Fearing a terrorist plot, an Alabama police officer snatched a camera from a man who was video recording a police station from across the street, turning the man’s camera off to keep it from recording.
However, the man had a back-up body camera that was live streaming.
“I don’t care about your First Amendment rights,” said the Wetumpka police officer, who has been identified as Charles Shannon.
“I don’t know if you’re a terrorist or not, trying to film our building.”
Oblivious to Shannon, it was not a terrorist plot, but a First Amendment audit conducted by Keith Golden, who runs the YouTube channel Bama Camera, where he routinely does First Amendment audits on government buildings.
Golden even tried to hand over a copy of Smith vs. Cumming, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that affirmed the video recording of police officers is not a crime.
But Golden would not hand over his identification nor provide his name at first, which is what bothered Shannon and the two other cops who had confronted him, one which appeared to be a plainclothes detective.
“I’m not required to carry ID,” said Golden. “Do you know Alabama law, sir?”
“Yes, I do, that’s why I’m a police officer,” Shannon responded, still holding onto Golden’s confiscated camera, which was on a monopod.
“Look up 15-5-30,” Golden said.
“I don’t have to, I know it,” Shannon responded.
But Shannon did not know it because he was under the impression that the law allows him to walk up to anybody and demand their identification or face arrest.
The law, posted below, states that the officer must have reasonable suspicion that a citizen is somehow involved in a crime before they are required to hand over their identification.
A sheriff or other officer acting as sheriff, his deputy or any constable, acting within their respective counties, any marshal, deputy marshal or policeman of any incorporated city or town within the limits of the county or any highway patrolman or state trooper may stop any person abroad in a public place whom he reasonably suspects is committing, has committed or is about to commit a felony or other public offense and may demand of him his name, address and an explanation of his actions.
But like most cops, Shannon has learned that he can create his own laws and get away with it, which was why he then ordered Golden against a car and frisked him, telling him was detained.
That was when Golden told the officer his name.
Golden was eventually released, informed that it was his own fault for having his camera snatched and his pockets frisked because he did not bow down to their authority.
But Golden told them they were to blame.
“I hope you learn the law next time,” Golden said as he walked away.
“I know the law,” Shannon said.
“What’s 15-5-30?” Golden asked.
“I don’t have to answer your questions,” Shannon responded.
The incident took place on June 2. Golden contacted the Wetumpka Police Department the following day and was told that no report was ever made of the incident.
He was also informed that even though at least one cop was wearing a body cam, it was not turned on at the moment.
Thankfully, Golden’s body cam was turned on.
Call the Wetumpka Police Department at 334) 567-5321.
You can also leave a comment on the department’s Facebook page, but be sure to make a screenshot after you do because they have been deleting comments.
That’s also a violation of public records law, but what can we expect from a police department that does not know basic First Amendment or stop and identify laws?