Florida Sheriff Justifies Camera Snatching During Traffic Stop
Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott, who wrote a letter to President Barack Obama last year stating how he fully supports the rights of citizens to arm themselves, is now defending his deputies for snatching a cell phone from a man’s hand while recording a traffic stop because, the sheriff insists, that phone could have been a gun.
It is a feeble attempt to defend an obvious Constitutional violation considering the man was openly recording for several minutes before the deputy decided to snatch his camera, giving him ample opportunity to shoot the deputy if he so desired.
Not to mention the man already had a conversation with another deputy over the fact that he was obviously recording.
Sheriff Scott also insisted the man could have used the phone to call friends in order to “ambush” the deputies, which is another reason why they had to snatch his camera.
But nobody should be prevented from calling their friends (or lawyer for that matter) during traffic stops considering how unpredictable law enforcement officers can become.
The man who was stopped is also a concealed weapons permit holder and told the deputies he had a gun in his car during the stop, which they removed and checked to see if it was reported stolen, but it wasn’t.
The man, who is black and did not want his name publicized out of fear of retaliation, told WFTX’s Liza Fernandez that he had been stopped several times by Lee County deputies in the past, so he pulled out his phone to record the stop, thinking he was being racially profiled.
And from the sounds of Scott’s leadership style, he is probably right.
After all, in his 2013 letter to Obama, Scott said “I promote concealed carry licenses,” so the fact that this man had a legal firearm along with a concealed weapons permit should not have been an issue.
Scott wrote another letter to the NAACP that same year, berating the organization for its stance on the Trayvon Martin case as well as its protest over a portrait of Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee from county commission chambers, criticizing the organization for not focusing its efforts on the use of the N word by black people.
The letter, which prompted accusations of racism by the NAACP, also criticizes the media for calling George Zimmerman white when his mother is Peruvian and for calling Obama black when his mother is white, so the sheriff does seem to have a fixation on race.
He is also an outspoken republican and spoke at rallies in uniform in support of John McCain and Sarah Palin and has been rumored to want to run for congress, indicating he is probably a little too political to serve in a position of law enforcement.
His political aspirations probably explains his ability to spin the truth even more dramatically than we normally see from law enforcement officers as well as his tendency to stick his foot in his mouth.
In the case involving the cell phone snatching, Scott told Fernandez that his deputies stopped the man because he ran a stop sign, which led them to bringing out a police dog to conduct a “free air” sniff around the car – because drug-sniffing dogs are always involved in routine traffic stops.
Scott claimed the dog indicated there were drugs inside the car, which gave the deputies probable cause to search the car.
But no drugs were found.
However, he points out to Fernandez, a gun was found, neglecting to admit the man volunteered this information to the deputies during the stop.
Scott insists it is a “well documented fact that pagers, cell phones, and other commonly carried devices have in fact proven to be firearms,” sending her the video below, which shows an outdated, bulky cell phone having the ability to shoot bullets.
But Fernandez didn’t seem to buy his assertion that this was such a wide-spread danger, so she made some calls and made some inquiries and discovered that Scott was full of shit.
In fact, last year, PINAC reader ExCopLawStudent wrote a blog post stating that the cop mania over cell phone guns was nothing but a myth.
In 2000 or 2001, police in Europe discovered a four-shot gun disguised as a cellphone. Since then police officers in the United States have claimed on multiple occasions that civilians who were recording video with their cellphones had to put the phone down. Why? Because it could be a weapon.
Geez, guys, you’re killing us. There have been no cellphone guns recovered in the United States, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
In addition, there are exactly zero court cases that discuss the issue. As a matter of fact, there is nothing in the legal world that discuss the issue. No law review articles, no trial or appellate briefs, nothing.
And Fernandez pretty much discovered the same during her research.
According to her report:
In the nearly 15 years since federal agencies first heard the devices were discovered in Europe, firearms experts tell Fox 4 cell-phone guns aren’t easy to come by.
“That’s just one person that we’ve seen on YouTube, so we don’t know if that’s just a prototype,” said John Dezendorf of Fowler Firearms and Gun Range in Fort Myers.
“But I know none of my distributors are carrying them and nobody is selling them a round here locally,” he added.
“I don’t see it being a huge issue for one thing because I don’t know of anyone who actually has one.”
Four In Your Corner also contacted the Miami-Dade Police Department, the largest police department in the southeast U.S.
The Miami-Dade police public information office said its officers have never encountered a cell-phone gun.
And the FBI and ATF told 4 In Your Corner while law enforcement bulletins have occasionally gone out about cell-phone guns, their public information offices have not been able to find instances of the agencies actually encountering one.
Scott didn’t appreciate Fernandez’s investigative reporting because he sent her a statement, which includes his hogwash about the cell phone guns, but also attacks her journalistic integrity (along with her use of make-up and teleprompter).
He also credits his deputies for being the “last line of defense for our citizens,” whom he believes are appreciative of their efforts (as they violate the Constitutional rights of citizens and protect the masses from mythical cell phone guns).
Read his full statement below:
This traffic stop stemmed from our Deputies witnessing the vehicle fail to stop at a stop sign.
Subsequent to the traffic stop, a certified K9 alerted to the presence of drugs during a “free air” sniff around the exterior of the vehicle and a semi-automatic pistol was located in the vehicle as the video clearly shows.
Additionally, an extended capacity magazine was located in the vehicle along with paperwork that heightened our suspicion of the possibility of criminal activity.
This same paperwork would confirm that (name omitted) had in fact been less than truthful with our Deputies earlier in the contact.
This is a high crime area where gun violence has been all too common and (name omitted) did little to dispel our initial concerns given the totality of the aforementioned circumstances.
The probable cause traffic stop, K9 alert, presence of a firearm, and (name omitted)’s lack of candor created a scenario where the potential for (name omitted) to summon others to the scene via his cell phone was an officer safety concern.
Further, it is a well documented fact that pagers, cell phones, and other commonly carried devices have in fact proven to be firearms (see link below as but one example) and given the circumstances of this particular traffic stop our Deputies were not comfortable with (name omitted) pointing his “cell phone” at them as they tried to work through the situation.
My brave Deputies do not read from a teleprompter and wear heavy make-up…they stand as the last line of defense for our citizens and in doing so wear bullet proof vests.
You apparently have a break from doing the weather report today and seem bent on sympathizing and sensationalizing which is certainly your prerogative.
I happen to believe that a vast majority of the citizens we serve are appreciative of efforts like these, and I am thankful they are in our corner.
If the “vast majority of the citizens” are truly appreciative of their efforts, they are probably blind to what’s going on because a cursory review of the department’s Facebook page reveals them to insulting towards citizens and unconcerned about people’s Constitutional rights.
Call the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at 239-477-1000.
Also, WFTX is asking people to call their newsroom at 239-206-3694 to weigh in on the issue as you can see in the image below.
UPDATE: Last year, Atlantic Cities named the Lee County Sheriff’s Office one of the worst law enforcement agencies in Florida:
In March 2012, after a journalist called him on his cell phone to ask about a federal lawsuit pending against the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Mike Scott announced new rules for local media in and around Fort Myers, Florida. Scott suspended morning press briefings with the department’s public information official, where local reporters asked questions about burgeoning cases, and instituted a new policy requiring every media outlet to make an appointment to review publicly available logs, then submit a written request for information, which would be personally reviewed by Scott. In addition, Scott’s officers were to have no contact whatsoever with The News-Press, Southwest Florida’s largest and most widely read newspaper. But the department’s shortcomings don’t stop there. In 2009, a year after Scott was elected, employees at the Lee County jail tortured a mentally ill man to death, then cleared themselves of wrongdoing. In 2010, the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project determined that the Lee County Sheriff’s Department had the highest misconduct rating among law enforcement departments its size—meaning Lee County beat out the Pittsburgh and Oakland PDs, as well as Joe Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department.