Last Thursday marked 14 years since I launched Photography is Not a Crime as a one-man blog on WordPress after having been beaten and arrested two months earlier by Miami police for photographing them against their wishes in a story I’ve told countless times over the years.
Today marks PINAC’s return to WordPress after a three-year stint on the Maven, a publishing company that was paying us a percentage of ad revenue from our stories each month until late last year when they replaced the PINAC-friendly CEO with one not too fond of PINAC. They then restructured our contract, blaming it on COVID, and as a result, we have not received a single payment since December despite the fact they continued running ads in our stories.
It was a minor setback for a site that has experienced multiple setbacks over the years only to remain resilient and relevant while dozens of other news sites have come and gone or sunken into obscurity. But the lesson here is that PINAC needs to remain as independent as possible in order to survive another 14 years which is why I am happy to be back on WordPress and look forward to keeping the site updated with the latest stories and videos.
Part of the plan is to launch a weekly podcast show highlighting the most important stories of the week as well as featuring guests, including victims of police abuse, attorneys, activists and anybody else relevant to the issue of criminal justice reform, including cops, judges and prosecutors if they are brave enough to come on the show.
The podcast will also help us build the national database of bad cops we announced in January by teaching listeners how to obtain Brady list public records from their local prosecutors office. These are lists that contain the names of cops with integrity issues, cops who lie and abuse and destroy innocent lives, an idea we have been discussing for years but never made an attempt to implement until now.
We will also pay tribute to the “Worst Cop of the Week” since cops place so much value in their participation awards, dedicating a special page for them on the site with their photos to ensure they receive the recognition they deserve.
I will host the podcast show from my bedroom closet which I am converting into a soundproof studio to ensure professional quality audio and not piss off my neighbors with my rantings about cops as I live in a condo with thin walls so it may take a few weeks before I launch it.
But I have several people lined up who have agreed to be interviewed, including a man who spent years in prison based on the lying testimony of a Brady list cop who was protected by prosecutors. There are many more like him who will be interviewed as the show progresses. We will open people’s eyes to the truth.
The goal it to focus more on education rather than just information because the country is finally accepting the fact we have a serious issue with police abuse so we need to figure out what to do about it. Newly elected President Joe Biden is promising criminal justice reform but we must never trust politicians in these matters because deep down they are afraid of the cops and will bow down to their manipulative intimidation tactics as they have done throughout history.
The only reason Biden is even talking about this issue is because a 17-year-old girl named Darnella Frazier knew her rights and was not afraid to exercise them when she recorded Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin planting a knee on George Floyd’s neck for almost ten minutes on March 25, 2020, igniting what was already a growing movement against police abuse in this country.
And the only reason Frazier knew her rights was because of sites like PINAC and the ones that followed that educated people on their right to record at a time when the government was trying to deny us those rights. Many of us fought hard for those rights and it paid off even though people are still getting arrested for recording, just not as often as before.
Now we need to take it a step further and teach citizens how to obtain public records from the local government agencies, especially those records they tend to keep secret like the Brady list because these are the criminal cops that give all cops a bad name. The ACLU describes these cops as having “histories of falsifying reports, fabricating or tampering with evidence, lying on the witness stand, coercing witnesses, brutalizing people, accruing misconduct lawsuits or complaints, blatant racism, and more.”
The origin of PINAC
It was a much different world when I launched PINAC on April 28, 2007 because the country was still enamored with police under the “9/11 changed everything” spell which enabled cops to harass and threaten photographers for taking photos in public while receiving heroic praise from a clueless public for keeping them safe from potential terrorists with professional-looking cameras.
I was a 38-year-old journalist who had spent much of the prior decade covering the cop beat for various newspapers in New Mexico, California and Arizona, so I had a much more cynical view of police, having had my share of run-ins and clashes with cops for taking photos and asking hard questions or for just reporting the truth based on public records.
As a wordsmith with an attitude, I was not afraid to stand up to them, especially when the truth was on my side, but they considered me an asshole and would complain to my editors who would then tell me I have to write more positive stories to balance all the negative stories which were accurate just not “fair” in the eyes of police.
PINAC became an unfiltered adaptation of the newspaper cop beat I had worked for years but at the national instead of the local level, no longer watered down by cop-adoring editors to maintain the institutional line of bullshit. I had my share of haters in the beginning, many of them cops, as well as doubters. But the doubters turned into believers and the cops rarely comment anymore because their intimidation tactics fail on the internet.
And the corporate media that used to criticize PINAC for not being “objective” are now reporting on these stories with much more honesty than before when they would resort to the tired-old cliche of a “few bad apples” which is a lie produced by the Police PR Spin Machine but regurgitated by the media to maintain access to public information under the pretense of objectivity.
The truth it, it is the culture of policing that is corrupt and broken and needs to be changed because it is an institution that preys on the poor and powerless. A profession that attracts narcissists, bullies, control freaks, rapists and GI Joe Wannabes in addition to genuine people who want to do good for the community but it is the former who get promoted while the latter either quit or become apathetic.
A system that is more about controlling the public than about public safety that produces paranoid, violent officers with zero emotional intelligence who have been manipulated to believe they are heroes and trained to believe every citizen is a possible enemy combatant out to kill them whether it be with a phone, comb or remote control which are all possible weapons in the eyes of cops and have led to innocent people getting killed.
The culture of corruption extends to the prosecutors and judges who many times are in systemic cahoots with the cops in supporting their false narrative over actual evidence as I discovered after my arrest for taking photos on February 20, 2007.
The cops claimed I had been standing in the middle of a busy street taking photos while blocking traffic so they were only looking out for my “safety.” But my photos showed they were on the ones standing in the street and I was standing on the sidewalk. They ended up bashing my head into that sidewalk and charging me with nine fabricated misdemeanors, figuring that would teach me to never photograph cops again but it just made me more defiant.
I did not know it at the time but the judge was a former police union attorney and the prosecutor was the son of a local police chief so they were both appalled that I would write negatively about cops on a blog. It just wasn’t being done at the time.
On the day of my trial on June 16, 2008, the prosecutor had printed out more than a year’s worth of stories I had written on PINAC which he claim proved I was biased against the cops and therefore should be convicted, telling the jury I got myself purposely arrested for the sole purpose of launching a blog.
He was especially fixated on an article I wrote about a week after launching the blog, comparing the LAPD to nazis after they were caught on video beating journalists and children while dressed in indistinguishable riot gear. The jury acquitted me of most of the charges but convicted me of resisting arrest which is Florida’s contempt of cop law. One juror told the bailiff they did not like my attitude.
But I appealed and had the conviction reversed because I was able to prove the judge not only allowed improper evidence against me in trial, mainly the contents of my blog which were written after I had been arrested and therefore irrelevant to my actions before my arrest, but he also issued me a harsher sentence than recommended by the prosecutor because I did not show “remorse” to the cops for photographing them. I still ended up serving a year probation, attending anger management classes and doing community hours.
I was arrested an additional three more times for taking photos over the next seven years and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office insisted on taking each case to trial, believing they had enough evidence to prove my guilt or at least get me to agree to a plea deal, only to fail each time. Suckers.
The same Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office refused to indict a South Florida cop on rape charges despite multiple women filing complaints against him, claiming it did not have enough evidence to persuade a jury to convict the cop. It was only when the FBI stepped in and arrested Hialeah police officer Jesus “Jesse” Menocal that he was stripped of his badge and is now facing life in prison.
So it’s time to start holding the prosecutors accountable as well as the cops because they are a big part of the problem which we plan to do with our Brady list project.
But this is going to be a long-term project which will only succeed with the support of the readers, so if you would like to support our mission, click here to make a tax-deductible donation or on the icon below to make a PayPal or debit/credit card donation.
Editor’s note: The site is still unfinished so there may be issues with some of the stories, pages and images as well as the design and layout which we hope to fix soon.