Baiting Tampa cops on video or a constitutional exercise?

Attorney Luke Lirot
Attorney Luke Lirot

TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – Confrontations with police officers, caught on video  are becoming more frequent according to the Tampa Police Department.  Some people call these confrontations exercising a constitutional right, others label them baiting law enforcement.

In August a man stood in a Tampa park, videotaping MacDill Air Force base.  According to T.P.D., MacDill contacted them to check out this individual.

The YouTube video is called PO (police officer) #364 of Tampa PD Unlawful Detainment 8/26/15.  It shows two officers approaching the man known on YouTube as AreYouFedUpYet (ARYFUY).  The first officer asks ARYFUY for identification.  The “videographer” pronounced, “I do not answer questions.”  He then asked officer L. Yeoman if he was being detained.

“You’re definitely being detained, yes sir,” officer Yeoman responded. the videographer then asked what law he broke.  Officer Yeoman asked to see identification.

“Why are you taking pictures of a military base?” officer Yeoman asked.  The videographer then asked, if it was against the law, the office replied yes it is.

Attorney Luke Lirot points out it is not illegal to videotape a military base. “I think from a general analysis  videotaping any government installation, any government person would be protected by the first amendment,” he said.

If you Google “First Amendment Audit,” several videos pop up.  There is a video of a New York State Police trooper confronting a person videotaping the state police compound.  Another video shows correctional officers confronting a man flying a drone equipped with a camera over prison walls.

Outside MacDill questions and answers between officer Yeoman and the videographer continued.  The videographer hurled insults at the officer, and directed some toward Yeoman’s mother.  As tensions escalated, both employed profanities.

“He acted like a human being.  He didn’t like the insults, he didn’t like the abrasive approach that this citizen was using, but he didn’t get violent, and quite honestly officers have a first amendment right to express themselves as well,” Lirot added.

While some call this a first amendment audit, the Tampa police call it baiting.   An email from department spokesperson Steve Hegarty stated,” It has become more frequent because … it’s easier than ever to capture anything on video, and that video has a life on YouTube and it captures interest among TV reporters.”

“Well it certainly appears to be baiting but in the exercise of those constitutional rights, you have a right to bait the police  you have a right to test their restraint, you have a right to test their knowledge of the constitution,” Lirot added.  Efforts to contact the man behind the camera were not successful.  At the conclusion of the video, police and MacDill authorities determined he had not violated the law.

“The commentary might be troubling but I think his behavior was certainly, I think, properly reflected this citizen’s first amendment rights, especially if he was called out there by MacDill.  I mean he’s responding to a call from a third party, another government agency.  I think he behaved properly, there was no arrest made, there was no physical restraint, there was never any kind of physical contact,” Lirot said.

Late this afternoon T-P-D relayed that based on the video, chief Ward initiated an internal affairs investigation of the incident.

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