Yesterday, the Fall River Police Department announced the results of the investigation into how George Thompson's iPhone was reset while in police custody. According to the report by Ken Bell & Associates, a private forensic company that was hired by the police department, the data on Thompson's phone was wiped when a Fall River police officer entered incorrect passwords 10 times, triggering a security feature. The report did not say who was responsible for wiping the phone or why they entered 10 incorrect passwords.
The report also said that the phone was wiped prior to being reset to factory settings. The phone was not reset until it was connected to a computer at the police station that had the program iTunes installed on it.
Thompson was shoved to the ground and arrested by Fall River Police Officer Thomas Barboza in January as he stood on his porch recording the officer with his iPhone. Thompson said he began recording Barboza because he was talking loudly on his cell phone and swearing while working a street detail. Thompson was charged with wiretapping and resisting arrest. After the arrest, Thompson's phone was wiped while in police custody. In a report, two Fall River police detectives blamed Thompson, saying that he must have reset it using a cloud service, an allegation which Thompson vehemently denied. 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. Maya of The Bay State Examiner accompanied Thompson when he went to retrieve his phone. Video of that is forthcoming. The Ken Bell report makes it clear that Thompson's video can never be recovered. "When a file system is wiped correctly, all of its data is over-written by random characters, and the data cannot be recovered," the report said. In addition to releasing the Ken Bell report, Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine issued a prepared statement for news media.
"I have reviewed the external forensic examination report completed by Ken Bell and Associates (KBA) and accept their findings. It is apparent that the data on the iPhone was 'wiped,' but the action was not malicious," Racine said. Thompson disagreed with the chief's conclusion that his phone was not deliberately wiped, saying he “absolutely” believes someone did it on purpose. “If they didn't, it’s incompetence,” he added. Chief Racine's statement gave no indication that he would take disciplinary action against the officer responsible for wiping the phone. Racine previously told WPRI, “If a Fall River police officer erased that video, he’s fired.” Thompson said he believes the chief is going back on his word. After it was announced in April that Ken Bell & Associates was conducting an examination of Thompson's phone, The Bay State Examiner and Photography is Not a Crime (PINAC) attempted to uncover information about the company, which had an incomplete-looking website with no professional contact information (a phone number and email address have since been added). Carlos Miller, of PINAC, was able to determine from publicly-available documents that Ken Bell went to the same college as Police Chief Daniel Racine, leading Miller to speculate that the two may be college friends. Both The Bay State Examiner and PINAC made public records requests to the police department to learn more about their relationship with Ken Bell & Associates, but the requests have all been ignored. The Bay State Examiner has made an appeal to the Supervisor of Records, the state agency responsible for oversight of the Massachusetts public records law, and is currently waiting to receive a determination on the case. Last Monday, Thompson said in a Facebook post that he spoke with Ken Bell on the phone. “After speaking with Ken at length I'm actually feeling that the truth will come to light,” Thompson wrote. “Ken has stated that while both he and Chief Racine did attend the same college they were NOT friends, nor has he ever met or had the opportunity to work with the Chief.”
Thomas Barboza, the police officer who arrested Thompson, still has not been held accountable for his actions. Thompson filed a complaint after he was arrested and Barboza 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 still has not been punished for arresting Thompson.
When Thompson was still facing charges, Chief Racine said during an interview with WPRI that he supported Barboza's decision to arrest Thompson. Racine has still never publicly admitted that the arrest was wrongful.
In the prepared statement released yesterday, Chief Racine said he would not provide additional comments about the case because “Mr. Thompson has publicly stated he intends to file civil action against the Fall River Police Department.” Thompson said he is not currently preparing a lawsuit against the department, but is instead focused on “getting to the bottom” of who wiped his phone. Nevertheless, Thompson indicated that he would have no problem getting legal representation if he chooses to file a suit. “I've had lawyers contacting me. If I want to file a suit, I've already got the person I'm gonna do it with,” Thompson said. Thompson said he plans to attend a city council meeting on Tuesday with the hope of speaking to the council about his case.