Camera Crime

Bogus Boston bust


Simon Glik was strolling across the Boston Common in October 2007 when he saw two police officers arresting a man suspected of selling drugs. Believing the officers were using excessive force, Glik took out his cell phone to document the incident, whereupon the cops decided to arrest him too—for wiretapping and aiding the escape of a prisoner. In January, after defending that decision for more than four years, the Boston Police Department finally admitted the cops made a bad call.

In between, Glik, a Boston immigration attorney, filed a complaint with the police department's Internal Affairs Division, which concluded that he "did not articulate a violation of law or the department's rules and regulations by an officer" and told him "the proper forum for this matter was with the courts." Glik took that advice, filing a federal lawsuit against the city and the officers, Sgt. Detective John Cunniffe and Officer Peter Savalis.

Last August the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled that Cunniffe and Savalis had violated Glik's constitutional rights. The court said "a citizen's right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment."

Five months after that ruling, the police department suddenly decided that Cunniffe and Savalis had used "unreasonable judgment." The Boston Globe reported that they "face discipline ranging from an oral reprimand to suspension."

Sarah Wunsch, acting legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which helped Glik with his lawsuit, told Ars Technica "they're hanging the individual officers out to dry." Glik claimed in his lawsuit that the department had failed to adequately train Cunniffe and Savalis, an argument that was reinforced by its continued defense of their unconstitutional harassment. "From what I understand," Glik told the Globe, "it takes filing a federal lawsuit in order for internal affairs to review a complaint."