After standing by their officers for four years, the Boston Police Department admitted officers were wrong when they arrested attorney Simon Glik for filming an arrest of a young man with his cell phone.
The police department sent Glik a letter on Jan. 5 stating the two officers who arrested him used "unreasonable judgment." The letter was written as a response to Glik's complaint with the police department, which he filed in 2007. The department initially responded to the complaint in 2008 finding nothing wrong with their officers' actions, and advised Glik that his only other avenue was with the courts.
The police department declined to elaborate on what prompted last week's letter due to ongoing litigation with Glik, who sued the city and three officers in 2010 for violating his First and Fourth Amendment rights.
“It is unfair to the officers for the city to now say they were wrong and should know better, when they defended them all along,” said David Milton, Glik's attorney, who added that they plan on continuing with the lawsuit.
The Boston Police Department said it is not known at this time if the officers involved in Glik's arrest face disciplinary action.
In October 2007, Glik was walking past Boston Common when he witnessed the arrest of a young man. Glik began recording the arrest on his cell phone. After the arrest, one of the officers turned to Glik and said, "I think you've taken enough pictures," according to court documents. Glik replied that he was recording them and had witnessed the officers punch the young man. Police asked if Glik's phone recorded audio, and he confirmed it did. Police then arrested Glik for unlawful audio recording.
Glik was charged with violating the Massachusetts' wiretap statute, disorderly conduct and aiding an escape. Police dropped the charges. But Glik, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, filed the lawsuit.
In August 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed that, “this First Amendment right publicly to record the activities of police officers on public business is established.”
“When the federal court of appeals says that no reasonable police officer would have arrested someone in these circumstances, it would be hard for the Boston Police Department to maintain its position that the officers acted reasonably,” Milton said.
Coincidentally this week, in a separate case, the U.S. Department of Justice weighed in on a Maryland lawsuit defending First Amendment rights to film law enforcement in a public setting.
"The right to record police officers while performing duties in a public place, as well as the right to be protected from the warrantless seizure and destruction of those recordings, are not only required by the Constitution. They are consistent with our fundamental notions of liberty, promote the accountability of our governmental officers, and instill public confidence in the police officers who serve us daily,” according to court documents filed on Tuesday.
In May 2010, Baltimore police confiscated Christopher Sharp’s phone and deleted several recordings after he captured the forcible arrest of his friend on the device. Sharp filed a lawsuit against the police department citing a violation of his federal rights. His case is ongoing in a U.S. District Court in Maryland.
That same year, the Baltimore police department implemented additional law enforcement training regarding a citizen's right to videotape on-duty officers in a public place, said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
Boston also started similar training for their officers in 2010, according to police media relations.