Attorney arrested for recording officers in public receives $170,000 in settlement with City of Boston

Haley Behre | Newsgathering | News | March 27, 2012

A Massachusetts attorney arrested for using his cellphone to record police officers while they arrested a man in public received a $170,000 settlement for damages and legal fees from the City of Boston on Monday.

As part of the settlement, Simon Glik agreed to withdraw his appeal to the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel to investigate the Boston Police Department's Internal Affairs Division who he said treated him dismissively when he filed a complaint after he was arrested, according to a press release by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which provided legal assistance to the attorney.

“It is a significant amount of money,” said David Milton, Glik's attorney, adding that his client incurred a large amount of legal expenses because the “city fought this case tooth and nail all the way up to the First Circuit," the federal appellate court with jurisdiction over federal trial courts in Massachusetts.

The settlement follows a decision last August in which the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) ruled that the First Amendment protects the right to record police officers in the public performance of their duties.

This case is important because of a number of incidents in recent years wherein citizens are being arrested for recording police officers carrying out their official duties in public, Milton said.

The First Circuit's opinion provided “a detailed analysis rooted in the history and purposes of the First Amendment of why recording police is what they call a ‘basic, vital and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment,’” Milton said, quoting the opinion in Glik v. Cunniffe.

The Massachusetts wiretapping statute, which prohibits secret audio recording, is the statute Glik allegedly violated when he was arrested in October 2007 for recording police officers as they arrested a young man on the Boston Common. Glik was also charged with aiding an escape and disorderly conduct.

All three charges were eventually dropped, but Glik filed a federal civil rights suit against the city and the arresting officers for allegedly violating his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The officers moved to dismiss the complaint, claiming they were entitled to qualified immunity on the charges because it is not well-settled that Glik had a constitutional right to record the officers. The U.S. District Court in Boston denied the officers' motion, and the First Circuit affirmed that decision.

In January, after defending the officers' actions for four years, the Boston Police Department admitted that the officers who arrested Glik in 2007 for recording them used "unreasonable judgment."

“It is important that citizens be able to record police acting in public so that the police can be held accountable for their actions,” Milton said. “As we see all around the country and world, images captured from people’s cellphones can have a remarkably important effect on public debate of public information. It is ultimately a tool of democracy.”

City officials could not be reached for comment.

Related Reporters Committee resources:

· News: Filming police in public is protected by the First Amendment

· News: Boston police admit arrest for videotaping was wrong

· NM&L: Courts split over First Amendment protection for recording police performance of public duties

· Police, Protesters and the Press: The immunity issue