After two long years, Fall River has finally settled with a man wrongly arrested for recording police.Read More
Fall River mother of four Monica Velozo provided The Bay State Examiner with a video of Fall River police officer Keith Pires barging into her home on July 26 for no apparent reason. In the video, Pires threatens to arrest her and report her to the Department of Children and Families when she refuses to go upstairs, then grabs at her phone.
The short video clip begins with Pires already in the doorway and Velozo very agitated, and the situation quickly escalates.
Velozo said she was very scared, but decided to release the footage anyway.
“I am a mother to four and this can't continue. We should feel safe when we see a police car not have a panic attack,” she said.
According to Velozo, Pires showed up at her home to respond to a domestic issue that had been resolved prior to his arrival. “I told [my father] to leave,” she explained. “30 minutes later cops are here. I went downstairs to let them know they will not be coming upstairs because that's where my children were.... Long story short my dad said he would be back next week, so I asked the officer how I could make sure that didn't happen.”
“He charged up my porch and by the time I hit record he was already pushing his way into my hallway. That's why when the video starts, I'm backing up because he was pointing in my face and pushing himself forward,” Velozo said.
In the video, Pires threatens: “I’m gonna tell you the last time, okay? Go upstairs or you’re gonna get locked up, okay? That’s number one, okay, and I will call DCF on you. You understand that?” Pires grabs at the Velozo’s camera immediately after making the threat. Velozo’s voice becomes even more agitated as she tells Pires that what he is doing is illegal. Pires backs off from her, then addresses her boyfriend Shawn while she continues to protest his actions.
“He just grabbed my phone out of my hand. I’m posting it and everybody’s getting fired,” Velozo says in the video. Pires responds, “Okay, I’m gonna tell you what. I’m gonna notify DCF [unintelligible...] Okay? That’s being done,” Pires responds.
“I thought for sure I was going to get arrested when I told him I was recording. His eyes were scary. Very intimidating man,” Velozo said.
The video doesn’t show how the interaction began, but shows enough to conclude that Pires was out of control. He entered the home aggressively with no warrant on a call for a domestic incident that had already ended before his arrival. He threatened and physically attacked Velozo in her own home for refusing to go upstairs. And he used the threat of calling DCF to try to force her to comply with his demands.
The unreasonableness of Pires’s entry into the home is demonstrated by that fact he never claimed that he suspected anyone inside of committing a crime, and he left shortly after entering. Pires actions seem to be part of a pattern. Last year, Fall River police officer Thomas Barboza barged onto the porch of resident George Thompson, shoved him to the ground, and arrested him after he became upset that the man was recording him.
Barboza faced no penalty for the wrongful arrest, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Pires would behave in a similarly aggressive way. For this reason, Fall River Police Chief Dan Racine deserves some of the blame for Pires' actions. The Fall River police non-emergency number is (508) 676-8511. You can also find the department on Facebook.
After the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office, the authority on the Massachusetts public records law, ordered the Fall River Police Department to comply with a public records request from The Bay State Examiner, the police department has simply refused to follow the law.
On December 5, 2014, the secretary's office ordered the police to revise the fee estimate for a public records request. The request was related to a case from last year during which Fall River resident George Thompson was attacked and wrongfully arrested for recording a police officer after he caught the officer talking on his phone and profusely swearing while he was supposed to be working a detail. The police said they would charge $1 per page for records, but the law generally only allows government agencies 20 cents per page for photocopies and 50 cents per page for computer printouts. The police were told to provide the revised fee estimate within 10 days.Read More
Yesterday, Fall River voters booted William Flanagan out of the mayor's office and replaced him with Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter in a recall election. According to The Herald News:
Amid tears and cheers, Will Flanagan conceded office after a landslide recall election ousted the third-term mayor, who will be replaced by his former boss, Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter, out of a slate of eight candidates...
Voters, in a historic move for the city, chose to recall Flanagan by nearly 70 percent, with 10,631 voting for the recall and 4,669 voting against the recall.
As well, Sutter handily defeated Flanagan with 36.77 percent of the vote to Flanagan’s 26.83 percent, or 6,021 to 4,393.
We previously reported on how Flanagan refused to open an independent investigation of the Fall River Police Department after George Thompson was wrongfully arrested for recording a police officer and police wiped the data off his phone while it was in their custody.
We later reported on how the thin-skinned mayor was trying to have his estranged cousin John Creeden, a recall supporter, put in jail over a satirical Facebook post. Flanagan claimed that a picture Creeden posted of a tombstone with the name “Flanagan” with the added text “The Last Selfie” constituted a threat. Creeden said it was a satirical reference to the predicted end of Flanagan’s political career. The mayor later gave up and dropped the case.
Between his carefree tolerance of police corruption, his love of censorship, and his casual waste of taxpayer money, we're happy to see Flanagan get the boot.
George Thompson has filed a federal lawsuit against Fall River Police Officer Thomas Barboza, who wrongfully arrested him earlier this year for video-recording.
“There was no excuse for Officer Barboza to arrest me. His actions showed a blatant disregard for my constitutional right to videotape police officers in public. Police officers need to be held accountable when they violate the law,” Thompson said in a press release.
David Milton, the attorney representing Thompson, said: “Recording the police is a critical, well-established First Amendment right. Officer Barboza’s unhappiness that he was being recorded does not make Mr. Thompson’s exercise of this fundamental right a crime.”
Milton, along with attorney Howard Friedman, previously represented Simon Glik in his high profile lawsuit against three Boston police officers who arrested him for recording. That case led to a federal precedent that recording police and other public officials is a well-established right protected by the First Amendment and resulted in a $170,000 settlement for Glik.
Thompson's lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Boston earlier today, seeks monetary damages for violations of Thompson's civil rights as well as legal fees.
Thompson was shoved to the ground and arrested by 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 detail. Thompson was charged with wiretapping and resisting arrest.
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.
Barboza has still not been held accountable for his actions by the police department. 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 wrongfully arresting Thompson.
When Thompson was still facing charges, Police Chief Daniel 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.
The person responsible for tampering with Thompson's phone has also still not been held accountable by the department. Racine told WPRI that if it turned out that a member of the police department wiped the phone, he would fire them, but he later went back on his word when that turned out to be the case. When the Racine announced that a member of the police department wiped the phone, he claimed that "the action was not malicious," although he did not say how he came to that conclusion or who was responsible.
Update (12/9/14): The Herald News has the police department's reaction to the news of the lawsuit:
It is not clear if the city will represent Barboza in defense of the lawsuit.
“If it is something job-related, the city represents its employees,” said Lt. Ronald Furtado, a department spokesman.
“We haven’t been served with the suit. When we receive notice, we will address it.”
During a recent talk at Talbot Middle School, Fall River Police Chief Dan Racine spoke out against the militarization of police. He also emphasized the importance of accountability for police who engage in misconduct. According to The Herald News:
In his remarks at Talbot, Racine stressed the philosophy of "community policing" - which emphasizes close relationships and cooperation between police officers and local residents. Racine added that any police officer guilty of breaking the public's trust through unethical or criminal behavior should be held accountable.
"If he or she didn't do the right thing, then they should be prosecuted," Racine said.
Those are pretty words, but I imagine Racine had his fingers crossed when he said them.
Earlier this year, Fall River resident George Thompson used his iPhone to record Officer Thomas Barboza who he saw talking on his cell phone and loudly swearing when he was supposed to be working a detail. Barboza responded by barging onto Thompson's property, shoving him to the ground, and wrongfully arresting him for wiretapping and resisting arrest. The Massachusetts wiretapping law makes it a felony to secretly record someone's voice, but there was nothing secret about what Thompson did. Barboza actually wrote in his own report that he saw Thompson's cellphone and that Thompson said he was recording twice.
Did Racine respond by having Barboza arrested? Nope. In fact, he went on TV to show his support for the wrongful arrest. "You cannot surreptitiously record people, people – not public officials – in Massachusetts," Racine told WPRI, repeating the lie that Thompson secretly recorded Barboza. "That’s the state of the law."
While Thompson's phone was in police custody, it's memory was somehow wiped. Racine claimed that if a police officer was responsible for wiping the phone, they would be held accountable. "If a Fall River police officer erased that video, he’s fired and I would suspect the district attorney would take out charges," Racine told WPRI.
Was that true? Again, nope. After prosecutors dropped the charges against Thompson, Racine hired an outside company to examine Thompson's phone. When the company determined that a Fall River police officer had wiped the phone by activating a security feature by repeatedly entering incorrect passwords into it, Racine did nothing.
"It is apparent that the data on the iPhone was ‘wiped,’ but the action was not malicious,” Racine said in a press release. That's pretty hard to believe since Racine did not identify the officer who was responsible or even explain why they were trying to gain access to Thompson's phone in the first place.
If Racine is an example of a police chief who believes strongly in accountability, I'd really hate to see a police chief who doesn't.
After nearly three months, the Fall River Police Department and Mayor's Office have failed to provide The Bay State Examiner with public records related to the case of George Thompson, the Fall River man who was arrested earlier this year for recording a police officer with his iPhone. 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 phone. Thompson said he began recording Barboza because he was talking loudly on his cell phone and swearing while working a 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 the police refused to return his phone so that Ken Bell & Associates, a private company hired by the police department, could examine it and attempt to determine how it was wiped. The Ken Bell report, which was published in June, said that a police employee was responsible for wiping the phone.
On April 17, shortly after Thompson's charges had been dropped, the Examiner mailed out requests for public records to both the police department and mayor's office. We still have not received adequate responses to either request. Under Massachusetts state law, government agencies are obligated to comply with records requests within 10 days.
Police claim records do not exist
The request to the police department asked for "all records related to Ken Bell & Associates," the company hired to examine Thompson's phone.
The department initially failed to respond to the request entirely. After an appeal was made to the Supervisor of Records, the state agency responsible for oversight of the public records law, the police finally sent a response. The response was dated June 5, about a month and a half after the request was mailed out.
The response claimed that none of the documents exist. "I have received your request for information pertaining to the Fall River Police Departments [sic] interaction with Ken Bell and Associates. The Fall River Police Department does not have any of the information requested," wrote Captain Joseph Cabral.
The response is clearly not accurate. We are aware of several documents related to Ken Bell & Associates that the police possess. These include a press release about the decision to hire the company, a press release stating that the company had finished a report for the police department, and the report itself. We have been provided these documents by third parties who obtained them directly from the police department.
Beyond the documents that have already been made public, we believe the police department possesses other relevant records that it has failed to tell us about.
Ken Bell confirmed during a telephone interview that he has never exchanged any mail or email with the Fall River Police Department. Bell said all his business with the police department has been handled by phone or in person. He also said he has never entered into a contract with the department. Nevertheless, the police department must, at the very least, have documents describing how much money it has paid to Ken Bell & Associates.
We have asked the Supervisor of Records to re-open our case due to the police department's failure to provide us with the records we requested. We have also sent a letter to Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine about his department's failure to turn over its records.
In May, Maya of The Bay State Examiner attempted to make a second public records request verbally at the Fall River police station, but the officers present refused to accept it and told her she had to make the request in writing despite the fact that state law requires them to comply with verbal requests. We have asked the police chief for these documents and several additional records in the letter we sent to him. We have also asked him to train his employees that they must accept verbal records requests.
At the time the first records request to the police department was mailed, the website for Ken Bell & Associates had little information about the company and no contact information (a phone number and email address have since been added).
Carlos Miller of Photography is Not a Crime (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, raising the possibility of a conflict of interest.
Bell, a former Rhode Island state police officer, said that he did not know Racine prior to being hired by the police to examine Thompson's phone.
"I did another case for a police department up in that area and was referred to the [Fall River police] chief from that other police chief," he said.
Bell said the reason his contact information wasn't online when the Fall River police hired him was that the site was unfinished.
"That was under construction at the time," Bell explained. "I get a lot of work through word-of-mouth, so I put the website up just to kinda be a business card."
Bell said he was disappointed by the reports suggesting he may have had a prior relationship with the police chief.
Bell said that even though his report on George Thompson's phone has been completed, he has an ongoing relationship with the police department.
"I am retained by the Fall River Police Department and there's an ongoing investigation," he said.
Mayor's office ignores records request entirely
While the Fall River Police Department has claimed that it does not have any of the records we requested, the Fall River Mayor's Office still has yet to provide a reason for its failure to comply with the request. The request asked for any communications by the mayor’s office about George Thompson.
The only response we have received so far was an acknowledgement letter, postmarked April 24, from Melissa da Silveira, a paralegal for the Fall River Office of the Corporation Counsel.
“[T]his correspondence serves as notification of our offer to provide documents related to Mr. George Thompson,” da Silveira wrote. “Please be advised that due to the voluminous nature of the request, the custodian will fulfill it as soon as practicable and without unreasonable delay.”
We never received a follow-up to this letter, so we appealed it to the Supervisor of Records. The appeal was closed on June 9, but we still have not heard back from the Office of the Corporation Counsel since then even though more than a month has passed.
We have asked the Supervisor of Records to re-open our case due to the Office of the Corporation Counsel's continued failure to comply with our records request in a timely manner.
We have also sent a letter to Fall River Mayor William Flanagan, asking him to take responsibility for the situation and to take action to make sure his office complies with the public records law in the future.
George Thompson had previously paid Flanagan a surprise visit the day his charges were dropped, asking the mayor to open an independent investigation into the Fall River Police Department to determine who tampered with his phone.
Flanagan, who is the police chief’s supervisor, refused to open an investigation and said that it was the job of the police chief to police his own department. He said he supported the way Racine was handling Thompson’s case even though had no idea what the facts of the case were.
Racine, whom the mayor said he had "full confidence" in, has not taken any action against the officer who wiped Thompson's phone despite telling WPRI back in March, "If a Fall River police officer erased that video, he’s fired." In fact, the police department has yet to even release the name of the officer who was responsible.
Racine has also failed to take action against Thomas Barboza, the officer who arrested Thompson. 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 the arrest.
Racine previously told WPRI that he supported Barboza’s decision to arrest Thompson. Racine has still never publicly admitted that the arrest was wrongful.
The Bay State Examiner as well as Photography is Not a Crime (PINAC) have made records requests to the Fall River police in order to shed light on Thompson's case. None of the requests by either group have been addressed despite the fact that state law mandates a response within 10 days.
Thompson told Officer James Costa, who was working at the front desk in the police station, that he was serving the chief with the court order. Costa’s reaction was to attempt to hinder Thompson from executing the court order.
Costa first attempted to claim that the court order wasn’t a court order, then claimed that Thompson should have served the order before it existed to get his phone back, before finally admitting that he had no idea about Thompson's case. Finally Costa offered to fetch someone who might actually know what he was talking about.
While we waited, Thomspon spotted Thomas Barboza, the police officer who arrested him in January, and I followed him outside and attempted to speak with him. He refused to speak with me and drove off (click here for video).
Later, Detective Konarski brought out Thompson's phone in an evidence envelope. This came as a surprise to Thompson, who said the Fall River police had repeatedly claimed that the phone was not in their possession and that they would inform him when it was back so that he could pick it up. Thompson asked Konarski why they failed to notify him about the phone and received no answer.
The detective then pulled out a spring-loaded knife to open the evidence folder. In Massachusetts, carrying spring-loaded knives is illegal. Thompson pointed this out to Konarski, who did not respond but immediately left the interview room and returned with a pair of scissors.
Konarski had Thompson sign a chain of custody document to receive the phone. Thompson signed and then asked for a copy because he is trying to determine who had access to his phone when it was wiped. Konarski said that he would check if Thompson could see the document.
Konarski returned and informed Thompson that he would not receive the document nor could he look at it because the only person who could okay this activity is Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine.
Fall River police don't take records requests
Thompson requested the chief be asked and I made a verbal records request on the spot as well for the document. Konarski informed me that the Fall River police do not accept verbal records requests.
According to the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, "A written request is not required but is recommended. An oral request made in person (not by telephone) is permitted" (see pg. 2).
Detective Konarski made no attempt to take notes or obtain my contact information so any confusion on the Fall River police’s side about what was requested or by whom is of their own doing. Without leaving the room or contacting anyone Konarski then told me my records request had been “passed on.” It has been over ten days and I have, needless to say, not had any response on this request.
As we waited in the interview room for Chief Racine, Thompson called the chief’s line. Thompson notified the woman who answered that he was recording the conversation to make sure it wouldn’t be actual felony wiretapping. Thompson informed her that we were in the interview room waiting for the chief. The woman explained that the chief was in a meeting, but that she would let him know.
At no time was Thompson informed that the police line was also being recorded by the Fall River police. We’ll see if the District Attorney, who spent months charging Thompson with a bogus wiretap charge, will pursue this case of what may be an actual wiretap.
After this exchange, Lieutenant Ronald Furtado, the head of Fall River’s “Professional Standards” division which I later learned encompasses Internal Affairs, then came to clarify that the Fall River police would not give us any further information and would not address either The Bay State Examiner or PINAC's overdue written requests.
Furtado explained that the Fall River police do not abide by the law about verbal requests and falsely claimed the chief was not in the building when we asked to see him (the chief's car was parked outside). Furtado told us that to make a records request we had to do it in writing in person or send it through the mail with a return receipt. Furtado then walked off mid-conversation to avoid telling me who to talk to about the written records requests from more than a month ago.
I returned to the police window and requested to speak with whoever handles records requests. A short while later Staff Sergeant William Francis came out. The sergeant looked for any of the requests from The Bay State Examiner and PINAC and claimed Fall River police had none.
The sergeant explained that there is a process for making records requests: they only take the requests in writing and they have to be mailed to a specific division which would have the records. I asked for a list of the divisions and who I should address future requests to and was told I was not allowed to have that information.
I asked who was actually in charge of handling records requests and was told no one is but that whoever the staff sergeant on duty happens to be handles them. Given the ridiculous multitude of failures on display, I chose to make a new, verbal request for the various documents that the Examiner and PINAC had already requested in writing.
Sergeant Francis told me I needed to write out and mail the request to a different division because his division (which is in charge of giving out the records) didn’t have those records and wouldn’t pass the request forward.
I explained that I needed to have the recording of me making the request to him as evidence that the Fall River police had received the request. Sergeant Francis allowed me to get partway through the request then pointed out that since it wasn’t in writing he would not be responding and didn’t know what I was requesting. I told him to take notes. He refused.
At this point no member of the Fall River police had even taken down my name let alone my contact information. Francis then declared that the conversation was over and began to walk away.
I asked him for his name and badge number. He gave me his name and claimed he didn’t have a badge number so I asked to see his police ID card. He refused and left. Under Massachusetts law, a police officer must display his police ID card upon lawful request.
Fall River police don't take complaints
I walked back to the front desk and asked Officer Costa for a blank complaint form. The Fall River Police Department's citizen complaint procedure is on their website:
It is of utmost importance to the administration of the Fall River Police Department to provide citizens of Fall River with a quality of police services citizens that ensures the utmost integrity of all employees.
To ensure that this level of service is continually provided to citizens, it is recognized that there must be a method for the administration to be made aware of citizen’s complaints regarding actions or inactions of sworn or civilian employees of this department, that fail to meet the standards required.
It is the policy of the Fall River Police Department to accept and investigate all complaints of misconduct or wrongdoing against the Department or Department employees, regardless of the source of such complaint, by conducting a regulated, thorough and impartial examination of all available factual information.
Procedure: A standard complaint form shall be used to record all complaints of misconduct, mistreatment or unethical practices against Department personnel, whether registered by a citizen, initiated from within the Department or forwarded by another governmental agency. The Complaint Control Form (PD 252) shall be located at the Fall River Police Department.
Any person requesting to make a complaint against an employee of the Department shall, upon request, be given a copy of the Complaint Control Form (PD 252)
Despite this clear policy, Costa refused to give me a complaint form. He claimed the point of a complaint form was to allow people to speak to a sergeant and said he’d send someone out to speak with me.
That “someone” turned out to be Sergeant Francis – the officer I was trying to make a complaint about – and a captain, whose name I can’t make out in my video, neither of whom are with Internal Affairs.
The captain further attempted to block me from making a complaint by telling me that I would be contacted by "Professional Standards" with more information (they still didn’t have my name or contact information), and by telling me “there is no complaint.” The captain did finally take my contact information when I pointed out that no one else had yet.
I continued to demand that I be allowed to make my complaint and the captain relented and said he would check if IA was free to speak with me. The captain never returned and I was left waiting for the next hour with no idea if anyone would be coming out to speak with me.
Thompson tried calling the IA line, but no one answered. Lieutenant Furtado came back out after I spoke with a police employee and asked them to call IA, but Furtado would not speak because I had my camera rolling and would not say if he was with IA.
I turned off my cameras to speak with Furtado because I wanted to make my complaint, but he declared that the conversation was over and began walking away. I followed him and pointed out that the cameras were off. Furtado said that since Thompson – who was across the lobby from us and not involved in the interaction – had a camera which was not on or pointed at us, the conversation was still over.
Furtado then left without taking the complaint. He did not offer to take me to a private room where he could speak with me without Thompson's presence nor did he give me a complaint form to fill out. I left the Fall River Police Station after confirming that Furtado was the head of Internal Affairs.
My only trip to the Fall River Police Station uncovered that the Fall River police freely break laws while refusing to provide any services whatsoever. In the course of about three hours, members of the Fall River police seem to have wiretapped George Thompson, were caught with an illegal knife, broke the police ID card law, and refused to follow the public records law. Sergeant Francis who handles records requests made it clear that it is nearly impossible to get the Fall River police to release public records. Finally, Lieutenant Furtado, who is in charge of “Professional Standards” and Internal Affairs, refused to take my complaint about the misbehavior and refused to be of any assistance in making records requests.
Will there be any sort of oversight or investigation conducted by the Fall River city government? When we spoke with the mayor earlier this year, he stressed that Police Chief Daniel Racine has his full confidence and that the he would only take actions on matters concerning the Fall River police if Racine told him to, so that doesn't seem very likely.
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.
George Thompson, the Fall River resident who was arrested earlier this year for video-recording a police officer, has obtained a court order requiring the police to return his iPhone. "I went into court today, and filed the paperwork myself, sat around half the day, and got a court order for the immediate release of my phone," Thompson told me yesterday.
Thompson will be serving the court order to the police department this morning. Maya from The Bay State Examiner will be video-recording it.
Thompson said he wants to see if his video -- which was erased while his phone was in police custody -- can be restored, but that he doesn't think doing so will be necessary for a civil case against the police.
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 Thompson was arrested, his phone was somehow reset to factory settings, erasing his video, 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. Thompson has denied deleting the video and said he wanted people to see it.
On April 11, Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Robert Kidd agreed to drop all of the charges against Thompson.
Even though the charges were dropped, the Fall River Police Department refused to return Thompson's phone. Almost immediately after the charges were dropped, the Fall River Police Department issued a press release saying that the department had hired Ken Bell & Associates to examine Thompson's phone. The press release claims Ken Bell & Associates is a “private and external forensic company that specializes in computer and cell phone forensic investigations.”
Very little information is available about Ken Bell & Associates, which has an incomplete-looking website with no contact information. The Fall River Police Department has refused to comply with public records requests from The Bay State Examiner and Photography is Not a Crime for documents related to their business with Ken Bell & Associates.
Carlos Miller, of Photography is Not a Crime, was able to determine from publicly available documents that Ken Bell went to the same college as Police Chief Daniel Racine and has suggested that the two may be college friends.
Chief Racine has yet to acknowledge that Thomas Barboza, the officer who arrested Thompson, was wrong. Previously, he told WPRI that he supported the decision to arrest Thompson and prosecute him for wiretapping.
Update (same day as original post): According to Maya, the police have returned Thompson's phone. We'll have video of that soon.
Check our old video about George Thompson's case here: