Tuesday, March 27, 2012

City of Boston Loses Landmark Case Against Man Who Recorded Police Brutality

Flickr/ photographer padawan *(xava du)
Joe Wright
Activist Post

Police departments around the country continue to intimidate citizen journalists into thinking that they have no right to film officials during the course of their duties serving the public. There has been a disturbing trend of arresting people even while filming from their own property; threatening them with 15-20 years, or even life in prison if there are multiple counts.

Massachusetts has been at the forefront of an attempt to redefine illegal wiretapping laws to say that if you secretly record police, then it is a crime every bit as equal to recording your neighbor with a hidden camera or audio device.

One of the men targeted under this interpretation was lawyer, Simon Glik, who was arrested on Tremont Street, Boston in October, 2007 for filming an altercation between three police officers and a teenager.  The officers were attempting to extract a plastic bag from the youth's mouth.  Glik thought he was witnessing a case of police brutality, so he began filming with his cellphone.  He was arrested within minutes . . . for " illegal electronic surveillance.  (Source)

Glik is just one of many who have fallen prey to Massachussets' loose interpretation of wiretapping laws.

John Surmacz filmed police roughly breaking up a holiday party he was attending in Brighton and was arrested and charged with illegal surveillance. (Source).

Madison Ruppert reports that:
Michael Hyde was charged with illegal wiretapping when he used a secretly recorded video of a police encounter as the basis for a harassment complaint. 
Cambridge sound engineer, Jeffrey Manzinelli, was arrested and convicted of illegal wiretapping along with disorderly conduct for recording MBTA police officers at an anti-war rally in 2002. While he openly recorded the officer, which is completely legal, a 2007 court case upheld his conviction on the basis that he had a hidden microphone in his sleeve. 
Peter Lowney was arrested and convicted of illegal wiretapping in 2007 when Boston University police officers claimed he had hid a camera in his coat during a protest. (Source)
And the list goes on.  However, despite this assault on basic protections afforded by the Constitution, there has been an equal backlash resulting in many courts around the country ruling that these eavesdropping laws are, in fact, completely made up and unconstitutional.

Places like Cook County, Illinois have backed the First Amendment in cases like that of Christopher Drew who was facing 15 years in prison for violating the state's Eavesdropping Act. Another case in Illinois was dismissed in less than one hour. Incidentally, this might have played a part in the decision to move the upcoming NATO/G8 Summit.

Now, the city of Boston has been forced to go one step further than merely acquitting those charged -- they have had to respond to Glik's own lawsuit against them. As part of the settlement, Boston will pay Glik $170,000 in damages and legal fees, thus sending a warning to law enforcement that they will be watched and recorded by the public, as well as a warning to cities and states who will disobey the Constitution. 

As summarized by the ACLU:
The settlement follows a landmark ruling last August by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, declaring that the First Amendment protects the right to record police carrying out their duties in a public place, Glik v. Cunniffe 655 F.3d 78 (2011). The First Circuit's ruling is binding only in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico, but its persuasive reasoning has been cited by courts and lawyers nationwide facing the recurrent issue of police arresting people for filming them.
The Massachusetts wiretap statute prohibits only secret recording of audio. The First Circuit in Glik's case affirmed that an arrest under the statute for openly recording the police would violate not only the First Amendment right to gather information but also the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against false arrests.
'The law had been clear for years that openly recording a video is not a crime. It's sad that it takes so much for police to learn the laws they were supposed to know in the first place. I hope Boston police officers will never again arrest someone for openly recording their public actions,' said Glik.
'The court's opinion made clear that people cannot be arrested simply for documenting the actions of police officers in public. With this issue squarely resolved against it, it made sense for the City to settle the case rather than continuing to waste taxpayer money defending it,' said David Milton, one of the attorneys for Glik. (Source)
Citizen journalism is an essential component of a functioning republic, and this latest case gives great hope as America descends in just about every other way into a total police state.  For now, at least in Boston, the watchers will be watched and those whose civil rights have been violated will receive compensation.

For more information about the rights of citizen journalists please visit the excellent site of Carlos Miller: Photography is Not a Crime

Read other articles by Joe Wright here

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Anonymous said...

Great News for "We The People" & the warriors who are awake and fighting against Tyranny!!!

Anonymous said...

They would/will back down when EVERYBODY begins filming incidents. as people witness an encounter all could begin to capture it...Bullies will back down to a show of superior force.

Anonymous said...

Filming and filing law suits -- yes, great news!

Gary Don Oliver said...

In my experience the worst criminals in our degenerating economy are the cops. These days cops are hired to make a profit for the government, any way they can, and get rid of those that don’t produce for the government. All governments have become the Godzilla of old Japanese movies. Cops don't need to use phony radar guns in Oregon to steal from a motorist. They just completely fabricate a charge then commit perjury in court. The conspiring judge will make sure there were no witnesses in the vehicle before their complicity in the theft. It doesn't even matter that a charge completely violates the laws of physics. Oregon cops will issue a completely bogus traffic cite, then commit perjury with the most ridiculous impossible lies in court and the judges convict anyway, as if it were a conspiracy. I know. It happened to me in Oregon. In Oregon, don't drive in your vehicle alone. If you want to know why, read the posts on: facebook.com/garydonoliver. That is the reason cops don’t want to be filmed. It cuts into their take from theft, and exposes their level of insanity

Joe said...

In those backward parts of the world where the police still thing the public works for them and try to prosecute citizens recording their actions, here is an effective civil disobedience act design for such a scenario:

A group of people with camera smartphones with GPS and messaging are marshalled from a pool of interested activists in the general vicinity (perhaps via a geolocating app they signed up to, think megaphone in the real world) to a location where a police altercation with suspected or observed brutality is occurring.

They simply observe from a safe distance just like normal bystanders. Only one or two of them begins recording the police performing duties. If they get hassled or arrested, another begins recording THAT altercation. And so on.

Perfectly legal, but it sends a strong message.

Anonymous said...

The states should not have to pay, that is just taxpayer money being used, the offending officers should be responsible for all costs, this might make some of these offenders think twice about violating the Constitutional rights of our citizens. After paying all costs, they should then be charged with their crimes and terminated from their jobs. Them walking away while the public picks up the tab solves nothing, they need to be individually charged to put an end to this.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the trend of using the ADL in 'police training', our militarized police have been transformed into thugs, similar to an hostile, occupying army. Here the people, ordinary citizens, are readily viewed as the enemy.

Activist said...

Excellent point Anon @4:05. We need to be excited that SOMETHING has been accomplished here, but you are absolutely right -- until these officers are held personally liable, instead of those who pay their wages, we can't claim complete victory. I would only add that citizens need to remember that they currently WILL be held liable, so this is an opportunity to engage your local police department and demand that they understand this ruling and that their actions won't be tolerated -- perhaps next time they will be held personally accountable. J.W.

Anonymous said...

Quote from the article:
'The law had been clear for years that openly recording a video is not a crime. It's sad that it takes so much for police to learn the laws they were supposed to know in the first place.

It might surprise you all to learn, that police are NEVER required to know the law. You are, the lawyers are, the courts are, but the POLICE AREN'T REQUIRED TO KNOW THE LAW. They are only required to enforce the rules as their bosses lay out for them, but never ever, are they required to KNOW the law.

Many people make this mistake, thinking police know the law. They don't.

Anonymous said...

Every police officer, judge, sheriff, etc. must post a surety bond in case they are sued. Go after that bond.

Anonymous said...

Good! We have the right to record them in public places, just as long as they continue to record us in public places. The old saying that comes to mind is; "what is good for the goose is good for the gander".

Anonymous said...

"When people fear the govt we have tyranny. When govt fears the people we have liberty"--Jeffereson With govt drones, illegal wire taps, NSA monitoring our phones, emails, texts, why should we not monitor those who are monitoring us. Call it check/balance.

Anonymous said...

Great News, at last some sanity in a crazy world

Anonymous said...

Fascism has come to Amerika, wrapped in the flag, bearing a cross & under the guise of "protection." With all due respect to Sinclair Lewis for paraphrasing him.

Anonymous said...

The best kept secret is that lawyers do not know the law and neither do the judges. These so called 'judges' are not even lawful judges under Article 3, judiciary acts of the state and federal constitutions. When asked the question they will tell you that they are Article 1 judges. Can't be because Article 1 is the legislative part of the 3 branches. How can anyone get a fair trial in any court where the 'judge' is impersonating a "judicial" officer? Can anyone say the word "felony"?

The whole system is so stinking corrupt that if you knew the truth you would all be bearing arms and doing a lot of lynching. These things have already been ruled on many times and the criminals that pretend to be your government don't give a damn about past court rulings. They know that few people will sue because damn few have the knowledge to fight these criminals, lawyers refuse to bite the hand that feeds them, and the state always has far more money than the individual. This decision will change nothing.

Anonymous said...

Look and Learn all you "law enforcers" out there.... LEARN WHAT THE LAW REALLY IS BEFORE YOU ENFORCE IT!

A little paper called the, Constitution gave you Rights and the Public Rights but, you don't have ANY Right to "make up" your own laws!

Smarten up!

Anonymous said...

We need meaningful penalties to discourage this. Typically, government agencies will ignore unfavorable court decisions knowing the benefit from continuing the illegal behavior is greater than the cost of complying. We need to change that.

Anonymous said...

Moving to a point where it makes no difference. The people that interview and hire cops are not seeing the citizens record of bad cop behavior.

Anonymous said...

What about the police who just cost the taxpayers 170,000?

Anonymous said...

I thought that the police is there to "Serve and Protect",
Question, who do they serve and who do they protect?
I am glad I am in Australia, but the police seem to be changing here as well.

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