The Consumerist has a very short article announcing a decision from the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled on the application of a Massachusetts wiretap law. In this situation, the police officers were attempting to use the law to punish a private citizen who had recorded activities of on-the-job police. The court found that officers did not have immunity for their violation of the recorder’s First Amendment civil rights.
Full decision is a PDF, download here.
Notably, the court held that the police officers in question, and the City and the police department in general, did not have immunity for officers’ decision to arrest and charge a man who had used his cell phone to record video of the officers using excessive force to arrest a suspect in a public park. The court cited City of Houston v. Hill, 482 US 451, 462 to remind the Boston police that “[t]he freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state.”
This opinion is good news for citizen journalists in Boston, and opponents of police brutality everywhere.
If I were a betting man, I’d predict that the City of Boston will appeal, the SCOTUS will deny cert, and the city will settle.