An undated video published by Cop Block on Tuesday shows a Boston police officer, seemingly upset that he was being video-recorded, confront the videographer and wave around a suspect's gun.
As the video shows, a group of police officers were standing outside a home, detaining someone. The videographer, who has not been identified by Cop Block, was standing across the street. One of the police officers crossed the street to confront the videographer.
“You wanna jump the in the cruiser with us someday?” the officer ominously asked. “I just thought you might be interested in getting some real, live footage.”
When the videographer pointed his camera at the officer's face, the cop ordered him to turn it away. “I'm not giving you my permission to film,” he said.
The officer should already be well-aware that people do not need his consent to video or audio record him. After the Glik case established that recording police officers is protected by the First Amendment, the Boston Police Department adopted a policy acknowledging this fact. The department even produced a training video on the public's right to record police.
The cop and videographer continued speaking for a few moments and then the cop walked back across the street. A few seconds later, the police officer returned, holding a gun in his right hand.
“This is why we're here,” the cop said.
“Get a real close video of this,” the cop said, shoving the gun in front of the man's camera. “See that? That's why we're here.”
“Have a good day,” the cop said, then returned to the other side of the street.
The man continues recording only for a police officer to tell him that the person they are detaining was a “juvenile,” not a “consenting adult.” But the right to record people includes minors.
We have reached out to the Boston Police Department's Media Relations division for comment.
Update (4/30/15): The Boston Police Department still hasn't responded to our request for comment, but they did provide more information to The Boston Herald.
The department has identified the police officer in the video as Sergeant Henry Joseph Staines and said he is under investigation. The department has also said the gun Staines displayed in the video was a toy.
A Boston police sergeant is under an internal affairs investigation after a video surfaced this week in which the officer is seen holding up a toy gun in the camera lens of a man filming from the street, Boston police said today.
Sgt. Henry Joseph Staines was the supervisor who was videotaped Friday in Roxbury during an investigation into teens who were seen with the same toy gun, said BPD Lt. Michael McCarthy.
“Internal affairs does have the video and they’re looking into whether or not there are some rules’ violations there,” McCarthy said.
In response to Staines’ reaction in the video, the department is also sending a department-wide memo to remind officers that citizens are allowed to videotape officers while they’re on the street working.
“It’s being reissued today as part of our reminder to officers out there that in your performance of duties we can be videotaped and that can happen,” McCarthy said.
He added it doesn’t appear Staines violated any department policies, but the final decision will be made by internal affairs.
Staines was spoken to by his district commander and Superintendent-In-Chief William Gross after the video was brought to the attention of the department, McCarthy said.
He added that Gross, Staines, and the man behind the camera will have a meeting tomorrow in order to hopefully, “make amends.”
McCarthy went on to say how difficult it is to tell the difference between toy guns and real guns:
“These fake, replica, toy firearms, that are involved in gang activities, robberies or just carrying them to school to show their friends,” McCarthy said. “All too many times you have these children carrying these toys and there’s really no way to tell it’s a toy until you have it in your hand.”
That seems like a good reason to not shove one in someone's face, but apparently it's not clear if the department has a policy against that.
The Boston Globe has some additional information about the 61-year-old man who shot the video:
“His intention was to put that in my face and produce fear. That was his intention,” said the man, who asked to be identified by the name Brother Lawrence, because he said he feared retaliation for speaking out. “I thought my life was in jeopardy there.” ...
Lawrence said Staines’s behavior made him increasingly anxious that he would be arrested or injured. He said he knew it was his constitutional right to film police, but ultimately shut his video off because he felt the police were “feeling antagonized” and he was by himself.
“I was scared,” he said. “But at the same time, I knew I had those rights, so I felt I was being protected through those rights.”
Lawrence said he thought the gun was real, and advocates said that because it looked real, it did not matter that it was fake...
Lawrence said that all he wants from the Boston police is a public service announcement to the people of Boston telling them of their rights to videotape police.
“I want to see this as an opportunity to have some freedom,” said Lawrence. “I want the police department to let the people know that it is okay to do that, and for them to let the police know that they need to back off on people doing this.”