Dallas Deputy hates having his photo taken by Barking Dog, lets loose a big pile of crap and intimidation (w/video!)

Last October, the Dallas Sheriff's Office (DSO) and Dallas Police Department co-hosted the largest ever held The Right To Photograph and Record in Public program for law enforcement, taught by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA). Nearly 130 officers from North Texas, and as far away as Pasadena TX, spent four hours learning about the legal grounds and decisions in support of this simple concept, which has seen an expensive learning curve for police departments all across the country (usually costing millions of dollars in legal settlements in favor of the photographers who get pushed around.).

The event was organized by BarkingDog's real persona, Avi S. Adelman, who was a photographer before he was a dog on Lowest Greenville. Avi is a member of the NPPA, and he coordinated the event from Day One (way before the Ferguson riots and media beat-down by local police ever happened) - set up the co-hosting, the class location, local sponsors, and he even delivered the coffee and donuts.

After his confrontation with DART Police at a train/car wreck (they were not happy about his taking photographs of the wreck and refusing to stay in the media pit like all the other media) back in March, BD realized the 'right to photograph in public' issue was going to cause some major tension in Dallas, so he organized the NPPA event.

In addition to hosting the event, the DSO offered its Training Academy facilities at the Bill J. Priest Institute (part of Dallas County Community College District) to hold the event. Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez made some opening remarks, telling the guests how important this program is not only to the public but to officers on the street. She later stated that her department was working on guidelines, as is the Dallas Police Department. Recent events in Ferguson, where the media were attacked by the police on a nightly basis, have only accelerated this discussion. A large number of the attendees were from the Dallas Police Department and the Dallas Sheriff's Office.

DPD is way ahead of the curve when it comes to working with the public and media - their social media and news media relations activities are recognized as some of the best in the country. Their staff has been regularly quoted by such writers as Radley Balko (Washington Post). Except for some minor bumps, your correspondent cannot put his finger on too many issues regarding DPD and the public taking pictures. (DART is a whole 'nother story, and they did not send any officers to the NPPA class.)

BD can summarize The Right To Photograph and Record in Public as follows...

Ignore the photographer, as long as he is not inside the crime scene, and is not physically interfering with the work of the officers. Taking photographs does NOT constitute interference.

You can read a long list of legal documents, as well as general orders and policies regarding photography in public from police departments across the country by clicking here.

Sheriff Valdez promised a fair and impartial review of the incident, but really, why did it even happen at all? After he calmed down, BD emailed her...

I have called the Internal Affairs number and will fax (the complaint) to that office today. I am really disappointed by this terse reply. Not even a hint of concern, or statement that this kind of behavior is not acceptable. A little empathy never hurt.

Her reply to BD

I am sorry that you feel that way. But I also know that you would be seeking fairness more than sympathy. I do care about both sides, but am not at liberty to show favor either way. I would hope that you would want someone to be fair all the way around and not just seeking favor from the sheriff. That is why, as cruel as you may think it is, we can only refer you to internal affairs. Please do so in order that we can look at it.

BD was seeking empathy, not a favor. If we sought a favor, we would have asked for the SOB to be fired and tossed into the Trinity River on Christmas Eve from the height of Santa's sled. Even BD's junk mail filter blew the whistle on this message.

When BD called Internal Affairs on Wednesday to verify the filing procedure, he was told (not a direct quote, but add a New York accent for real effect).

You have a problem with an officer shining his flashlight into your camera, taking down the information from your work vehicle or following your car as you drive home? How can you have a problem? I don't have any problem with that at all.

We can only hope this poor soul was overdosing eggnog at the office party when BD called him.

There might be a problem however, according to DSO's (acting) Public Information Officer Raul Reyna. In an email Thursday night, BD asked Reyna

...for the current timeframe, does the department have any policy which would tell officers they can or cannot shine their flashlights into a camera in order to prevent the taking of photographs??? What are officers told about how to handle people taking photographs at an incident, such as this one?

His reply

It will probably be Monday before I can get answers about our policy on recordings since the county is off on Christmas holiday. I can tell you that the public has a right to photograph or video as long as they don't interfere with a crime scene, police officer's duties or or if in anyway the person's conduct may contaminate a crime scene or disrupt evidence gathering at the scene. Also, if someone is on private property and the owner of the property has asked that person off their property. I'll check to see if we have the policy in writing.

A sidebar about the PIO Reyna's comments. He told JD Miles, CBS11's reporter on this story, two really really big whoppers:

Whopper #1 - The Dallas Morning News (gasp!) had this story and was going to run it in the Saturday edition. Hmmm, don't you think the guy leading the charge on this issue (me) would have already been interviewed about the issue??

Hmmm, don't you think the guy leading the charge on this issue (BD) would have already been interviewed about the issue?? That's not to say the DMN won't run a story of some kind (it's not online yet). It would not be the last time some reporter would pull one of his own whoppers out of his -- keyboard -- and do a story that is so one-sided and biased that anyone would read it and not think it's gospel truth.

Whopper #2 - The Ross Liquor people complained to DSO Billy Hamilton, Badge #792 that I was causing problems on their parking lot (which was blocked up by the DSO vehicles).

Really?? What bottle of beer did that come from?? Yes, the owners of the liquor store did ask BD to step off their property, and yes, he politely did. Nothing wrong there. DSO Billy Hamilton, Badge #792 entered the liquor store a little while after that conversation and apologized for blocking up their parking, that it was going to a little while longer to settle what he described as a high-risk situation. Even under those circumstances, there's a big difference between being told to leave a five-space parking lot and being ordered to 'keep walking' down the street by a DSO officer with a grudge and flashlight shining into your camera. In fact, except for the 'keep walking' comment (see first video), BD did not have a direct conversation with any of the DSO officers on the scene.

Go ahead, Mr. Reyna, reach back under your 'car seat' and pull another lie out of your butt right now! I will bring the camera.

Despite the prejudicial comments of the Internal Affairs officer, BD faxed his complaint over the holiday, and will sign it in person on Monday, along with giving them all the photos and videos he shot that night. The complaint will be filed against DSO Deputy Billy Hamilton, Badge #792 (who seems to hold a grudge against BD for something that happened on Lowest Greenville years ago, which resulted in an article where his name was spelled wrong. Oh and he was probably suspended with pay too), the officer who wrote down the license of BD's work truck, the officers who shined their flashlights at BD's camera, and the officer(s) who followed BD in a DSO vehicle in another effort at intimidation.

Some readers will say, Okay, this is just a cop with one flashlight, and a grudge, on BD. Surely the department has more professional officers, right? This is just an aberration by one cop with a bad attitude, right?

Sadly, no, it's not the exception. Let's jump back to June 2013 in Highland Park. A perp was captured by Highland Park Police after following someone around Dallas on his motorcycle. He kicks his way out of the squad car, and he's then shot on the Mockingbird Lane and Airline Drive, right next to SMU campus. BD goes out to get some photos.

The investigators came from DSO, at the request of Highland Park police. BD manages to get close to the motorcycle, but is still standing outside the first line of yellow crime scene tape. As soon as he starts taking photos, a DSO officer does what he (apparently) is trained to do - Shine that flashlight into the camera! Eventually, the police line is expanded way out - like a block to the west, and halfway into the shopping center parking lot (it was late, very few cars.)

BD was not as 'photography in public' savvy as he is now, and just wandered around the area getting more photos with a longer lens. That's not going to happen again, trust me.

BD has a question, however.

Rarely do we see DSO officers on the neighborhood streets in Dallas since they are usually working the rural areas and main highways, plus the jail. If an incident takes place in the daytime, how do they prevent photos?? Stand in front of the photographer, threaten to arrest the photographer, what???

And let's not forget that DSO deputies have a history of illegally seizing cameras, especially if they want the video on it. Warrants? They don't need no steenken warrants.

From our post, Go-cam seizure was only the beginning of deputy sheriff's bad day back in 2012

Way back on Memorial Day weekend, Dallas County Sheriff Deputy James Westbrook was deployed, along with hundreds of other law enforcement officers, in order to prohibit reckless behavior by motorcycle riders on the anniversary of a biker event where they shut down North Central Expressway in Dallas and sprayed graffiti on the road. In the course of his patrol, he stopped biker Chris Moore somewhere along Interstate 35. During his arrest of biker Chris Moore, Westbrook said:

The reason you're being pulled over is because I'm gonna take your camera and we're gonna use it as evidence of the crimes that have been committed by other bikers.

When Moore refused to give up the camera, Westbrook created a lame excuse to arrest him (dirty license plate, which usually merits a ticket only) and slammed his leg while shoving him into a squad car. It took nearly three months for the Sheriff Department to investigate and eventually suspend Westbrook for his behavior.

Here's the original helmet cam footage. According to recent postings, the biker sued the county, and they came to an undisclosed financial settlement earlier this year.

As the CBS11 story reported, BD had a strong fear this incident was not going to end well. He exited the parking lot next to the incident scene and headed east down Ross Avenue. Within moments, one of the DSO vehicles was on his tail. BD recorded himself talking on the phone to a friend - and to himself - for most of the ride. He never drove so far under the speed limit as that night - as in miles below. He was not going to give these poor slobs (who were only following orders of DSO Billy Hamiliton #792 to tail me) the chance to get to what he thought was my home on Lowest Greenville. Hamilton apparently missed the memo that BD moved out of the area late last year.

BD had a few options. Hecall Dallas Police 911, and hope they would not be laughing at the call. He could call the Doggette while driving a longer way to the house and ask her to be ready with her camera when he drove down our street. Or, he could just keep driving until they got bored or lost.

BD made a turn south on Henderson Avenue, then Greenville, all the time with the squad car on his back end. As you hear in the CBS story, this was getting a little weird. Okay, it was getting a lot weird. They stayed on BD southbound all the way to Columbia, where he gave a left turn signal and moved to the turn lane. The DSO vehicle stayed in the traffic lane, but way behind. They crossed three lanes of traffic to go (right) west on Columbia.

What about a third option, the one police tell you to do when you think you are being followed: Go into a well-lit parking lot and call for help. That would have been the Fiesta Market lot at Henderson, but getting DPD out there was not going to be fast enough.

And what if BD did pull in? Since the police were not pulling him over for a traffic stop (false or otherwise), BD had no reason to sit in the van and keep his hands on the steering wheel. In theory, hould have exited the car with my camera in hand and squeezed three or four photos of the squad car. Of course, in light of recent events (like the NYPD shooting just a few days prior, and cops who seize iPhones because they think they are guns), BD did the math and soon calculated he would end up with maybe three photos before their bullet went into my brain.

BD has filed numerous Open Record Requests for materials relating to this incident, including GPS tracking data, MDT traffic, incident reports and policies. All the documents are listed here for your review.

Here are more links for this story... which ain't over yet.

CBS 11 News - Friday night newscast - Neighborhood blogger fears for his life after officer run-in

Photographs from the incident scene, Ross and Haskell, Monday December 22, 730pm

Videos shot at the scene

 
 
 
 

Graphic / Overhead view of incident scene at Ross/Haskell

DSO Internal Affairs Complaint against Billy Hamilton, Badge #792 and other officers (with addendum for lying to his superiors about the liquor store issue)

Open Records Request for VideoTape from BodyCams or Vehicle Cams

Open Record Request for all Complaints Previously Filed in regards to complaints about officers interfering with photographers

Open Record Requests for GPS data from vehicle that followed BD

Open Record Request for Incident Action Report

Open Records Request for MDT Traffic and License Plate Runs conducted that evening on BD's work truck

Open Records Request on DSO's policy in Right to Photograph and Record in Public

By Avi S. Adelman under Public safety , Legal issues