It’s become quite prevalent on the internet lately – people with cell phone cameras confronting police or military personnel outside government installations, for no other apparent reason than to get a rise out of them.
One of the more recent instances occurred back on August 26, when a man standing in a Tampa park started videotaping MacDill AFB. Someone at the base reportedly contacted the Tampa Police Department to have an officer come and check out the situation.
That’s when things got out of hand. The man behind the camera gets into a heated argument with the officer. They both start to hurl insults at one another.
The question the camera holders always seem to ask is: “Am I being detained or am I free to go?” Their argument: It’s certainly not illegal to videotape a government installation.
In this case the officer says, “You’re definitely being detained.”
“What law did I break,” the man asks.
The officer demands to know why the man is there filming a military installation. They go back and forth for a while repeating the same phrases: “Why can’t I?” and “Why are you?”
Attorney Luke Lirot told News Channel 8, it is not illegal to videotape a military base. “I think from a general analysis, videotaping any government installation, any government person would be protected by the first amendment,” he said.
More and more people seem to be targeting military bases and police barracks, to film these so-called “First Amendment Audits.”
Police department spokesperson Steve Hegarty stated,” It has become more frequent because … it’s easier than ever to capture anything on video, and that video has a life on YouTube and it captures interest among TV reporters.”
And apparently these people have a right to test the officers’ restraint and their knowledge of the Constitution.
Lirot said, if the officer was called out there by MacDill…. “I mean he’s responding to a call from a third party, another government agency. I think he behaved properly, there was no arrest made, there was no physical restraint, there was never any kind of physical contact.”
The big question that many are asking now is whether the actions of these individuals, who are filming, are considered baiting. It’s one thing to exercise your rights, but when you’re getting in the way just for the sake of recording a confrontation – one might think there should be some repercussions.
However, in this incident with the Tampa police officer, officials determined at the end of the video that the man did not violate any laws.
Another question authorities are trying to answer now: was the man illegally detained or not. He apparently did not file a complaint with TPD. Tampa’s police chief has initiated an internal affairs investigation into the matter.