not about to let this fact dissuade him from threatening Burns with arrest if he did step into that area.

Burns was careful not to step into the public area that was forbidden to him only and eventually a group of Bartow police officers arrived, claiming he was loitering and prowling and insisting he had stepped onto jail property, “based on testimony from official officers” – which we all know is about as credible as a sales pitch from a used car salesman.

Fortunately, Burns had four cameras recording, including one that was live streaming from his iPhone through the Bambuser app, so he already the evidence to shoot down any lying testimony from the detention officers.

But when Burns pointed this out to the officer, the cop still insisted he was being detained for “safety risks on the jail.”

When the cop demanded his identification, Burns responded by asking for his name and badge number.

The cop kept insisting he was being detained for loitering and prowling, a statute which reads pretty broadly in the state of Florida:

856.021 Loitering or prowling; penalty.—

(1) It is unlawful for any person to loiter or prowl in a place, at a time or in a manner not usual for law-abiding individuals, under circumstances that warrant a justifiable and reasonable alarm or immediate concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity.
(2) Among the circumstances which may be considered in determining whether such alarm or immediate concern is warranted is the fact that the person takes flight upon appearance of a law enforcement officer, refuses to identify himself or herself, or manifestly endeavors to conceal himself or herself or any object. Unless flight by the person or other circumstance makes it impracticable, a law enforcement officer shall, prior to any arrest for an offense under this section, afford the person an opportunity to dispel any alarm or immediate concern which would otherwise be warranted by requesting the person to identify himself or herself and explain his or her presence and conduct. No person shall be convicted of an offense under this section if the law enforcement officer did not comply with this procedure or if it appears at trial that the explanation given by the person is true and, if believed by the officer at the time, would have dispelled the alarm or immediate concern.
(3) Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

Note the “refuses to identify himself or herself” phrase in the law, which seemingly gives officers the right to use that as an excuse against citizens who refuse to identify themselves.

Eventually, a supervisor arrives and let’s him go without Burns having to identify himself, even going as far as identifying himself, which forces the other cops to do the same.

A solid victory for Burns, right?


The cops waited until he got into his car and began following him. When he noticed he was being followed, he pulled into a parking lot and turned on the video recorder on his iPhone, holding it up and pointing it behind him to capture the cop tailing him.

And that gave them the excuse to pull him over, claiming he was in violating the new law that forbids the use of wireless devices while driving.

However, the law requires them to pull you over for a primary traffic offense before they can cite you for the wireless devices violation.

Not to miss a beat, the cops accused him of careless driving, which on the surface would seem like a primary offense, except they describe the violation as “driving with one hand while using electronic device to film.”

Burns noticed the cop who pulled him over was typing on his dash-mounted laptop prior to turning on his emergency lights, so evidently, the law does not apply to them.

He plans on fighting the citation.

The top video is the shortened version of his experience, the bottom, the longer version.

Call the Bartow Police Department at (863) 534-5034.


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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  • California Camera Guy

    This BS has become so tiresome. I’m thinking it’s coming on time to stage a mass protest with hundreds of us video recording these thugs. I imagine they’ll lose their f*cking minds if they see themselves confronted with HUNDREDS of people video recording them!

    • Ian Battles

      “Everyone, put your phones in this Evidence sack or you’re all under arrest!”

      • $910553


      • Difdi

        My money would be on them feeling so threatened by the “mob” confronting them that they would have ‘no choice’ but to fire 3,209 rounds indiscriminately into the crowd.

  • BenjaminGeiger

    As a resident of Bartow… yep, business as usual.

    The sad part is that Bartow PD is orders of magnitude better than the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (thanks to our sheriff, Grady Ahmadinejudd).

    I wish I had known this was going to happen. I could have walked to the jail from my apartment.

    • pinbalwyz

      Yeah. I believe, given the photographer’s passionate but maladroit tendencies, he’s ill advised to walk into these confrontations without witnesses. The cameras, clearly, are not enough. They threatened him with arrest based on bogus claims. The supervisor knew they were lies or he WOULD have been arrested.
      – amicuscuria.com/wordpress-

  • alexanderrogge

    One thing that I learned is never to cooperate with “Do you have your ID?” when being questioned by anybody claiming to be law enforcement. Once you do, they can say that they’re going to “check you out” and after that they can put whatever they want about you in a secret record. Possession of a camera or walking near a power station suddenly becomes “acting in an anti-social manner” and then the report says that you were harassing a public official by trying to obtain pornographic photos or preparing to commit acts of terrorism. There is no accountability on their part, and you don’t even have to sign anything to suggest that this report has been filed against you. It’s then up to you to prove that the event never happened, and unfortunately some people are more likely to believe the secret record than you. So, I advise that you respond to “You got your ID?” with “No.” Make it harder for them to identify you, and make it so that they can’t say that you volunteered any information.

    In the old days, your local police knew everybody, and you probably knew them by name. Now there are large databases of your activities being collected by anonymous government employees, including all contact with the law, even if somebody is making up stuff. Just look at that person who was on a No Fly List because the FBI apparently marked the wrong box on the computer screen, and refused to admit the mistake because it would admit their own personal incompetence. Then the rest of the government comes out and tries to claim “national security” for not being able to reveal the reason for the placement on the secret list. No, it’s called “cover your ass” because they don’t want to admit that they’re incompetent.

    When going for a government security clearance, for example, “verification” of placement on a secret list could be enough to deny a clearance, regardless of the evidence that no arrest or crime occurred. The only way to fight it is to expose the lie publicly, but you need to appeal and may need to shoulder the cost of the legal fees. In the meantime, you can’t get the clearance, and may be denied new or continued employment with no recourse for the financial losses. I would go so far as to suggest removing all identifying papers from your person so that nothing short of an arrest and booking will reveal anything about you. Then you’ll be entitled to a lawyer, and there will be witnesses who can help you to expose the truth.

    • G

      There was an activist in Maryland who was critical of the Governor and then he was spied on by the state police on the orders of the Governor and his name was put in a database that was suppose to contain the names of the drug dealers so every time he got question by the cops, his name would be on that database. Last I heard he was sueing the governor and the state police superintendent. The state police did an internal investigations of the guy’s name being in the database; however, as usual it was a whitewash in that no one got punish.

      • Ian Battles

        but if you illegally added a COP’S name to a list like that, they’d be raiding your house and shooting your dog because “officer safety”.

    • stk33

      > “So, I advise that you respond to “You got your ID?” with “No.”

      And here’s what will be the result of this advise:


      “I need your id”

      “I don’t have to give you an id unless you are accusing me of a crime”

      “I’m investigating and by refusing to identify yourself you obstructing my investigation”


      (arrest, and, judging by abruptness of how the camera is turned off, a violent one)

      • $910553

        And Jonathan Corbett says “Nothing to see here, folks! Move along…”

      • pinbalwyz

        Like just WoW! Here, there’s nothing to suggest the photographer is a ‘suspicious’ person other than the cop’s imagination and him taking pictures from the sidewalk. The arrest was clearly retaliatory for the photographer insisting on his rights. The cop was full of himself but ignorant of the laws he’s charged with enforcing/respecting. The photographer DID err by allowing the cop to frisk him when he asked. Cops don’t ask for permission to frisk, the order you to assume the position to be frisked when they have a lawful right to do so under the rules of a ‘Terry’ stop.

        The reason LEO’s want a DOB is to profile and discriminate. They want your name to enter all of their pent up rage against you in their data base. Again, this photographer had no witnesses. The cameras help, but so do witnesses. They go together like ham & eggs.
        – amicuscuria.com/wordpress –

    • pinbalwyz

      Do NOT lie to a LEO, about not having ID when you do, or any other fact. It’s a crime. You can tell them you’re not required to answer or provide an ID when you haven’t been driving and are not reasonably suspected of an articulated offense. But lying to a public official can and will get you into trouble. When in doubt, say NOTHING! Yes, you can just stand/sit there and say nothing. Remaining silent is a 1st Amendment right as well as a 5th Amendment right. I’ve personally witnessed how saying NOTHING–even when you’re in custody, plays out in your favor once you’re in court before the judge. Silence cannot be interpreted, in law, as a refusal of anything. You can even remain mute before the court. Sometimes, keeping your mouth firmly shut is the best strategy of all.
      – amicuscuria.com/wordpress –

  • inquisitor

    Cops in Florida have threatened me with the prowling charge.
    And if they illegally detain me with that threat, then I do give my name and DOB verbally.
    Thus removing me from the possibility of having violated the statute.

    But if the officer-s do not give their name, badge-ID number and which department they work for, I then have to wonder if they are really cops.
    And could their not providing me that information when they illegally detain me now open up my options to not provide any verbal identification and leave.

    Sorry, whoever you are, but seeing how you have not identified yourself and refuse to identify yourself, I am suspicious that you may not be law enforcement or obfuscating your identity because you may be an officer but are acting outside the law and the scope of your authority.
    Therefore, I consider this an illegal detention, perhaps a frame-up and a kidnapping and would like to be free to leave or to file a police report for criminal charges against you.

    …of course no matter how right you are this is the point where they taze you to the ground and sodomize you with their police baton…sideways.

    • pinbalwyz

      It sounds very much like Florida’s ‘prowling’ statute is unconstitutionally vague, or just outright unconstitutional as it does not adequately define what behaviors an ordinary citizen would know is a violation. It substitutes weasel words and phrases for unambiguous ones. What is a ‘normal’ person? When would a ‘normal’ person decide to take a morning/evening stroll or take night photography shots? The statute reeks of inviting arbitrary bias and discrimination. It makes a mockery of our liberties.
      – amicuscuria.com/wordpress –

  • Frost

    I’m amazed at how they all refused to identify themselves. I can’t wait to see if the incident reports match the video.


    Make sure to post this to their facebook page!

    • inquisitor

      And the police officer stated that the jail guards told him the photog had entered the facility. The photog denies this and states the officers are lying.
      That is a crime.

      This can be verified not conclusively by the photog’s footage as he could edit that at any time, but surely the security cameras outside and inside the jail facility itself would be the irrefutable proof.
      I would get that footage should things need to progress in a legal manner for giving false testimony to a police officer or filing a false police report.

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

        I will be going to public records tomorrow or the next day and requesting the footage from the outside gates. I also have one camera that was rolling the entire time up until the police arrived, that, while time-stamp date/time is off.. it has a continuous counter on it that will come in handy if they attempt to stick with that story and the jail footage is unavailable. I debated on going down to the visitor section a few times just to get photos from a different area but never went off the sidewalk… After reading this : 316.305Wireless communications devices; prohibition.—(1)This section may be cited as the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law.”
        (2)It is the intent of the Legislature to:
        (a)Improve roadway safety for all vehicle operators, vehicle passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other road users.
        (b)Prevent crashes related to the act of text messaging while driving a motor vehicle.
        (c)Reduce injuries, deaths, property damage, health care costs, health insurance rates, and automobile insurance rates related to motor vehicle crashes.
        (d)Authorize law enforcement officers to stop motor vehicles and issue citations as a secondary offense to persons who are texting while driving.
        (3)(a)A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data 1on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging. As used in this section, the term “wireless communications device” means any handheld device used or capable of being used in a handheld manner, that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or any communications service as defined in s. 812.15 and that allows text communications. For the purposes of this paragraph, a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibition in this paragraph.
        (b)Paragraph (a) does not apply to a motor vehicle operator who is:
        1.Performing official duties as an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle as defined in s. 322.01, a law enforcement or fire service professional, or an emergency medical services professional.
        2.Reporting an emergency or criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities.
        3.Receiving messages that are:
        a.Related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle;
        b.Safety-related information, including emergency, traffic, or weather alerts;
        c.Data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or
        d.Radio broadcasts.
        4.Using a device or system for navigation purposes.
        5.Conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require manual entry of multiple letters, numbers, or symbols, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function.
        6.Conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require reading text messages, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function.
        7.Operating an autonomous vehicle, as defined in s. 316.003, in autonomous mode.
        (c)Only in the event of a crash resulting in death or personal injury, a user’s billing records for a wireless communications device or the testimony of or written statements from appropriate authorities receiving such messages may be admissible as evidence in any proceeding to determine whether a violation of paragraph (a) has been committed.
        (4)(a)Any person who violates paragraph (3)(a) commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.
        (b)Any person who commits a second or subsequent violation of paragraph (3)(a) within 5 years after the date of a prior conviction for a violation of paragraph (3)(a) commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.
        (5)Enforcement of this section by state or local law enforcement agencies must be accomplished only as a secondary action when an operator of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of another provision of this chapter, chapter 320, or chapter 322.

        I am convinced the entire stop/running of my license & further detention was unlawful… not to mention the stalking & lies about me entering the property…
        so suck it Bartow Police Department drop the ticket & I am still suing.. You may want to settle…

        • pinbalwyz

          Hi 5’s to you for Suing The Bastards! We need 10,000 more just like you.
          – amicuscuria.com/wordpress –

      • pete

        The original video can be reviewed frame by frame to determine if there was an interruption. So, actually, the video can be proof if he stayed on the sidewalk the entire time assuming he did so. Which it seems that is the case. It is beyond obvious that the cops harassed him and made crap up because they didn’t like him exercising his first amendment right. I’m glad he is going to get the surveillance video. But we all know that with all of the terrorist bombs blowing up across Amurika of late, it’s really important the police stop every suspicious person. Because, you can never be to sure if Granny is really packing a suitcase nuke. When will these baboons realize to just ignore those with cameras. But I guess you just can’t cure bullies from bullying.

  • Brandon Vreeland

    Was that cop drunk? He was slurring his words a lot, or he is just borderline retarded? Is it just me or did his speech sound not normal?

  • jwalsh

    Left a VM for the Police Chief….fill up his VM box tonight!

  • inquisitor

    You are standing before a judge in shackles and having a legit conversation with the judge about your case.
    During the conversation, and for no apparent reason, you now feel someone’s hand grab or poke you from behind in the back.
    You naturally, while being interrupted during your dialogue with the judge, look back to see who is touching you and what is going on.

    And this is the result…



    • IcedTeaParty

      The cop says “you don’t turn on me!”

      He’s going to be in for a big surprise.

  • OhSnapDJB

    I’m all for filming the cops. but I think that a person should do it in when they’re vulnerable and not able to use certain laws against u. filming a jail (especially at night) will give the cops ammunition against u.

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

      so the whole “night scene” function on my camera is the problem.. they want me to go to jail. I am a night person & have been since I was 15.. Worked the 11p-7a or 7p-7a all my life. I don’t think taking a picture at night is ammunition against me.. maybe if you consider “blanks” as ammunition but blanks cannot actually hurt me. They can come & ask what I am doing & when I say taking pictures & and already knew that because the approach me after seeing a flash.. what is the deal?? I took quite a few nice pictures prior to being harassed including the jail, police station, fire house, court house & a few memorials that were in the area. & go figure.. they were all lit up with tax-payer money just begging for someone to come by an admire them past closing time.

    • Guest

      I didn’t know the constitution was suspended at right. Perhaps you can refer me to that article….

    • pete

      I didn’t know the constitution was suspended at night. The only relevant question is, “is it legal”? If it is, leave him alone. But bullies can’t stop being bullies because it’s in their DNA.

    • pinbalwyz

      Not really. The Constitution is applicable 24/7.
      – amicuscuria.com/wordpress –

    • OhSnapDJB

      I see a few of you MORONS don’t get what I wrote. Go ahead, keep giving the cops ammunition against you. God forbid that you retards research any LOCAL laws or City Ordinances. The Constitution will not help you all the time!

  • Ian Battles

    “Sir, if you refuse to identify yourself, I shall assume you are an impersonator. Your department policy states you MUST identify yourself to a citizen. Since you refuse, I suspect you are not real law enforcement.”

  • JdL

    The incredible, overwhelming cowardice of cops never ceases to amaze me. They’re standing there with guns, tasers, radios, and God knows what other high tech toys, and they’re too frightened to give their NAMES. Pathetic beyond belief!

  • pinbalwyz

    The photographer’s passion for his goal was admirable but his handling of the police was maladroit and provocative. Calling them ‘pussy’ and making other obnoxious remarks looked like he was taunting them. For that reason, while I agree with his exercise of 1st Amendment rights, I don’t believe posting his video/story makes the best argument for what’s at issue. I hope he can avoid arrest long enough in the future to evolve into a more effective advocate for our Constitutional rights. Kudos, however, to Carlos for posting this. I did find it interesting–just not up to my caliber of being a slam dunk.
    – amicuscuria.com/wordpress –