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Boston Settles Suit Over Recording Of Police Officers

BOSTON — The City of Boston has settled a landmark case involving a man arrested for recording an arrest by Boston police with his cellphone. In the civil rights suit settlement, the city will pay Simon Glik, a Boston attorney, $170,000 for damages and legal fees.

Cellphones with video recording capabilities have become so ubiquitous that it’s not uncommon for someone to tape anything they come across, including police actions. But in 2007 when Glik saw police officers forcefully arresting a man on Boston Common, Glik filmed it and was criminally charged. A judge later threw out the charges against him, which included illegal wiretapping and disturbing the peace.

But Glik filed suit against the city with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. The settlement was announced Tuesday.

“Beyond the right thing to do for police departments, to train their officers to respect the rights of people videotaping,” said Glik’s lawyer, David Milton, “we also hope this will also send a message that not respecting the rights of people to record police officers will ultimately cost them, and is a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

In August of last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled people filming public officials on the job are protected by the First Amendment. That point was at the heart of an amicus brief filed in the Glik case by a group that included Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

“I do hope that this case has helped the police departments throughout Massachusetts to be aware of the First Amendment rights of citizens to record the activities of public officials in public spaces,” said Jeff Hermes, the director of the Citizen Media Law Project at the center.

Boston Police have already made some changes to their policies since the court ruling. Commissioner Ed Davis says now, they’ll do more.

“It changes our training, it changes the way we advise officers to deal with a situation,” Davis said. “It still doesn’t give someone the right to interfere with a lawful arrest that’s occurring.”

Davis says police could still arrest and charge someone with obstruction if their recording of the police action gets in the way.

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