Police Arrest Bystanders Who Use Phones to Video Arrests of Others

Thursday, January 14, 2010
Cell Phone Video of Beaverton Arrest (photo: Hao Vang)

Use a cell phone to videotape a police arrest and go to jail. That’s what has happened to some Massachusetts residents who have tried to capture images of police apprehending criminal suspects.

Jon Surmacz pulled out his phone to record police while they broke up a holiday party in December 2008 and found himself arrested for illegal electronic surveillance. The same thing happened to attorney Simon Glik, who recorded three officers struggling with a suspected drug offender—his phone was confiscated and Glik wound up behind bars.
Police are basing their illegal surveillance arrests on a 1968 state law that requires all parties involved in a conversation to agree to being recorded, otherwise it’s illegal.
Glik’s attorney, June Jensen, says Boston police have “misconstrued” state law, arguing it is not illegal for an individual to publicly record someone.
“The police apparently do not want witnesses to what they do in public,” said Sarah Wunsch, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, who helped Surmacz get the charges against him dismissed.
Similar incidents have occurred in other parts of the country. For example, Hao Vang of Beaverton, Oregon, was arrested in August 2008 for using his phone to document police arresting a friend. Vang filed a federal civil rights suit against the city and one of officers in September 2009.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Police Fight Cellphone Recordings (by Daniel Rowinski, New England Center For Investigative Reporting)


Maria from Seattle 12 years ago
Is it any wonder people are taking pop-shots at police? The cops are soo freaked up here in the NW, there's a big campaign of, "don’t shoot... cops are human, honest!"

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