Four years after attorney Simon Gilk was arrested for videotaping police officers, the Boston Police Department has admitted the officers were wrong for taking him into custody. But their admittance is too little too late for the attorney who plans on moving forward with his lawsuit against the department.
Gilk was arrested after police stopped him from filming them conducting an arrest of another young man. He had been walking by when he noticed the police and took out his cell phone to record them. The police asked if his phone recorded audio. When he replied that it did, they arrested him in violation of the wiretap statute.
He was also charged with disorderly conduct and aiding an escape. Though the charges were eventually dropped, Gilk filed a complaint with the department in 2007 and has filed a lawsuit in conjunction with the ACLU.
Initially, after receiving Gilk’s 2007 letter, the department issued a response saying there was no wrongdoing on the part of their officers’ actions. They maintained their support for the arrest until their change of heart came this month, refusing to say what exactly prompted their about-face.
In August of last year, a federal Court of Appeals ruled that people have a First Amendment right to film police officers engaged in official duty. Further, this month the U.S. Department of Justice also said the action is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
In that unrelated, Maryland case, the DOJ says, “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”
Several police agencies have begun training their officers to this effect—that the citizens they serve are allowed to film them while working. Some agencies, however, are still a little late on doing so and you don’t have to look far in national headlines to find someone, somewhere being arrested for videotaping the police.
While videotaping the police may be lawful, disrupting their duties is not. And in some cases, the cops could charge you with something like disorderly conduct if your actions do, in fact, prevent or hinder them from doing their jobs.
If you are charged with getting in the way of police, with filming police, or with disorderly conduct, contact my offices today to discuss the charges against you and how I might be able to help.