A Massachusetts man is arrested and has his cell phone seized for recording a police officer. The charge? Unlawful Wiretapping.
The incident happened in Fall River, Massachusetts. The man, George Thompson, says he was recording a police officer who was out of control. In January, Thompson was sitting on his front porch when we saw Officer Tom Barboza on his phone and swearing loudly. Officer Barboza was working a paid detail at the time.
Thompson pulled out his own cell phone and began recording but within moments Barboza rushed him, arrested him, charging him with unlawful wiretapping.
In Massachusetts it’s perfectly legal to record video and audio of a public official, including police, as long as they are performing their duties and the recording isn’t hidden. The police report which was filed by Officer Barboza shows that Thompson acknowledged he was recording the officer.
Thompson was released from jail but police kept his phone for two days after the arrest. Thompson claims that when he got the phone back, all the videos had been erased. Police claim that Thompson was the one who erased them.
Rhode Island station, WPRI, interviewed Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine who says that an investigation into who erased the video is now underway. But Racine also says that if in fact one of his officers did so, the punishment would be severe.
“If a Fall River police officer erased that video, he’s fired,” Chief Racine said. “And I would suspect the district attorney would take out charges.”