from the the-First-Amendment-right-to-be-hassled-endlessly dept
The Department of Homeland Security apparently felt Gray was enough of a "threat" that it opened an investigation on him. After scrutinizing publicly-available information (like Gray's own YouTube account), it came to the conclusion that his activities were completely protected… it just didn't like the way he acted.
This subject is exercising his first amendment rights, however the manner in which he lures the officers in is concerning.Well, you can't be "lured" if you just respect citizens' rights -- rights that were recently upheld by a Supreme Court decision. Despite the DHS declaring Gray's actions perfectly fine, local law enforcement officers still took it upon themselves to send social services to his home (after being "tipped" that Gray owned guns) and interviewing his kids at school without his knowledge.
Now, Gray has obtained more information that shows law enforcement officers are still trying to find some way to shut down his protected activities.
After several years of auditing police departments across Florida to determine whether their officers uphold the First Amendment and the law of the land, Photography Is Not A Crime’s Jeff Gray has had his driver’s license and vehicle tag information searched by police well over 200 times.The number of agencies that have peeked at Gray's records is amazing. District attorneys' offices from two different districts have run his records and 100 officers spread across 28 agencies (including the state's Fish and Wildlife Dept.) have accessed his data, often multiple times.
Gray’s request for the record of who accessed his information on the state-operated Driver and Vehicle Information Database (DAVID) turned up police officer after police officer running Gray’s vehicle plate and driver’s license.
The documents also include a few redacted names, withheld using exemption 119.071(4)(c):
Any information revealing undercover personnel of any criminal justice agency is exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution.Apparently, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has manpower to burn, and can use undercover personnel to "investigate" First Amendment-protected activities.
Gray will probably be able to add the DEA to that list as well, after his most recent interaction, which occurred while filming the agency's offices in Jacksonville, FL. Four unnamed, unidentified DEA agents emerged from the building in hopes of getting Gray to stop, with one of them attempting to grab cameras from both Gray and his filming partner.
One of the DEA agents (along with a responding sheriff's officer) emerged with his phone up and in shooting position, the sort of childish reaction that's becoming more common. Officers should film interactions with citizens, but cameras shouldn't be deployed in hopes of cowing someone into shutting off their recording device. (Not to mention the fact that the sheriff's squad car should have had a dashcam rolling from the moment the officer pulled up.) Gray has seen this tactic often enough to good-naturedly suggest the officers move their phones to a horizontal position to get a better recording.
The number of times Gray's records were accessed shows that law enforcement officers are looking for anything they can to shut his activism down. While a number of the records requests were probably linked to officers running his info while interacting with him, there are way more hits to the database than can be explained away as adhering to data-access policies. Plus, there's little doubt that most law enforcement officers in the area are familiar with Gray and his activities at this point, making any running of his info completely extraneous.
And, as the sheriff in the latter video states, Gray's conduct is perfectly legal, so there's really no reason for officers to be interacting with him at all at this point. Photographing public buildings and figures may make those on the other side of the camera uncomfortable, but they're just going to have to learn to get over it. Running records requests over and over again is simply abusing a tool because you have access to it.