Fire Lt. Jim Holcombe the tyrant of Greer P.D. Should be fired.
“Your department should be aware of a 2012 Department of Justice memo setting forth
photographers’ rights to record police in both public and private settings. The memo was written to the Baltimore Police Department to guide BPD is developing and refining its policy about members of the public recording them and their activities. However, DOJ stated that its guidance applies to all police agencies in the United States because the issue is one constitutionally protected 1st amendment fundamental rights of the press.
It is very lengthy, so I won’t post the entire thing here. But, of note, and relevant to your recent unlawful arrest of a citizen recording your department and officers, DOJ states in the memo:
“However, an individual’s recording of police activity from a safe distance without any attendant action intended to obstruct the activity or threaten the safety of others does not amount to interference.”
I would suggest your department get hold of that memo and read it very carefully. The conduct of your officers, especially the corporal and more especially the LT. was a clear violation of the photographer’s fundamental, 1st Amendment right to record police activity in public.
Your LT’s conduct was most outrageous, as he used intimidation, physical aggression, threatening language…including putting the photographer in a cage…and ultimately physical violence and kidnapping (arrest) all because the photographer was engaged in the exercise of his fundamental rights.
The LT also falsely accused the photographer of committing an actual crime for merely walking around the building and in the parking lot and taking pictures. The LT’s accusation has no foundation in existing law. He merely used the line “In this day and age…” (obviously referring to post-9/11) as justification for his false assertion that the photographer, by the mere act of photographing the building and lot, was committing a crime. That is, the photographer’s mere exercise of his right of free speech was itself a crime.
Some commenters also say that they heard (around the 7:50 mark on the video) your officers possibly conspiring to either delete the photographer’s recording or to access it with a warrant. I only heard one officer say “I don’t know what’s on that phone” and another reply “I don’t think that is a good idea” and then talk about getting a warrant and downloading the entire phone contents. I didn’t hear the part about deleting the recording, but my hearing isn’t as good as it used to be.
In either case, the conduct and mindset of your officers is indeed troubling. Here you have a corporal and a LT falsely asserting that merely photographing in public, without indication of criminal activity or actual criminal conduct, is itself a crime (which was contradicted by the Sergeant, who should be praised for his honesty) and at least one officer who willing to unlawfully access the photographer’s camera, either to delete recordings of the officers’ actions or to seize its content. Again, there was one officer who had the integrity and ethics to reject that unlawful suggestion.
The video illuminates some very serious problems with at least some of your police officers. Officers who are willing to falsely accuse someone of a crime, falsely arrest that person, interfere with and chill the exercise of the right of free speech, punish the person who lawfully exercised that right, and then either expressed a desire to delete recordings in order to cover up their misconduct, or to access the contents of the camera without a warrant in violation of the 4th amendment protections enjoyed by the photographer.
Only the ethical and honest actions of one officer (probably the Sergeant) prevented the lawless, dishonorable one from carrying out his plan.
If your officers act as unprofessionally, lawlessly, and violently as they did, as captured in the video, one trembles to think what they will do when they think/know they are not being recorded.
I hope your department disciplines your wayward, abusive officers, such that they will get the message that they are never again to mistreat a member of the public engaged in a peaceful, lawful, constitutionally protected activity. I suggest that both the corporal and the LT, at a minimum, be demoted and be given a suspension. My preferred recommendation for the LT is that he be fired. His conduct was the most egregious.”
I found this comment on FB from Edmund Davis. I could not find any words from myself that could say it any better. My Davis I hope you don’t mind if I share your words with my reader. If you do please let me know and I will delete them.