Anaheim, CA — An Anaheim police officer is receiving media coverage this week for his utter failure at the oath he took to uphold the constitution. Clearly forgetting that all Americans have the right to record in public, officer Michael R. Lozeau confronted a reporter for the Voice of OC for practicing his First Amendment right.
According to the reporter, Spencer Custodio, he was in Maxwell Park to report on the recent enforcement sweeps against homeless people in the area when he witnessed Lozeau detaining three people.
When Custodio recognized one of the homeless men as Les Greenberg he began doing his job as a reporter. As he began snapping pictures from a distance—not interfering with the officer in the least—Lozeau proceeded to break his oath to the constitution.
“Hey, uh, want to ask my permission?” Lozeau said.
“I’m a reporter – Voice of OC,” Custodio replied.
“I don’t care who you are,” the sergeant replied. “Have a common respect, and ask my permission if you wanna take my picture.”
“Well, may I take your picture?” Custodio asked.
“No,” said the sergeant.
“It’s a First Amendment right, sir,” said Custodio.
“Yeah it is – okay. That’s good,” Lozeau said.
“Okay,” Custodio replied.
“Wanna play that game, huh?” the sergeant asked.
“I’m not trying to play games,” Custodio replied.
“Keep an eye – stay where I can see you, alright? Or leave,” Lozeau said.
“Okay,” Custodio said.
“You understand?” asked Lozeau.
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“You got it,” Custodio replied.
Filming the police is entirely legal in every state. However, all too often, we will see police officers overstep their authority and arrest, attack, and assault innocent people for the constitutionally protected act of documenting their behavior in public.
As TFTP has reported, it has been clearly established that all Americans have the right to record the police. For an officer of the law to remain willingly ignorant of this precedent is at best, dereliction of duty, and at worst, unlawful deprivation of rights. Either way, this cop was in the wrong.
As the ACLU points out,
Taking photographs and video of things that are plainly visible in public spaces is a constitutional right—and that includes transportation facilities, the outside of federal buildings, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties.
Unfortunately, law enforcement officers have been known to ask people to stop taking photographs of public places. Those who fail to comply have sometimes been harassed, detained, and arrested. Other people have ended up in FBI databases for taking innocuous photographs of public places.
The right of citizens to record the police is a critical check and balance. It creates an independent record of what took place in a particular incident, one that is free from accusations of bias, lying, or faulty memory. It is no accident that some of the most high-profile cases of police misconduct have involved video and audio records.
VOC called the Anaheim police department after the incident who noted that it is indeed legal for Custodio as well as any other person to film police in public.
According to the VOC, the Anaheim Police Department’s spokesman, Sgt. Daren Wayatt, said “courts have repeatedly ruled that police officers can be filmed in their duties,” unless it’s interfering with their duties.
“Generally if you’re out of their way and not interfering with them, it should be okay,” Wyatt said.
However, Wyatt then went on to defend his officer for telling the reporter he needed his permission to film him.
Wyatt said he spoke with Lozeau, and his story “is a lot different.”
“He did say that they were out on a car stop, that a person he didn’t know” started taking photos, Wyatt said.
“And [Lozeau] made a comment that, ‘Hey are you going to ask my permission before you take my [picture]?”
“He never told him he couldn’t take pictures. Never told him he couldn’t take pictures of [officers]. And I understand [the reporter] may have taken it as flippant, but [Lozeau] felt the reporter…rolled up on them unannounced, didn’t tell him who he was, what his purpose was,” Wyatt said.
“It probably would have gone a lot different if Spencer identified himself” and explained he was working on a story, Wyatt said.
To reiterate, there is no language in the constitution that requires anyone to ask for permission or identify yourself as a reporter before practicing your rights. Indeed, freedom of press and speech applies to all citizens—not just reporters.
What's more, according to VOC, Lozeau has a history of going after people who film him. Last year, homeless activist Lou Noble filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Anaheim alleging Lozeau illegally arrested the activist for filming him at Maxwell Park in 2015, the VOC reported..
This flagrant violation of citizens' rights should be exposed every time it happens. If these officers are not called out for their failure to maintain their oath to the constitution, it will continue to get worse—until one day, when cops arresting people for filming becomes the norm.