March 9, 2014


George Thompson says last January he was just sitting on his front porch, watching a Fall River police officer working a paid detail. Thompson says the officer was on his phone and was swearing very loud.

That’s when Thompson pulled out his phone. Thompson says Officer Tom Barboza then rushed him and arrested him, charging him with unlawful wiretapping.

But in Massachusetts it’s perfectly legal to record video and audio of a public official, including police, as long as they are performing their duties and the recording isn’t hidden. Barboza’s own police report shows that Thompson acknowledged he was recording the officer.

“I think we all have our basic rights and I think people should not record others secretly or surreptitiously,” Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine told WPRI.

Yes, well, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, citizens have the right to record the police, and that right is so clear that qualified immunity doesn’t attach to officers who violate it. I hope he sues them for a lot. And the folks of Fall River may want to ask why they have a Police Chief who doesn’t know the law.