As you read and saw in my last installment, I am becoming reacquainted with my rights. The Bill of Rights set forth and passed down by our forefathers. Fought for, protected and secured by many military veterans. I was one of them. Having served in the Navy, I was proud to help defend our nation and its Constitution. Ultimately, I only gave four years of my life, but some before me donated more. A lot more.
Thousands of veterans made the ultimate sacrifice, of giving up their lives, to ensure I have these rights. It is to those individuals that we owe it to remember, protect, and use what they died for.
It is one thing to know our rights; however, what good are they if we don’t use them? So that is exactly what I did. I went out and exercised my first amendment right to free press. Mainly photography in public. According to the Supreme Court, I can take photos, videos, and even audio recordings of anyone or anything I so, please. As long as I am out in public, while standing on public land. No permission needed. None.
Right to privacy? Not in public. One cannot assume privacy in public. Only in your home. I can come and take all the pictures I want of your home as long as I am on a public sidewalk. I can’t photograph you inside your dwelling, but once you come outside, you are fair game. Not one single person or thing is off limits. Civilians, military, and even our city, state, and federal officials are allowed to be photographed. Especially our public officials. This all has to be in public though and I can’t stress that enough.
Just look at how the paparazzi do it. They are masters at utilizing the free press part of our 1st amendment. Most dislike their tactics, but they have a Constitutionally protected right as a shield of armor.
I now wear this same armor and I am using it to honor those who died. To ensure their death, was not, and will not be in vain.
The McConnell AFB video of my 1st amendment audit was not my first excursion. I first tested the Wichita police department by videotaping a simple traffic stop. I had heard the unmistakable sound of someone being pulled over while in my living room. I grabbed my camera, went outside, and walked over to the side street where the cops had a vehicle parked next to the curb. I stayed on the sidewalk while hitting ‘record’ on the video part of my camera. Yes, I have a camera that can take pictures as well as video.
The traffic stop was uneventful, but one of the policemen did come out and stand by his cruiser. All he did was stare at me while keeping a close hand on his weapon. The ticket was issued, and the violator drove away. The cop got back into the vehicle where his partner was and that was it. Neither one of them came over or made any kind of contact. They just let me film. Wow. I really did not expect that. I thought for sure they would come over and at least ask what I was doing. Even though it was very evident that all I was doing was just standing there holding a camera. I stopped recording shortly after and left.
Wanting to see how the Wichita police would really respond to a ‘person taking pictures’ call, I went to a place I was sure would allow me to have some contact. An abortion clinic. It just so happens that I live near one, so I went to video their building. I always start out simulating taking video. My camera that I use has only 29 minutes of video capability and I didn’t want to hit record until an officer rolled up. I situated myself in front of the abortion clinic on public land and walked up and down the sidewalk holding my camera in front of me.
For nearly twenty minutes I paced in front of that building. I stopped, I panned, I did everything a person would do who was really videoing. Except I wasn’t. Hell, I could have won an acting award. I was that convincing. No one approached me at all to ask what I was doing. So I got bored and left the scene. I did not get far, though.
Having walked to the clinic I was taking the same route back which was alongside a creek. I was probably two blocks away in a little field within a cul-de-sac street right next to the creek I was traversing. Here they come. A Wichita police car drove up and pulled over. I was maybe seventy feet from him, so I stopped. He got out and motioned for me to come over. I pointed to my pocket and slowly took out my little Nikon ‘Coolpix’ camera with video features and readied it to record.
As I approached the officer I informed him that I will be video & audio recording this encounter. He nodded his head in acknowledgment. That is where the video starts.
Let me tell you that in any encounter with law enforcement the first mission of theirs is to ID you. First and foremost. However, I have learned that unless you have committed, are committing, or about to commit, a crime it is unlawful for them to ask for ID. Well, they can ask all they want. My point is you are not obligated to show ID unless the officer can articulate that some crime has occurred.
I first ask him for his name and badge number. I am not obligated to reveal my name yet, but he is. By policy. And he does. Soon another officer rolls up dressed in a tactical jacket and wearing glasses with a nice little camera on the side by the lens. I asked for his name and badge number and from there it was a task of what can we find to use as an excuse to ID him. The sergeant sent the other officer back to the clinic to review footage from the security cameras to see if I had strayed off public land. I knew that they were going to try and trespass me somehow.
I knew for a fact that I did not step one foot off the sidewalk in front of the clinic, so I knew I was safe there. What ends up happening while the patrol officer was gone trying to see if any infraction occurred was an illegal detention. Plain and simple. They responded to a report of someone taking pictures. Last, I checked, photography is not a crime. Therefore, keeping me there while investigating a non-crime was unlawful.
It was hot that day and all that time passed by my mouth became very dry. You can see in the video where I ask the officer if he had any bottled water. I mean, I was ready to go over to the creek and take a sip that’s how dry my mouth was. I never did get any water that day from the Wichita PD.
The other officer returned and indicated to the sergeant ‘he’s good’ which forced me to finally say, “Am I being detained any longer, am I free to go?”. It was the bullet-proof vested patrolman who did the nod yes. I turned and left, but for the life of me, I don’t know why I turned and said, ‘thank you, you did a good job’ or something like that. Yea, good job of unlawful detainment. I really think that sergeant wanted to get me on something. Anything. He wanted to ID me something awful. Which they never accomplished by the way.
So, in that regard, I was successful, but I did talk too much, and I allowed myself to be illegally held. Here is an irritating footnote. A couple of weeks later I attended a block party picnic where who do I see? The very same Sergeant from my video. “Sergeant!”, I exclaimed. He patrols in my neighborhood and the event coordinators asked that the officers stop by to say hello and what not. I went over to shake his hand and as we embraced our grips he was snapping his fingers trying to think of, and he did. My name. “Mr. Payne, Jeffery Payne. How are you.” He matter of factly stated.
The WPD went and took my image from the clinic security cam footage or their own and ID’d me. They just couldn’t stand it. I was sort of shocked, but not really surprised. On the record, I do not hate law enforcement in any way. I respect the hell out of the ones who abide by their oath to uphold the Constitution. Those who attempt or do violate my rights and the ones who watch them and not report it do not have my respect.
Hopefully, my audits will teach them the right way to treat civilians. Citizens. Americans.
Look for more audit videos coming soon.
Blogger, Videographer, Activist