City of Boston pays $170,000 to settle landmark case involving man arrested for recording police with cell phone

In October 2007 Simon Glik used his phone to videotape police officers arresting a man in Boston. The police immediately turned their attention to Mr. Glik and arrested him for "illegal electronic surveillance." Glik filed a civil suit against the city, and he was awarded $170,000 in a settlement.

Mr. Glik was forced to defend himself against criminal charges of illegal wiretapping, aiding the escape of a prisoner, and disturbing the peace. After a judge threw out those charges, Glik filed a civil rights suit against the city and the arresting officers in federal court in Boston, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and Boston attorneys Howard Friedman and David Milton. This settlement resolves that case.

The settlement follows a landmark ruling last August by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, declaring that the First Amendment protects the right to record police carrying out their duties in a public place, Glik v. Cunniffe 655 F.3d 78 (2011). The First Circuit's ruling is binding only in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico, but its persuasive reasoning has been cited by courts and lawyers nationwide facing the recurrent issue of police arresting people for filming them.

The Massachusetts wiretap statute prohibits only secret recording of audio. The First Circuit in Glik's case affirmed that an arrest under the statute for openly recording the police would violate not only the First Amendment right to gather information but also the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against false arrests.

"The law had been clear for years that openly recording a video is not a crime. It's sad that it takes so much for police to learn the laws they were supposed to know in the first place. I hope Boston police officers will never again arrest someone for openly recording their public actions," said Glik.

I imagine the police department won't have to pay the fine; the taxpayers will have to pay for the police officers' fuckup instead.

201203271619P.S.: Never forget!

City of Boston pays $170,000 to settle landmark case involving man arrested for recording police with cell phone (Via ReadWriteWeb)


  1. “the taxpayers will have to pay for the police officers’ fuckup instead.”

    That’s why cities have insurance.  

    1. Agreed…the city probably only paid between $2000-8000 as a deductible on something like this. 

      But I would still argue that the deductible should come out of the pigs salary. (Note my brother is a cop…but when they do heavy handed things and think they can get away with it…they are pig…big difference). Cheers to the good ones!

      1. Courts/juries can direct payments to come from specific persons, but there are a lot of laws shielding cops and government workers from personal responsibility.

        1. True. The claim is that otherwise they would never take the job, but people who serve for free on HOA boards have full legal liability if anything should go hinky at their condo. It’s a question of private vs. public service.

          1. I suspect it’s more a question of community-spirited altruism (condo volunteers) vs jobs that attract people who don’t like having to take responsibility for their own actions (police, or anything else with a military-chain-of-command-esque structure well-suited to the Nuremburg defence).

          2. Have you ever lived in a condo? Because condo HOA members are not driven by altruism so much as by a psychotic compulsion to control every detail of the lives of everyone around them. Mostly. One of the board members here (just painfully ousted after 29 years in control) had residents’ cars towed out of their parking spots because they were dusty. No shit. It cost a fortune in fees, which all the owners had to pay for.

          3. Yeah… no one ever really wants to be on an HOA board unless they’re OCD. At this condo, the board members are basically the only owners left around to be ushered in to service – it’s a small place, and most owners live off site. No one’s gotten fined for anything in the five years I’ve lived here.  (Keep in mind – it’s a non-paying job that you can still be civilly sued for screwing up on. Meanwhile, police officers sometimes get paid leave for breaking the law.)

      2. Cheers to the ones who realize exactly what ” To Protect and Serve ” actually means – 

  2. $170K is cheap. Massachusetts has paid more, more often, to teach the rest of y’all even more important lessons in doing it right.

      1. I was referring primarily to our state constitution, and john adams examples in what democracy looks like, and the minutemen too; you just go with your direction. 

  3. What will be interesting here will be where police forces send out revised recommendations to their officers following this in the way they did for the non-warranted GPS trackers. This sounds like an out-of-court settlement so they may argue there’s no precedent set.

    1. reread the second paragraph, precedent was set in the criminal case, this is civil payouts, which is worse for them, no one gets in trouble for losing a criminal case except the prosecutor who’s stats get hit.  a nice hefty payout though?  shit rolls down hill.

  4. My question is, with the ACLU involved, why did they settle? A legal ruling against the police ought to be immensely valuable for protecting against future cases, right? I hardly think giving a single victim 170k is at all comparable to ensuring legal recourse for future potential victims.

      1. The word “settlement” tells me that the case was probably decided out of court, anyway. That’s usually what a city’s lawyers will choose to do if they think they’ll lose in court.

        Mr. Glik only got to keep part of the money; over 2/3 of it went to cover his legal expenses.

    1. Well, even if the ACLU decided to represent the plaintiff, they cannot continue the case if he (their client) decides to settle.  Once a claim has been settled, there is no controversy between the litigants, so the original complaint is deemed “moot.”  Judges are empowered to decide controversies, absent some additional, usually statutory, mandate.  If the controversy is moot, then the judge cannot decide it.  So by settling, the plaintiff took it out of the ACLU’s hands, along with the judge.

  5. I’m just happy that with the notable exception of corporate personhood the courts haven’t lost their collective minds as much as the other branches and twigs of government seem to have. It’s nice to see the system actually work as it should. 

  6. I don’t see how this deters other officers from arresting other citizens for videotaping.  Having an insurance company pay a fine, and having insurance premiums paid by tax payers… where is the justice for the tax payer… for the citizen?

    Now… if public officials who were on the losing end of judgements like this regularly got fired or faced criminal charges themselves… then we’d see change.

    1. It doesn’t, but it can recoup the loss by docking the pay of the officers involved and their chain of command amounts proportional to their pay over a few years. That *might* ensure the message gets through.

      Neither is bloody likely though.

  7. I doubt the MA police (or any other police for that matter) will ever learn.  These days, anyone with a camera is suspected of being a potential terrorist.  At least that’s the excuse they’ll use. 

  8. you really want to curb this sort of BS? Make it so that the awarded money comes out of the pensions of the cops involved and their superiors. 

    1. I fully agree , the point that the fines are paid for by public funding is unbelievable but true – make the guilty pay with their pension and watch as things  rapidly change – Especially since in this day and age, police officers are one of the very few who are still awarded a pension. 

      1. This is a very simple one: show me one single police force where good cops just do their job and consistently turn on bad ones, and I will believe they aren’t all scum. As long as they all cover for each other all the time, the are all scum. This is one place where I don’t even see a glimmer of hope, which makes it easy to know who’s what.

  9. The problem with badly behaving police, at least in public, is one that we can make some real progress on rather easily. If everybody carried around a concealed recording device, like in a pair of glasses ($22 on Amazon) or a pendant or broach, the police would know that they were under constant surveillance, but could never single out one bystander. Doesn’t it seem like this would put a big dent in their ability to abuse their power in public?

  10. As a private citizen, I make the assumption I’m under constant surveillance. I live in an urban area where cameras are numerous, not just on and in buildings, but on cellphones (both in cars and on pedestrians), and at traffic signals, etc. I don’t change my behavior because of it – I still dance in the grocery store – but I am aware of it. I think it’s a foolish policeman who makes the assumption that no camera can ever see his/her actions. 

    The bullying of police against cameras has felt like a last stand. Like they wanted to make the public believe they have control of information flow – when in fact they don’t – at least not all of it. Hopefully they will come to terms with the fact that they – just like all of us – are under constant surveillance.

    1. I agree. As one example, I put a complaint in about a policeman in the UK for bad driving, road rage whilst carrying a hidden firearm, … 

      Next to Buckingham Palace, the police couldn’t find a single working CCTV camera. 

      The next time I complained about a policeman, it was a chief inspector using a mobile phone whilst driving. Again here the police looked for CCTV cameras, this time to get him off. In the end, they said they couldn’t prosecute because it was my word against his. Now that’s interesting, because I doubt they would apply it the other way round. 

      Now I use a head cam whilst cycling. That’s in addition to recording calls. 

      These last two points are the interesting ones. There is going to be a big change. The state has been recording the citizen. Now the citizen will record the state, and from this case and others, the state doesn’t like it, particularly when it exposes their bad behaviour. They don’t mind when they can use the evidence in other ways.

      Couple that with the ability to diseminate the information widely, and it is difficult for the state to react. 

      Example. In the UK the tax authorities pushed lots of people into working via limited companies. To save costs, umbrella companies were formed, and people contracted via them. 1 set of audit fees, and avoidance of regulations (IR35). One year one worker wanted to claim for something odd. Company said you couldn’t claim, the taxman won’t allow it. Claim he said, if it passes I’m better of, if it doesn’t I’m in the same position. So they claimed and it went through. Next year all 10,000 employees claimed. IR said, you can’t claim. Oh yes we can said the company, you’ve already decided, see case xxyyz (precedent was set, and the information spread). We’ll appeal said the tax man. ROLF said the company, you can’t appeal your own decisions. So its back to changing the law. 

      This recording – broadcasting cycle is going to get bigger. Both the state and corporates are going to be affected. 

        1. It has a nice turn of phrase, doesn’t it?

          As I said, I carry a head cam whilst cycling. I record conversations when its in my interest. I’ve only had to use that once, for real. The other times its mildly amusing listening to the police trying to bully me into dropping a complaint. 

          However it works both ways. Even at the weekend I tackled someone stealing a bike, enough to put them off, including calling the police.

          The police have to accept complaints about their misbehavior just as the accept people helping them against other criminals. It works both ways, and its important to be consistent. 

  11. I’m not too worried about paying a little tax money for a good ruling on one of these cases.

  12. “In October 2007 Simon Glik used his phone to videotape police officers”Those VHS phones were really big though, I bet the cops thought it was a weapon.

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