It’s been more than a year since the City of Boston paid out over $200,000 in settlements to people falsely arrested for video-recording cops, but Boston police still haven’t learned their lesson.
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.
During Glik’s legal odyssey, the First Circuit federal appeals court explained in a ruling that recording the police in public is a well-established, constitutionally protected right and police can be sued for violating this right.
Despite these rulings and hefty settlements, a Boston police sergeant showed yesterday that he felt perfectly comfortable physically assaulting someone for video-recording, threatening him with arrest, and forcing him to cross the street against his will.
Boston-resident Jay Kelly was walking down the sidewalk of Adams Street in Dorchester, just a few blocks away from where he lives, when he noticed a group of police detaining several people. He walked past the police, took out his cellphone, and began recording out of concern for the people who had been detained.It wasn’t long before Kelly was approached by a pudgy, balding thug in a blue shirt who asked him why he was “taking pictures” of “undercover” — no — “plainclothes police officers.”
“You’ve got guns on the street,” Kelly said, expressing the appropriate skepticism one should have for a group of armed strangers.
The cop told Kelly that he could record, but said that he was somehow “putting plainclothes officers’ safety at risk.”
The officer showed Kelly his badge, but promptly covered it up and walked away after Kelly attempted to record it. Kelly was able to read that the officer’s badge number was 362.
“What’s your name, officer?” Kelly asked.
“Actually, it’s sergeant,” the cop petulantly replied. The cop never told Kelly his name, so we’ll refer to him as “Sarge” for the purposes of this article.
Sarge and a red-shirted cop (later identified as “Fabiano”) began telling Kelly that he would have to move down the street.
“You guys like shooting it out with people,” Kelly told the cops, expressing his anger at their ridiculous orders.
Sarge became enraged by Kelly’s comment and began walking toward him menacingly and assaulted him by grabbing at his camera.
Sarge continued walking toward Kelly, forcing him to back up the length of two parked cars. At one point, Sarge walked into Kelly and threatened to arrest him for assaulting and battering a police officer if they came into physical contact again. “I was threatened with arrest for pushing him when in the video I am clearly moving back,” Kelly told me.
Sarge ordered Kelly to cross the street. When Kelly pointed out that it would be jaywalking to do so, the cop walked into the street and began blocking off traffic.
After Kelly crossed the street, he continued recording the police for several minutes.
Sarge yelled at Kelly from across the street that the people the police were detaining did not want to be recorded. “They can tell me that if they want,” Kelly said. None of the individuals told Kelly to stop recording.
Kelly doesn’t record police very often, “but if something seems amiss, I would stop and observe [the police] any time,” he told me. He said he recorded police a number of times during his involvement with Occupy Boston. He also mentioned that he was pushed around by a State Police Captain for video-recording at the State House last year in April.
Kelly said he has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union about yesterday’s incident. He also contacted Deputy Superintendent John J. Daley of the Boston Police Department in order to file a complaint. He said he was interested in pressing assault charges against Sarge.
Kelly pointed out to me that the Boston Police Department sometimes uses its Twitter account to ask for witnesses of shootings to come forward, but in this case, the police were trying to stop him from witnessing what was happening. “They only want witnesses when convenient to them,” he said. “Fuck that bullshit.”
“They’re all bastards,” Kelly said of police. He said he suffers from PTSD because of his past interactions with police officers and his experience spending several years in jail.
Nevertheless, Kelly said that after yesterday’s incident, he is probably more likely to record police he sees in the future.