Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger doesn’t want his name and business phone number—781-477-4301—in our video showcasing his department’s misconduct. Coppinger has filed a baseless privacy complaint about our video “Lynn police block complaints with threats of arrest,” posted on our YouTube channel in September, 2014. YouTube will be deciding on the complaint sometime this evening.
We haven’t published anything about the incident since announcing that we requested that the the AGO investigate the incident in January of 2015. The only update, other than the privacy complaint, we’ve had is that Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has declined to take up my complaint.
The video is our most watched and has been seen nearly half a million times. The video shows Detective Michael DiMeglio hitting me with an unmarked Lynn police vehicle at a low speed while I was on foot in a parking lot. I was not injured, but DiMeglio would not speak with me after hitting me. I attempted to report the incident on the next business day and learned that no report of the accident had been filed. I then found the vehicle in the department’s back lot and documented that it had been repaired in a do-it-yourself manner. After that, I was thrown out of the department’s parking lot by Officer David Fitzgerald, who refused to provide his name, badge number, or police ID card, contrary to state law. My attempt to report the tampering of evidence was blocked by officers Fitzgerald and Ralph Sirois, and Sergeant Thomas McDermott. They threatened to arrest me if I refused leave the police station, forcing me to leave without filing my complaint.
Coppinger conducted an internal investigation and found his officers violated both policy and law, but did not address anything except DiMeglio’s failure to report an accident. A records request I made later found that the complaints I made against some of the officers were never added to their files. In all, Coppinger has worked hard to earn having his name associated with the goonish actions made by his subordinates in the video.
According to YouTube’s guidelines, the site does not accept privacy complaints from third parties except in very limited circumstances, so Coppinger or his attorney must have filed the complaint. The privacy complaint appears to have been made because Coppinger’s name and the business number were listed at the end of the video. Obviously, Coppinger is a public official so posting his name and business number is not a violation of his privacy.
Including Coppinger’s number is in the public interest. In the video, Lynn police officers claim that the only way to identify members of the department is to ask Coppinger who. They also told me that I the only way to make a complaint was to make it directly to Coppinger. Given these practices, the public needs to have Coppinger’s number.
Since the privacy complaint is obviously baseless, it’s a clear attempt by Coppinger to censor the video. As I told Coppinger in a voicemail, “This attempt at censorship means that you have now done more to stop a journalist from reporting than you have done to stop misconduct in your own department. I expect you to put on your big boy pants and withdraw the complaint.”
We may never know whether Coppinger donned his big boy pants. If he drops his complaint, the video will stay up, but it might remain up anyway because YouTube could look at it and decide to leave it intact. If the video is pulled down, or if our channel is suspended, it will be because Kevin Coppinger—781-477-4301—is not yet an adult.
Oh, and we’ll upload it to a different website anyway.
After we first reported on this issue Coppinger emailed us and claimed that he did not make the complaint. The YouTube guidelines make it clear that complaints must be made by the individual or there lawyer because, whether he wore his "big boy pants" or not, it's unlikely that Coppinger's complaint would come from his legal guardian. Coppinger claims that the complaint came from someone pretending to be him and says he will investigate the matter.
Coppinger's email reads, "Ms. Shaffer, I received your voice mail as well as messages from some of your associates. Please be advised that I have not filed any complaint against you, the Baystate Examiner, nor anyone else in relation to the allegations you made in your message. I have also not authorized anyone to file a complaint on my behalf and I am also not aware of any complaint that has been filed. If someone filed a complaint as you noted, using my name, they have done so fraudulently and without my permission. I am respectfully requesting copies of any and all evidence of this alleged complaint so that I may look into it from my end. Thank you. Chief Kevin F. Coppinger Lynn Police Department."
We provided Coppinger with a copy of the complaint and he claimed to have contacted YouTube. Despite his assurance that he was not behind the complaint the privacy complaint was not withdrawn. YouTube found that our video did not violate their privacy guidelines, so it remains up and unchanged.