It’s been more than a year since the City of Boston paid out over $200,000 in settlements to people who were falsely arrested and charged with felony wiretapping for video-recording cops, but Boston police still haven’t learned their lesson.
The wiretapping law makes it illegal to secretly record conversations, however, Boston police have arrested a number of people over the years for openly recording and charged them with wiretapping.
Last year, the taxpayers of Boston were forced to pay $170,000 to Simon Glik and $33,000 to Maury Paulino. Both men were arrested — Glik in 2007 and Paulino in 2009 — by Boston police officers for openly video-recording cops making arrests in public.
Last month, Boston police again used the wiretapping law as their excuse for arresting someone who was recording them. This time the victim was a Northeastern student who used his cellphone to record the police during the celebration after the Red Sox won the World Series. Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The Huntington News, a Northeastern student paper, reported the following information about the case:
I was able to catch up with the student charged with wire-tapping, Tyler Welsh, to hear what he did in the confrontation to deserve that charge. He said he and the officer got into an argument after Welsh questioned why he couldn’t go past the barricades the police had set up to contain students near Fenway Park.
“It was like the situation was getting to the point where I thought he wasn’t doing the right thing,” Welsh said. “He was lacking that professionalism and I thought, ‘I’m going to catch this on camera so at least I can go back and have it and be able to see if what he said was okay, was it not okay or was what I was doing okay?”
Welsh described the confrontation with the officer in an all too familiar way for anyone who ever been in the same situation. He described feeling nervous, afraid and losing control of the entire situation. So he put his phone in front of his chest and began to record a video.
It wasn’t the first time the student felt the need to do so.
Two weekends ago, Welsh was outside a party Boston Police shut down in Mission Hill. He encountered five police officers surrounding and pushing one second-year business student, Michael Kerr, and once again felt the need to document the incident.
“I exited the building after asking a cop inside if I could retrieve my jacket, who replied by grabbing me by my collar and yelling at me to leave immediately,” Kerr said. “I asked another officer outside the same, at which point I was surrounded by 5 of them pushing me and calling me a ‘tough guy’ and to ‘stop with all the questions.’”
An October 31 press release from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office confirms that Welsh was arrested for recording the police:
A dozen people arrested in Boston after last night’s World Series win appeared in a Boston courtroom today, with 10 of them being arraigned today on charges related to their alleged conduct, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.
Of the 12 people arrested by Boston, State, and MBTA Transit police, Roxbury District Court Judge Tracy-Lee Lyons dismissed one case for lack of probable cause and continued a second man’s case for arraignment at a later date. Those two men were a 23-year-old Allston man arrested by Transit Police for trespassing into the tunnel leading from the Blandford Street MBTA stop toward Kenmore Square and a 20-year-old Northeastern University student who allegedly refused to follow Boston Police officers’ orders to leave the area of Kenmore Square and recorded the confrontation on his cell phone. (emphasis added)