Key court case tests right to record the police with a cell phone
This one is interesting, but ultimately it’s a severe stretch to apply wiretapping laws to public streets.
If you pull out your cell phone to make a video of police officers arresting a suspect, are you “secretly recording” them? “No” seems like the obvious answer, but that’s precisely the claim that three police officers made to justify their arrest of a Boston man. In arguments before the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on Wednesday, the city also denied the man’s claim that his First or Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.
The case will be an important test of whether the Constitution protects individuals’ right to record the police while they are on duty.
In 2007, a man named Simon Glik witnessed another man being arrested on the Boston Common. After hearing a witness say, “you are hurting him, stop,” Glik pulled out his cell phone to document the encounter. When a police officer confronted him, Glik informed the officer that he had witnessed an officer punch the suspect, and acknowledged that he was recording the incident. The officer responded by arresting Glik.
Many states have “one-party notification” wiretapping laws that allow any party to a conversation to secretly record it. But under the strict “two-party notification” laws in Massachusetts, it’s a crime to “secretly record” audio communications unless “all parties to such communication” have given their consent.