In a timely reminder of how some law enforcement officers still value their oath, a video shows a Sheriff’s Deputy respecting a man’s right to film in a public area after he had been detained by feds.
Following up on reports that people had been harassed and forced to delete their footage for recording near Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, Jeff Gray of Photography is Not a Crime traveled to the area to carry out a “First Amendment test” in order to gauge the response.
Within a few minutes of Gray beginning to film, Federal Protective Service officers arrive and accuse him of taking pictures of the gate to the base. The FPS officer ignores Gray when he asks if he is being detained and begins to speak into his radio before asking for backup from the Sheriff.
“He doesn’t seem to be very co-operative,” remarks the FPS officer as Gray begins to walk away, before the FPS officer states, “Yes, you’re being detained.”
“You’re being detained for taking pictures of the gate side,” states the officer.
When Gray asks for the officer’s name and badge number, he almost immediately decides to allow Gray to leave, but Gray continues to be followed by an FPS vehicle.
However, the situation changes when Gray is approached by Staff Sgt. Guthrie of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.
Gray states that he was taking pictures of an F-16 and that “they don’t like it very much.”
Guthrie’s response may surprise those who are used to seeing law enforcement officers show total disregard for First Amendment rights.
“They need to go back and read the Constitution, I believe,” the sergeant states.
“I’m not angry at you, I’m not upset at you, and you’re not doing anything illegal as far as I’m concerned.”
“They get a little excited, but as I said, you’re in a public access area.”
“You’re not violating any law, you’re not violating the Constitution.”
Guthrie is also accommodating when Gray refuses to state where he is from, although when Gray subsequently explains that he works to protect the First Amendment, Guthrie says, “I watch that stuff all the time on YouTube.”
Guthrie’s response is refreshing because it suggests that rather than inoculating everyone against being shocked by police brutality, the prevalence of police abuse videos on the Internet is actually serving to educate active police officers in understanding how important it is to uphold Constitutional rights.
Sgt. Guthrie then states that he believes all police officers should work to protect the First Amendment.
This story is similar in nature to that involving Deputy Sheriff Stan Lenic, the cop who stood up for the First Amendment by refusing to impede the free speech rights of activists at Albany International Airport who were handing out flyers informing travelers of their right to opt out of TSA body scans.