Today I watched a minor drama unfold in Grapevine, Texas, at the US Post Office. A young activist in Dallas has been filming various facilities and calling it a “First Amendment Audit” like those done by other activist around the country. I like this guy, he’s non-confrontational for the most part and he also has a good grasp on what the law is in regards to photography in public. One of the articles dealt with an encounter in Westworth Village and how the activists handled themselves compared to how the police handled themselves. The officer came off poorly there and the activist did well, as was the case in Grapevine, for the most part.
Going through this video, it’s fairly simple to see that the activist knows what he is doing. At about 1:30 in the video, he is approached by a postal employee and questioned. He answers and the employee says “alright” and walks back to the building. Fairly good, so far. Then, at 4:20, the postmaster comes out and tells the activist that he wants the activist to stop taking video because it is making his employees uncomfortable, and the puts the activist “on notice.” That’s laughable, because at this point, the activist has done nothing that is illegal, immoral, or unethical.
So, as is inevitable in this type of encounter, the police are called and Officer Brian Hintz shows up. Like the officer in Westworth Village, Hintz seems to have a chip on his should and he doesn’t know the law. Hintz (at 6:05) makes contact and asks for ID, just like almost every police officer in the United States would do.* But Hintz says that if he requests ID, a person is required to show it to him, which is absolutely incorrect. We’ve covered this before, at Fault Lines, so I won’t go over the law again, other than to note that the activist did not have to identify himself.
Then Hintz tells the activist that he may ask him to leave, and the activist states correctly that he has a right to be there. Hintz doesn’t like that, and makes a veiled threat to arrest the activist for Failure to Identify—so the activist quotes the law to Hintz.
All is going well for the activist—and then he makes a statement that is just flat wrong.† The activist asks if the officer is TCOLE-certified, which all police officers in Texas have to be, and if he took the mandatory training on public photography.
The problem is that there is no state-mandated training on public photography for peace officers. Peace officers do have mandated training for each two-year training cycle, but it doesn’t include anything on public photography. The mandated training for the current cycle (2015-2017) includes the following:
- Course 3184 – State and Federal Law Update Course
- If officer holds Basic Certificate:
- Course 3939 – Cultural Diversity
- Course 3232 – Special Investigative Topics
- Course 3841 – Crisis Intervention Training
- If the officer holds an Intermediate Certificate or higher, no other mandated courses
- Other courses to total 40 hours
None of the courses listed have any component that deals with public photography. An individual department could mandate that its officers receive training on the issue, but it is not required by the State of Texas.
So Hintz had no clue what the activist was talking about, because the activist was misinformed. Could Hintz do with some training? Sure, he needs to be updated on what §38.02 says, but that’s a problem that’s common to almost every police officer in the state. Hintz didn’t press the issue on arrest or leaving, and most importantly, he did nothing that violated the rights of the photographer.
*To be very clear, there is nothing inherently wrong a police officer asking for ID in a consensual encounter.
†The same comment is often made by David Worden (News Now Houston), along with several other misstatements of the law dealing with photography. I may do a post on that issue at some point.