March 13th, 2013

Miami Beach Police Internal Affairs Contacts Me About Stupid Cop Statements Caught on Video 23

By Carlos Miller

 

Just over a month ago, public records activists Joel and Robert Chandler drove down to Miami to test out local government agencies’ knowledge of public records laws.

As I did in November, I tagged along with my video camera to document the exchanges.

And as expected, at least one agency had an issue with my camera – the Miami Beach Police Department, specifically Major Angel Vazquez.

Vazquez, who is considered to be the department’s second-in-command under Chief Raymond Martinez, claimed that he was unable to meet our request because of my camera.

He claimed that I was somehow disrupting “a private business” in a “private building.”

And he claimed that he could only meet the Chandlers’ request in his “private office” without my camera recording the exchange.

It was really a stupid thing to say, but we all know that police say the darndest things on camera.

I didn’t take too much offense to it because he never threatened to arrest me nor did he attempt to confiscate my camera.

But I did post a comment on Facebook about it that day along with the photo below, promising to post within the next few days the video showing Vazquez’s lame excuses to not abide by the Chandler’s public records request.

In fairness, it wasn’t a typical request because Joel wanted to inspect a historical ledger that was inside a glass case in the lobby of the police department.  Not your everyday request.

But a high-ranking cop in one of the most high-profile police departments in the country should have handled the situation better than to order the camera shut off in the name of private enterprise.

I never got around to editing the video that week because my desktop computer is dying a slow death with frequent crashes and stifling lag times, especially with Final Cut Pro, the program I use to edit video (the dying computer is one reason why I put out a call for donations last month because I really don’t know how long this computer is going to last).

But a Miami Beach activist whom I’ve known for a few years saw my comment on Facebook and became very interested in seeing the video.

Peter Graves-Goodman sent me numerous emails over the next several weeks inquiring about the video, wondering when I was going to post it. I kept telling him I would eventually get around to posting it, but every time I tried to edit it, my computer would freeze up on me, forcing me to turn it off and back on again.

Graves-Goodman finally contacted Miami Beach police internal affairs who sent me an email last Friday inquiring about the video and then called me on Monday when I did not respond to that email.

I’ve never been a big believer in internal affairs because it is essentially police investigating police, so it’s nearly impossible for them to ever find wrongdoing against another officer.

And even in such a rare case when they find an officer in violation of a policy – as they did to Vazquez last year – the punishment usually ends up being a slap on the wrist.

According to the Miami Herald:

Miami Beach police closed a controversial and politically charged internal affairs probe Monday and ruled that a major tried to influence a drunk-driving case against an ex-wife’s brother.

Prosecutors declined to charge Maj. Angel Vazquez criminally with witness-tampering, Deputy Chief Mark Overton told The Miami Herald. But the department has recommended that Vazquez receive a letter of reprimand after he admitted to approaching the officer who arrested his former brother-in-law before a hearing on the case.

Officer Steven Cosner told internal affairs that Vazquez found him at the Richard E. Gerstein Courthouse before an October 2010 hearing and wanted him to change his testimony to help quash a case against Jason McFarland, whom Cosner arrested for DUI in Miami Beach in March of that year.

“The way it felt from, from where I was sitting was he, he was basically asking me to lie to the state attorney,” Cosner said.

I didn’t even bother filing an internal affairs complaint against Miami Beach police officer David Socarras after he arrested me in 2009 for photographing him against his wishes because I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere.

 

 

Nevertheless, I told Miami Beach Police Captain Gary Shimminger that I would edit the video, post it on my blog and send it to him.

He tried to convince me to send him the video without posting it online so it wouldn’t hinder the investigation, but there is really not much to investigate. The video speaks for itself.

Anything that is not addressed in this video is addressed in this post or at least in my phone conversation with Shimminger this week.

He said that if I don’t file a formal complaint, then they have nothing to investigate. I said fine, refusing to go though a bureaucratic formality when the evidence is on this blog.

The Chandlers, on the other hand, are more than welcome to file a complaint.

But I suspect they will be filing a lawsuit over having their public records request denied.

 


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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1136460199 Brett Schnaper

    Why does he hold a public office paid by tax dollars if he’s so shy?

  • FTP

    Vazquez is a criminal. He should not be in that position. Carlos you need to file a complaint. It only supports your harassment claims against the city, and that’s why they mess with you.

  • http://profiles.google.com/markkalan Mark Kalan

    OK Carlos, I get your point about wasting time with Internal Affairs. I would recommend that you file complaints and go through the process even if its just for giggles. You may win in the end. You may learn that a majority of cops are NOT assholes. Eventually you may get paid to train cops on how to interact with photographers. If you play within the rules of the system and utilize the system then “they” have no reason to disrespect you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gregg-Jones/527975393 Gregg Jones

      I agree. It’s at least worth a shot to file a formal complaint. Every time I get mugged, I always go through the small bit of trouble to file a formal complaint with the mugger’s friends co-muggers, just on the oft chance that something gets done.

    • Mario Aranda

      You have your stats wrong. A majority of cops are assholes. A minority are not. The reason I say that is because if you defend the asshole behind the blue wall, you are just as guilty as he. Aiding and abetting… Step out from behind the blue wall and call a spade a spade. Until the minority of Leos get a backbone and stop all the majority assholes, they remain just as guilty.

  • steveo

    Miami Beach PD was one of the PD’s (Boston, Philly and Baltimore the others) that came up with a written set of guidelines, assisted by Mickey O, on how officers are to deal with citizen videographers. This was done to ward off action by the ACLU and others in suing the dept over the citizen (Narces Benoit) who videotaped an OIS,in June 2011. The citizen was sitting in a car recording the battle and another officer came at him, pointing a gun and telling him to hand over the camera and I think the words are ” I’m going to blow your head off if you don’t give me the camera”, something like that. His date was in the car and she told CNN that”They took everyone’s phones and smashed them,” she said. The videographer somehow got the memory card out and swallowed it, so that he had a record of what transpired.

    The IAD is probably more interested in finding out if the videographer (Carlos) was molested in any way because they are probably pretty sensitive to that, the public records request, they probably couldn’t give a crap about. The same way most PD’s handle public records requests and defense attorneys demanding discovery basically FU.

    Why do PD’s treat the public records law like this, “Why does a dog lick his crotch region?” Because he can.

  • steveo

    It’s also pretty typical for a higher ranking PD officer, even the PIO, to refuse to go on camera even with established news outlets. They’ll make some kind of canned statement about the OIS or whatever is garnaring the media’s attention, but without going on camera. Why?
    don’t ask me, seems like they just perpetuate the belief that the PD is set apart from the public and it’s an us against you or you against us relationship.

  • Publius Federali

    That cop is so dumb and poorly trained that he can’t even understand the difference between private and public property. But I promise you that he can recite every single traffic code violation by heart. Caps are such fools, most of them are too dumb to realize they are nothing but the Brown Shirts and tax collectors for their masters, and the rest of them revel in intimidating and beating those they view as their subjects.

    There is no such thing as a good cop who is on the force. If good cops existed there could not be the level of bad cops that we see, since those good cops would report on them. Silence in the face of unconstitutional behavior is guilt. Chris Dohrner shows us what happens to an honest cop, the rest of the goons gang up on him and destroy his life.

    • Tijuana Joe

      Think about the arrogance of saying it’s “private.” The dick thinks it’s his own private villa.

      • matism

        Well actually, from the way this country’s “Legal” system works, it is indeed his own private villa.

  • highsider

    This might be a good resource for your readers, http://www.justice.gov/oip/foia-guide.html

  • Name

    Come on Carlos. Get your shit together man. Not filing complaints? Slow to upload your videos? Making excuses? You are better than this. Skewer these SOB’s.

  • rick

    The question is, after informing them, did you record your conversation with the IA?

  • pcman312

    With regards to your computer dying, if it’s dying every time you use final cut pro or any other “large” application, it could be an issue with your RAM in the machine. You may want to look into diagnostics tools/services for that. If this is the case, there’s a good chance you won’t have to replace the entire computer, but just replace some easily-changeable parts.

    • Carlos_Miller

      It’s the whole computer but since I wrote this, I’ve been in contact with a reader who is trying to help me figure out the problem, so I’m taking the necessary steps now.

  • Joshua B.

    Carlos, after police encounters like the one with Socarras you should be filing the Internal Affairs complaints regardless of what result you expect. There is no downside to doing this, as it enables you to make a record of having attempted to use the established administrative remedy, as well as the futility of that process. Of course Section 1983 does not require you to exhaust state remedies, but a guy who follows the rules to the letter looks more sympathetic to a federal jury :)

  • Lefim

    I think what Vazquez was untactfully trying to say is that a police headquarters is a nonpublic forum which the government uses to conduct its official business and can be closed to free speech and expression or be highly regulated as long as the regulation is reasonable and viewpoint neutral (but doesn’t have to be subject matter neutral). “The State, no less than a private owner of property, has power to preserve the property under its control for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated.” (Adderley v. Florida, 385 U.S. 39 (1966)).

    A more artful reply would be to offer checking the department’s policy regarding photography on its property and get back to Chandler about it and what he needs to do to gain permission if permited under certain conditions. Or check for signs around the door saying photography is verboten. I see them all the time at the nearby Social Security Administration office.

    Or ask to see the historical ledger with cameras off and packed in belt cases (assuming they’re about the same size as my JVC Everio) and request stock photos of it if not on the ‘net already.

  • Joan Erhardt

    You’re right, Photography is not a crime. However, your public records request expert must not be familiar with Florida Statute 119.071 wherein it states (a) All criminal intelligence and criminal investigative information received by a criminal justice agency prior to January 25, 1979, is exempt from Florida Statute 119.07(1) and Section 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution. I think an arrest ledger from 1927 qualifies under that Statute. Maybe Laurel and Hardy should try going to Washington, D.C. and getting the Declaration of Independence removed from its case and copied! I wish them the best of luck!

    • ExCop-LawStudent

      A property ledger showing arrestee’s possession is neither criminal intelligence nor criminal investigative information.

  • That Guy

    If you ever talk to a defense attorney about this, they will tell you one thing for sure: file the complaint. It doesn’t matter that the complaint will never get acted on internally (well, it matters, but you get my drift), because all of those complaints go on the record. Permanently. If that officer is ever testifying in court for any reason, a good defense attorney will have pulled their entire record. A long history of complaints can be an indication to a jury that a particular officer may be a problem officer, or less than trustworthy.

    ALWAYS file the complaint. Internal affairs might do nothing with it, but years later when some poor schmuck is on trial after that same officer beats them down for daring to use a camera, that history can return to bite the officer in the ass.

  • greg

    The posters below make a great case for the Internal Affairs report. But, you must also report it to the FBI. Pointless as well? No, they’re preparing to investigate the Cleveland Police.

  • Robert North

    Carlos, relative to your computer, whatever you do back all your files and programs up ASAP. I had a similar problem with constant freezing issues, and ultimately had a full blown hard drive crash. Not absolutely sure what caused it, but when I opened up the case, huge amounts of dust had accumulated. You might want to clean out the inside of the computer and proactively replace the hard drive.

  • Carlos_Miller

    The only reason I was even contacted by internal affairs is because Peter Graves-Goodman has some personal beef with Major Angel Vazquez, so he was trying to use me to fight his battle.

    Fuck that. I choose my own battles to fight and this was way too petty for me.

    The major never threatened me, nor touched me nor ordered me off the property.

    He just said something very stupid and walked away. He is not under any obligation to talk to me on camera. He just has to respect my right to record, which he did after saying those stupid statements.

    Filing an internal affairs complaint would only further infuriate the cops in this county, who already hate my guts. But it wouldn’t result in any disciplinary action against the major.

    So why should I waste my time? To satisfy Peter Graves-Goodman?

    Screw that. I fight my own battles and he can fight his battles.

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