Civil Liberties

Police Photographer Who Released Photos of Boston Bomber Manhunt Reportedly Relieved of Duty

Government photos traditionally public domain


on a boat
Sgt. Sean Murphy/Massachusetts State Police

The cop who released photos today of the hunt for alleged Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been relieved of duty, this according to tweets from John Wolfson, the editor of Boston Magazine, to which Sergeant Sean Murphy, a tactical photographer with the Massachusetts State Police, provided the photographs as well as a statement. Murphy said he was moved to release the pictures to counter what he perceived as the glorification of alleged Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of the most recent issue of Rolling Stone. Here's part of what Murphy told Boston Magazine:

"As a professional law-enforcement officer of 25 years, I believe that the image that was portrayed by Rolling Stone magazine was an insult to any person who has every worn a uniform of any color or any police organization or military branch, and the family members who have ever lost a loved one serving in the line of duty. The truth is that glamorizing the face of terror is not just insulting to the family members of those killed in the line of duty, it also could be an incentive to those who may be unstable to do something to get their face on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

"I hope that the people who see these images will know that this was real. It was as real as it gets. This may have played out as a television show, but this was not a television show. Officer Dick Donohue almost gave his life. Officer Sean Collier did give his life. These were real people, with real lives, with real families. And to have this cover dropped into Boston was hurtful to their memories and their families. I know from first-hand conversations that this Rolling Stone cover has kept many of them up—again. It's irritated the wounds that will never heal—again. There is nothing glamorous in bringing more pain to a grieving family.["]

Murphy doesn't mention Dick Donohue was likely hit by friendly fire. It's unclear what, if anything, in the pictures Murphy released could be plausibly considered sensitive information. Government photos are traditionally in the public domain and these look like they ought to be too, and ought to have been released earlier, and not just as a response to a perceived slight by a music magazine.