State Sen. Lauren Book, Filming Cops In Florida, Class Of COVID-19 At The South Florida Fair
A conversation with Democratic State Sen. Lauren Book, the new minority leader in the Senate. Can you film a police officer making an arrest? We discuss. Plus, a virtual field trip to the South Florida Fair.
On this Wednesday, May 12, episode of Sundial:
State Senator Lauren Book
Democrats have a new leader in the negotiating process heading into next week’s special legislative session focused on gambling. Democratic State Sen. Lauren Book from Broward County is the new minority leader in the Legislature, following a contentious vote to remove State Sen. Gary Farmer from that position.
The stakes are high next week in Tallahassee, with lawmakers set to approve an agreement made by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe that could bring in billions to the Sunshine State within the next five years.
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“I’m not sure this is the best deal that we could have and there’s still a lot of unanswered questions,” said Book. “It’s one of the largest expansions of gaming that we’ve ever seen in terms of internet gaming. People can sit in their homes and gamble online, that is a big piece of this.”
The gaming compact was one of the many priorities Gov. DeSantis set his eyes on this legislative session; he was also successful in passing legislation that gave police more authority to arrest protestors, putting tighter restrictions on mail-in voting and Republican leaders also approved legislation preventing transgender athletes from participating in female sports.
Book recognizes Democrats have a long way to go in moving their progressive agenda in Tallahassee.
“We are the party that stands for all people and inclusion. I’m not sure we are in the place right now where we are going to flip the House or the Senate. But I think by staying where we are and growing voter registration we can get there but it’s going to take time,” Book said.
Filming Cops In Florida
A recent Florida appellate court ruling may threaten an individual’s rights to film police officers making arrests in public. In a 2-1 decision, judges from the 4th District Court found Boynton Beach police officers were justified in their arrest of Tasha Ford. She was filming the police officers using her cellphone back in 2009 while they detained her son in a movie theater parking lot.
Officers argued she was interfering with their investigation and acting unruly when she refused to stop filming; Ford argued it’s her First Amendment right to document their actions.
Michael Masinter is a Professor of Law Emeritus at Nova Southeastern University who specializes in civil rights cases.
“The government can prohibit you from inciting a riot while talking to a police officer. The government can prohibit you from directly interfering and obstruct the performance of the officer's duty. But you have every right to film and every right to record in those circumstances,” Masinter said.
We reached out to the Boynton Beach Police Department for a statement regarding the appellate court’s ruling and received the following response from public information officer Stephanie Slater:
“The City of Boynton Beach is pleased with the appellate court's measured decision. The decision confirms that Boynton Beach police officers acted in accordance with Florida law. We note that the court found probable cause for the plaintiff’s arrest for obstruction without violence.”
One of the issues raised in the course of the trial is whether Ford violated the privacy rights of the officer by recording the interaction without their permission. Florida is a two-party consent state when it comes to recording interactions.
Judge Martha C. Warner, who was the dissenting vote in the decision, argued police officers should recognize there’s no reasonable expectation for privacy in public spaces. Furthermore, Judge Warner suggested cellphone video has proven an essential tool in holding police officers accountable, given the significance of the video shot by Darnella Frazier of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.
“It’s very difficult to argue with what’s on video and audio recording. Officer Chauvin, and others involved in his arrest, had a very different account than what the video showed. The tool is incredibly important in holding law enforcement accountable,” said Masinter.
We reached out to Samuel Alexander, the attorney representing Tasha Ford, for a statement on the case and received the following:
“We are disappointed with the Fourth’s majority opinion, which strayed from the court’s own precedent to affirm on a narrow ground. We agree with Judge Warner’s strong dissent that under the well-established law in Florida, there was no probable cause for arrest. In a free society, recording the police is not a crime. We are considering our next steps.”
Class Of COVID-19 At The South Florida Fair
The South Florida Fair is back with an in-person exhibit on Florida Public Media’s "Class of COVID-19" project, which tells the stories of students, teachers and parents during the pandemic.
WLRN is inviting middle and high school students on a virtual field trip where they can share their stories. The event will be held Monday, May 17 at 11:30 a.m. on WLRN's YouTube or Facebook pages.
“Some of [these stories] are heartbreaking, some of them are absolutely hilarious, just making me laugh out loud and I think it's just going to be a really great thing to have those stories somewhere,” said WLRN’s education reporter Jessica Bakeman, who is also the project editor for the Class of COVID-19 project. “It’s a note to your future self and, in part, why we did that is because we want students to think right now about what this means for their future and be able to look back on it later on and remember what it was like.”
Sundial also heard from Rita Lincoln, the director of brand management for the South Florida Fair in Palm Beach County.
Find more information about the virtual field trip and how to participate here.