Salem police detained us for shooting video of a National Grid property from a public beach. There was reason for the police to believe we had committed a crime.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.
In a recent interview with The Boston Herald, Boston police Commissioner William Evans whined about people who record the police, even going so far as to call for a new law that would criminalize the act of recording a police officer while standing within a certain distance of them.
“If we can get legislation to make it fair, so it protects both sides, then I’m all for it,” Evans told the Herald. “Would I love to see a little distance? I'd love to see that.”
I'm glad Evans finally admits that the public needs legal protection when they record his officers. I've needed protection from the Boston police for years as they have threatened me with false arrests, with “physical removal” from a public building, and shoved me around. Actually, I don't really think that's what the commissioner meant.Read More
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.”
On Tuesday, April 14, a man was grabbed and detained by police in Lawrence who were trying to stop him from exercising his First Amendment right to record them in public. John Carattini was walking down a street when he spotted three people seemingly being detained by two plainclothes police officers. He began recording with his camera and walked past them, giving no indication that he planned to stick around and continue recording. After passing the officers, one of them called out to him and ordered him to come back.
The officer asked if Carattini was recording them and demanded that he turn over his camera as “evidence” (according to the Department of Justice, police generally need a warrant to seize a camera as evidence). The police officer then immediately escalated the situation by grabbing the camera.Read More
Yesterday, University of Massachusetts-Amherst student Thomas Donovan filed suit against five police officers after he was arrested for recording them during the 2014 "Blarney Blowout," a rowdy St. Patrick's Day party that was broken up by riot police. The suit, which was filed in US District Court in Springfield, names Sergeant Jesus Arocho, Officer Andrew Hulse, and three unnamed police officers as defendants. According to Donovan's complaint:
Mr. Donovan recorded Amherst police using what appeared to be too much force while making an arrest. Although Mr. Donovan filmed the officers from behind a fence, at a safe distance, and did not interfere with them, an officer wearing full riot gear and carrying a pepper-ball gun—believed to be Defendant Andrew Hulse—approached Mr. Donovan to prevent him from filming. When Mr. Donovan did not stop filming, another officer pepper sprayed him at close range. Mr. Donovan continued to film until, a few seconds later, Defendant Jesus Arocho knocked the phone out of his hand and threw him to the ground. Defendant Arocho, assisted by Defendant Andrew Hulse, placed Mr. Donovan under arrest. Meanwhile, Mr. Donovan’s phone, which had landed on the ground with the camera facing up, continued to film. It captured the actions of another police officer, Defendant John Doe 3, who walked over to the phone, stood over it, then stomped on it with his boot, several times, in an unsuccessful effort to destroy it.
Donovan was charged with disorderly conduct and failure to disperse.
Sergeant Arocho claimed in his incident report that Donovan was arrested because he refused to leave the area and "began to close the distance between himself and the offices [sic]," but Donovan's video shows that he was standing in place and that police approached him. All charges against Donovan were eventually dismissed.
According to Donovan's complaint, he was suspended from school for a semester due to the charges he faced. He contested the suspension and the university rescinded it after finding he had done nothing wrong.
“I have the utmost respect for police officers who conduct themselves with integrity, but officers who blatantly disregard the law and are willing to arrest innocent civilians to cover up their own misconduct must be held accountable,” Donovan said in a press release.
“Recording the police is a basic First Amendment right. Police officers should be trained to assume they are being recorded whenever they’re on duty. This case shows the futility of police efforts to squash the public’s exercise of the right to record police,” said David Milton, Donovan's attorney.
Milton previously represented Simon Glik in his lawsuit against the Boston police, which helped establish that recording police is a clearly established right protected by the First Amendment. Milton is also currently representing George Thompson in a civil suit against a Fall River police officer who arrested Thompson for recording him last year.
UMass Amherst announced earlier this month that they are banning non-students from campus from March 5 to March 9 to prevent a repeat of last year's Blarney Blowout, which saw more than 50 arrests. The university did not publicly announce any plans to curb police violence against students like that experienced by Donovan.
Max Bickford, 26, said he pulled over his moped last night and began recording with his phone after witnessing a Boston police officer tackle a man in the street then kick him in the head. This video shows the cop yelling at Bickford to move his moped, obviously upset that he was being recorded. The cop then approached Bickford and grabbed his phone away.
What happened next isn't on video, but Bickford told Photography is Not a Crime about it:
Bickford demanded his phone back and the cop eventually threw it back at him, but it ended up falling to the pavement where the screen cracked and the volume button broke off.
Bickford picked it up and tossed it to a friend, who caught it, but the cop then grabbed it back from his friend, held on to it for another minute or two before returning it to Bickford, most likely because more cops had arrived on the scene.
Bickford then pocketed the phone before the first cop and another cop moved in to handcuff him.
“They put me up against the wall, handcuffed me, then slammed me down on my ass,” he said.
The original cop then wiped blood from his arm on Bickford’s shirt, telling him, “your night’s wasted because of a …..”, stopping himself before completing his sentence.
Bickford never got the cop’s name, but he did call a lieutenant after getting home, who told him she had heard of the incident, defending the cop by saying he believed the phone contained evidence of a crime.
Photos posted at Photography is Not a Crime show the damaged phone and blood that was wiped on Bickford's shirt.
Apparently some Boston police still haven't figured out that recording the police is protected by the First Amendment even after their department settled lawsuits by Simon Glik and Maury Paulino in 2012. Or maybe they have learned (after all, BPD has a training video for this sort of thing), but they just don't care. After all, when the police settle a lawsuit, it's the taxpayers who are on the hook, not the individual officers who were responsible.
Maybe the district attorney will prosecute this case, but I wouldn't hold your breath on that.
Reporter Tim Pool with VICE had his press marker ripped off his chest by a police officer in Ferguson this morning as the police continue to ratchet up their level of violence. Other reporters were allegedly arrested and subjected to chemical attacks again today. When the police force the media out of an area they lose all credibility when they tell their side of whatever happened.
What lessons does Ferguson have for Massachusetts?
Our police are being given the same weapons and training as the officers in Ferguson. Our police are not held accountable by the justice system here too (for instance every officer involved in Alyssa Brame’s death in custody will keep their job and the demotions given were temporary instead of the jail time anyone without a badge would have received). Our police have threatened to arrest Andrew and I repeatedly when we try to film events.
What if instead of all the military gear Ferguson had put in dash and badge cameras?
The Ferguson police could prove the struggle they claim happened (if it did) by simply presenting the video. If they had a video detailing Mike Brown attacking their officer and trying to grab his gun in the car the police would have the moral high ground here… Cameras are a good cop’s best friend. No more “he said… um he can’t say… because that first guy shot him to death.” If the footage shows the witness version of events then the police could arrest the officer. Transparency here instead of curfews and violence would diffuse the situation.
In Massachusetts we need a way to hold police accountable for their actions. At present the police are investigated by other police either from their department or from the state police and then it’s up to the district attorney, who relies on the credibility of the police department to do their job, to decide if the police officer will be prosecuted. Unsurprisingly the police are rarely prosecuted. The badge has become a license to kill and there is no relief in the justice system. If we do not change this, people will continue to be pushed to a breaking point.
Alyssa Brame was unconscious so she could have been anyone. Brame died in police custody on film yet no one charged and no one fired. Military veteran Denis Reynoso was shot dead in front of his son in his home. Police entered for unknown reasons and ignored that they were told before they entered that Reynoso was in need of medical help. Officers had no warrant, and Reynoso was unarmed – the police claim he tried to grab an officer’s gun. No one charged and no one fired. In both cases it is clear no real investigation was conducted.
If we want to avoid having a Ferguson in Massachusetts, it’s time to demilitarize the police, hold them accountable, and teach them to respect citizens' and journalists' rights to record.