Fall River reaches $72,500 settlement with man arrested for recording cop

After two long years, George Thompson is $72,500 richer. Now the 53-year-old Fall River resident, who has spent much of his life working in restaurants, says he plans on using the money to open a food truck.

Officer Bozo

Officer Bozo

He said he'll christen the truck "Bozo's," a name inspired by the man who set everything in motion—Fall River police officer Thomas Barboza, who arrested Thompson for exercising his First Amendment right to record police.

"I'm reinvesting the money in the community. I want to keep the money here. It came from the taxpayers, I want to give back to the taxpayers," Thompson said. He added that he expects managing the food truck to be a full-time gig and that it may create new jobs.

And Thompson said that Bozo will eat at his truck for free, even as he called the crooked cop "an asshole" and chastised him for putting an innocent person in jail.

"The settlement is a great result and a vindication of Mr. Thompson's—and all of our—right to record police in public," said David Milton, Thompson's lawyer. "Hopefully the money will result in better training for police officers to not arrest people who record them and also not to delete footage of them when taking cell phones into custody."

Milton added: "Fall River and other cities around the Commonwealth need to recognize that it is perfectly legal and it's a constitutional right for people to record officers doing their duties in public. And George Thompson deserves credit for fighting back against the police department that violated his rights."

Thompson points at the porch of his old apartment where he was arrested.

Thompson points at the porch of his old apartment where he was arrested.

Thompson was shoved to the ground and arrested by Bozo in January, 2014 as he stood on his porch recording the officer with his iPhone. Thompson began shooting the video because Bozo, who was supposed to be working a detail, was talking loudly on his cell phone and swearing.

After the arrest, the data on Thompson's phone was wiped while the device was still in police custody. The Fall River police tried to blame Thompson, saying that he must have reset it using a cloud service, but an outside company examined the phone and determined that a member of the police department was responsible.

The charges against Thompson were dropped on April 11, but police refused to return his phone so that they could investigate how it was reset. Police did not give Thompson his phone back until May 28, after he obtained a court order requiring them to return it.

Bozo has still not been held accountable for his actions. Thompson filed a complaint after he was arrested, and Bozo was punished with a one-day suspension and prohibited from working details for 15 days because he was talking on the phone and swearing when he was supposed to be working. However, he was never punished for wrongfully arresting Thompson.

In fact, Thompson has released material obtained through discovery which shows the results of a second internal investigation conducted by Lieutenant Ronald Furtado.

Lt. Furtado

Lt. Furtado

According to Furtado's report, Bozo admitted to threatening to "fuck [Thompson] hard on paper" and to drive by his home every night.

However, Furtado claimed that it was entirely appropriate for Bozo to arrest Thompson. Furtado also found that there was no evidence that Thompson was thrown to the ground by Bozo even though the officer wrote that he "pushed him onto the porch floor" in his arrest report.

Despite the finding that Bozo had threatened Thompson, Police Chief Dan Racine decided not to punish the cop any further.

The person responsible for tampering with Thompson's phone hasn't been held accountable, either. Racine previously told WPRI that if it turned out a member of the police department wiped the phone, he would fire them. But when that turned out to be the case, he went back on his word by claiming that "the action was not malicious" and not punishing anyone for it.

"Has justice been served? Absolutely not," Thompson said. "There's been nothing but a cover up."

Very true, but it's the closest thing to justice you'll get in Massachusetts.