Jeff Gray and his son were given a trespass warning for taking photos of airplanes from a public area at Tampa International Airport Friday, threatened with arrest if they dare come back, proving that airport officials have no clue of their own policies.
As if that’s anything new.
The policy, which is clearly posted on the airport’s website, states that “people wishing to film or photograph on Airport property for commercial purposes” must go through a series of bureaucratic procedures.
However, the Tampa International Airport police officer who pulls up to the scene is under the impression that anybody wishing to take pictures at the airport must obtain permission, making no distinction between commercial and non-commercial photography, a flaw she shares with countless other cops and security guards who are paid to protect transportation infrastructures but fail to possess the fundamental reading skills to comprehend the policies they are supposed to enforce.
No different from the St. Louis County police officers who arrested a man for trespassing because he was video recording on the train system, only to later drop his charges, or the Miami-Dade Metrorail security guards who attacked me for taking pictures when it has long been established that non-commercial photography is allowed on the train system without a permit.
The officer’s name in this case is Finley, possibly Valerie Ann Finley, as that happens to be the only female Finley listed as a Tampa International Airport police officer in the Florida police database compiled by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
The differences between commercial and non-commercial photography are simple. If you’re shooting to advertise a product or service, it is commercial. If you’re shooting for a news story or as a hobby or family snapshots, it is non-commercial.
Commercial photography usually entails a larger crew and more equipment, including lights, tripods, cables, wardrobe assistants, make-up artists. It is a much larger production, which is why a permit is usually required.
Non-commercial photography includes anything else, including a father and a son standing in an unrestricted area of the airport photographing airplanes.
But Finley found this suspicious, even after Gray explained to her that his 13-year-old son wants to be a pilot when he grows up, which is why they were there photographing airplanes.
She told them they were being detained and needed both their identifications.
“Because we need to find out why you’re here and why you’re photographing,” she said, even though he had already informed her why they were there.
She then asked him if he was a “sovereign citizen,” which is viewed as being a domestic terrorist in the eyes of cops, trying her best to establish some type of reasonable suspicion to detain them.
Eventually, Airport Operations Manager Cheri Rempert arrives, informing Gray that he needed to leave the area.
When asked for a valid explanation, she refused to provide one unless he turned the camera off, indicating that she knew she didn’t have a valid explanation.
“Please turn off the video recorder because she wants to explain to you what’s going on,” Finley said, further emphasizing the fact that they did not want any record of the hogwash they were about to spew.
Finley ends up informing Gray that he and his son were trespassed from the property.
“I am giving you a trespass warning unless you have official business here at Tampa International Airport or you go through the proper procedures requesting permission to plane spot, you’re not to be on airport property again,” she said.
The good news is that the Brevard County State attorney’s office dropped the charges against Gray for his October arrest, which he will be discussing in an upcoming video.
Contact the Tampa International Airport Police at (813) 870-8760.
Below is the board of directors of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. Click here to contact each and every one of them.
UPDATE: A photo of a Christmas tree on their Facebook page appears to encourage passengers to take photos without prior approval. Oh, the horror!
UPDATE II: Tampa International Airport Police Chief Paul Sireci called Gray this morning to apologize for the incident and to invite him and his son on a personal tour of the airport.
He essentially said, “we blew it.”
Gray recorded the call and with Sireci’s permission, posted it on Youtube. They also posted a mea culpa on their Facebook page after getting slammed with another round of the PINAC Wrath.
Thank you, Chief Sireci for having common sense. You’ve earned our respect.