March 28th, 2012

Police Intimidation Watch: Boston to Pay $170K for Wrongful Arrest of Videographer

The City of Boston has agreed to pay $170,000 to settle a civil lawsuit for the wrongful arrest of a man for videotaping police as they arrested another man on the Boston Common in 2007.

The settlement, announced yesterday of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, resulted from a federal court ruling that the First Amendment protects the right to record police carrying out their duties in a public place. That ruling, issued last August by the US Court of Appeals in Boston, is binding only in New England (excluding Connecticut) and Puerto Rico, where the court has jurisdiction. (Glik v. Cunniffe 655 F.3d 78 (2011))

“[B]ut its persuasive reasoning has been cited by courts and lawyers nationwide facing the recurrent issue of police arresting people for filming them,” the ACLU asserts.

Police have arrested citizens in several states for video taping them, on the grounds that wiretapping statutes in those states prohibit recording anyone without their consent.

“The law had been clear for years that openly recording a video is not a crime,” said Simon Glik, the plaintiff in the Boston case, in the ACLU announcement.

Glik, who is an attorney, was arrested in October, 2007 after he saw police arresting a teenager on the Boston Common, and began making a video of the arrest with his cell phone. Police arrested Glik on criminal charges of illegal wiretapping and disturbing the peace.

After the charges were dismissed, Glik sued the City of Boston on the grounds that Boston police had violated his civil rights. In addition to finding that Glik’s First Amendment rights had been violated, the US Court of Appeals ruled that his Fourth Amendment rights had also be violated on the grounds of wrongful arrest.

Related:
Police Intimidation Watch: Beating a Photojournalist on a Lisbon Street
A Sign of Restive Times: Policeman Punches Photojournalist