Before we get into Neck Guy, aka Wideneck, who all-but introduces himself, there’s the matter of the blurring in this video. Since I have brought up similar blurring in the past, I have a decent sense of how this goes: I explain why I believe the blurring is unlawful, and then a bunch of people try to explain to me why they think the agency is doing it (officer safety), ignoring the reality that it makes no difference. Things don’t magically become lawful in response to public policy arguments. If the police can’t legally do something, and they want to do that thing, there is a way to make that happen: through the legislature. Not by having the police ignore or violate the law.
Florida’s Public Records Law provides everyone with a right to access public records, and it defines that term expansively. Entities subject to the Public Records Law are not allowed to withhold records because they want to or because they think it’s for the best. The only acceptable reason for withholding records or information within records, is that the record or information is exempt or confidential by law.
One of the Public Records Law’s many exemptions is found in 119.071(4)(d)2.a., F.S.. Specifically, the exemption for “home addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and photographs” of certain law enforcement officers. A minority of law enforcement agencies in the State of Florida argue that a video is just a series of photographs in rapid succession, therefore the exemption for photographs applies to videos. In a particularly memorable email to me, the City of Ormond Beach once characterized body camera footage as “photographic video evidence” — so they could then redact the face of the police officer they had arrested, in the video that I had asked for. And charge a couple hundred dollars for the privilege.
I think those agencies are wrong.
First, the plain language of the law is unambiguous. The word “video” appears hundreds of times throughout the Florida Statutes, sometimes in the same sentence as the word “photograph.” The legislature obviously knew the word video. They did not use it. But they did define the term “body camera.” According to 119.071(2)(l)1.a, F.S., a body camera is “a portable electronic recording device that is worn on a law enforcement officer’s body and that records audio and video data in the course of the officer performing his or her official duties and responsibilities.” Catch that? “Video data.” Not “photographs,” “series of photographs,” or even “photographic videos.”
According to the United States Supreme Court “…the starting point for interpreting a statute is the language of the statute itself. Absent a clearly expressed legislative intention to the contrary, that language must ordinarily be regarded as conclusive.:” The legislature could have exempted video. They didn’t.
That’s not all. One of the canons of statutory construction — the rules that tell you how to interpret the rules — states that an express mention of a subject, object, or idea is the exclusion of other subjects, objects, or ideas. When a statute contains a list of specific contexts where it applies, the inference is that it doesn’t apply in other contexts. The legislature did not exempt video to its exclusion.
So. Neck guy.
For a while, I had wondered whether the rapper 9lokkNine had the longest rap sheet of anyone in Florida. Today, I can definitively say “Not even close.” Neck Guy, whose real name is Charles Dion McDowell? His rap sheet can eat 9lokkNine’s for breakfast.
Jacquavius ‘9lokkNine’ Smith’s rap sheet clocks in at an impressive 43 pages.
Charles Neck Guy McDowell’s rap sheet dwarfs it: an epic 65 pages.
Given the astonishing number of contacts Mr. McDowell has had with law enforcement, most of which were with Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, it might come as a surprise to learn that the Sheriff’s Office has relatively few videos of their contacts with Mr. McDowell. Shown here are portions of all of them.
Sixty-five page rap sheet. Wow.
22:04 2017 (#1)
39:00 Sadneck 🙁
40:28 2017 (#2)