Tasha Ford was having all kinds of trouble getting the Boynton Beach Police Department to return her video camera.
In the days following her arrest for filming cops against their wishes, she called the police department for them to return her camera, which they had confiscated.
A clerk in the property room told her she needed a “record of disposition”. She said she had a “disposition record”.
The clerk didn’t think that was the same thing. She convinced him it was. Then he told her it needed to be certified at the circuit court before he can accept it and return her camera.
She drove down to the courthouse and was told her they would be unable to certify the document because the case was too new and it had not been placed in the system yet.
Two days later, she drove to the courthouse again but was told that they could not certify the document because the charges were still pending.
At the time, she was under the impression that the judge had dropped her felony eavesdropping charge but had retained the misdemeanor resisting an officer without violence charge. But she learned that she was still facing both charges.
However, a week later, she received a document stating that the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office had dropped all charges against her, so she took that document down to the courthouse and was able to get it certified.
Then she called the police department and was told she could come down and pick up her camera.
However, when she walked into the property room on Wednesday, she was told that the arresting officers had placed a “hold” on her camera, which meant that they could not release it to her.
“The officer in the evidence room told me he had never heard of a hold being placed on a camera,” she said. “He said usually a hold in only placed on drug money or impounded vehicles.”
She was told that the arresting officers have 30 days to refile the charges so it might take that long for them to return her camera.
On Thursday, I contacted Boynton Beach Police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater to inquire about the “hold” on Ford’s camera.
After berating me for not having contacted her before to get their side of the original story, she assured me she would get to the bottom of this.
A few hours later she sent me an email stating the following:
The case against Sharron “Tasha” Ford was NO FILED by the PBC SAO on Friday, March 20, 2009. The paperwork came to the Boynton Beach Police Department yesterday (Wednesday, March 25, 2009).
By law, the arresting officer has 30 days from March 20, 2009 to refile the charges with the state. Therefore, there is still a hold on the evidence in this case. I would suggest Ms. Ford check back with our evidence custodians on Monday, April 20.
She also sent me the arrest report, stating that “even though you did not ask for these documents when you first reported on this incident, as a journalist, I am confident you now want to report this as accurately as possible.”
It turns out, the arrest report confirms just how clueless the arresting officers are about laws regarding public photography and videography.
They really do believe that it is illegal to video tape somebody in public with audio. If that were the case, then how come they’re not out rounding up all the TV news videographers?
Here are just a few statements from the report. The entire report is posted below.
This is when Officer Lature ID #797 initially approached Ford and told her to pull the car forward and she could not video and audio record us that it’s against the law and that she needed to turn the camera off and stop recording …
Orders were continually given over and over for Ford to turn the camera off, turn the camera off, this is your last opportunity …
Sgt. Faine explained to Ford that she cold only visually video tape and needed to reconsider her actions and behaviors because it is unlawful to record our conversations …
Anyway, so I asked Slater if the officers intended to refile charges against Ford. After inquiring with the arresting officer, she reported that police do not intend to refile charges against Ford.
So then I asked her then why is there still a hold on the camera?
This time, a Sgt. Suzanne Gitto responded with the following email:
I hope that I can clear up this issue of the “hold on the evidence” because I think the term is being used incorrectly. When Ms. Ford was arrested the camera/video were submitted into evidence as part of the normal arrest process. When Ms. Ford came to the police department to retrieve her property, she had made no previous arrangements with the evidence department.
The records custodian contacted evidence and was informed that the evidence could not be released to her. At that time, the evidence technician he had not received the official notification from the SAO that the charges were dropped and the evidence could be released.
Since that time, we have received the official notification from the SAO, we are not intending to file new charges against Ms. Ford, and we will be giving Ms. Ford her camera/video. She can contact the evidence department and arrange to pick up her belongings.
At no time were we attempting to deny Ms. Ford her personal property. I hope this clears the issue up.
Sgt. Suzanne Gitto
Frankly, had I known the Boynton Beach Police Department to be this communicative with reporters, I would have contacted them earlier but it’s been my experience as a blogger not writing for the mainstream media (anymore) that I never get a response from police departments.
So perhaps this is the beginning of a blossoming professional relationship.
Ford says she will try to retrieve her camera on Friday. Stay tuned.
Now check out the arrest report.
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I am a multimedia journalist who has been fighting a lengthy legal battle after having photographed Miami police against their wishes in Feb. 2007. Please help the fight by donating to my Legal Defense Fund in the top left sidebar. To keep updated on the latest articles, join my networks at Facebook, Twitter and Friendfeed.