Written by Steve Silverman of FlexYourRights.org
Last week the City of Boston agreed to pay Simon Glik $170,000 in damages and legal fees to settle a civil rights lawsuit stemming from his 2007 felony arrest for videotaping police roughing up a suspect. Prior to the settlement, the First Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Glik had a "constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public." The Boston Police Department now explicitly instructs its officers not to arrest citizens openly recording them in public.
Image by Eccentric Circle
This is a repost from about three years ago. It’s important to note that this the only version to still exists online. Apparently the FBI has sent privacy complaints to youtube regarding their identities being open to the public. If you are an agent with the FBI and take issue with this post, consider how it would feel to be a law abiding person and be visited by agents for “pre crimes”. And if you take issue with this video being online, please contact the ACLU Northern Branch. . . .
Over the years, Copwatch groups have spread across the nation and world.
If you are interested in starting a Copwatch group, reach out to your community and find like-minded folks. Read up on your rights (local, state, and federal). Check in with the greater public about Copwatch and see how they feel about it. If it’s a need that makes sense, go out and do it, and be great!
Here are some resources Berkeley Copwatch has used in Know Your Rights trainings over the years.
When Berkeley Copwatch formed back in 1990, police were initially resistant to the idea of people watching them with video cameras. Some copwatchers would be harassed or even arrested for documenting police stops. But with conflict, there came resolution. The Berkeley Police Department eventually created a departmental policy known as “Bulletin 91” which required the Berkeley police to provide the least amount of restrictions to civilian oversight of the police during contained situations.
While the public has the right to observe and videotape police during the course of their duty, if you intend to pro-actively monitor the police, it doesn’t hurt to pressure your local department to develop a policy that outlines their requirement of officers to respect people’s right to observe.
Below are several examples of different cities’ copwatch policies: