Home / PINAC News / Boston Police Arrest Student on Wiretapping Charges for Video Recording Them

Boston Police Arrest Student on Wiretapping Charges for Video Recording Them

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When it comes down to it, the Glik vs. Boston case wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

Sure, it netted Simon Glik a $170,000 settlement after he was arrested on wiretapping charges for openly recording cops in a Boston public park and it even forced police to admit the cops had used “unreasonable judgment,” which evidently is an ingrained trait within the department.

And we all refer to it as a “landmark case,” simply because it confirmed what we knew all along. That recording police in public is not a crime. Never mind the countless court cases that previously determined the same thing.

But it didn’t take long after the ink had dried for Boston police to continue abusing that charge as well as to continue abusing their authority over citizens who record them in public.

The latest involves a college student who was participating in the celebrations after last month’s Red Sox World Series victory. Or riots, depending on whom you ask.

Either way, Tyler Welsh, a 20-year-old student from Northeastern University came across a cop outside Fenway Park who didn’t come across very professional. As if that’s anything new in Beantown.

Welsh, having already had a bad experience with Boston cops two weeks earlier for trying to record them, decided to pull out his phone and start recording.

It landed him in jail on felony wiretapping charges. As if that’s anything new in Beantown.

Not much information is available at this time on the incident that came to my attention via the Boston blog Universal Hub.

And I have yet to come across a video – if it hasn’t been deleted by police – but I’ve reached out to Welsh through Twitter in the hopes he will fill us in on the details.

All we have now is what was reported in The Huntington News, an independent student newspaper, which stated the following:

I was able to catch up with the student charged with wire-tapping, Tyler Welsh, to hear what he did in the confrontation to deserve that charge. He said he and the officer got into an argument after Welsh questioned why he couldn’t go past the barricades the police had set up to contain students near Fenway Park.

“It was like the situation was getting to the point where I thought he wasn’t doing the right thing,” Welsh said. “He was lacking that professionalism and I thought, ‘I’m going to catch this on camera so at least I can go back and have it and be able to see if what he said was okay, was it not okay or was what I was doing okay?”

Welsh described the confrontation with the officer in an all too familiar way for anyone who ever been in the same situation. He described feeling nervous, afraid and losing control of the entire situation. So he put his phone in front of his chest and began to record a video.

It wasn’t the first time the student felt the need to do so.

Two weekends ago, Welsh was outside a party Boston Police shut down in Mission Hill. He encountered five police officers surrounding and pushing one second-year business student, Michael Kerr, and once again felt the need to document the incident.

“I exited the building after asking a cop inside if I could retrieve my jacket, who replied by grabbing me by my collar and yelling at me to leave immediately,” Kerr said. “I asked another officer outside the same, at which point I was surrounded by 5 of them pushing me and calling me a ‘tough guy’ and to ‘stop with all the questions.’”

Clearly, Boston police do not believe in transparency. So much to the point where they are now becoming the laughing stock of the nation.

According to the Washington Post:

The city of Boston has a problem with public scrutiny.

Last year, the city agreed to pay $170,000 to settle a lawsuit by a man who was arrested for using his cellphone to record the actions of Boston police officers in a public park. The case set an important precedent that the First Amendment protects the right of ordinary citizens to openly record the actions of public officials when they’re performing their duties in public.

Evidently, that episode didn’t cause the city to rethink its combative approach to public scrutiny. In August, another Boston citizen posted a video of an altercation with two plainclothes Boston cops. The video, which showed the officers ordering a man to move far away from the scene of an arrest, outraged readers of Photography Is Not a Crime, a blog that advocates for citizens’ rights to record public officials. They called the city to complain about the officers’ behavior.

One of the callers was a journalism student named Taylor Hardy. He spoke to Boston public information officer Angelene Richardson. Hardy recorded the call and posted a portion of it to YouTube. According to Carlos Miller, author of Photography Is Not a Crime, Richardson responded by filing an application for a criminal complaint against Hardy for wiretapping, a charge that could carry penalties of up to five years in prison. (In a Facebook comment captured by Miller, Hardy claims he obtained Richardson’s consent to record the call, which if true would nullify the wiretapping issue.)

An outraged Miller blogged about the incident. “Maybe we can call or e-mail Richardson to persuade her to drop the charges against Hardy considering she should assume all her conversations with reporters are on the record unless otherwise stated,” Miller wrote, providing readers with Richardson’s work phone number.

That produced still more calls to Richardson’s work phone. Apparently, the calls alarmed Richardson, because last week Miller received notice about another application for a criminal complaint. This one accused Miller of witness intimidation, a crime that carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The Post, which was able to reach me in minutes for comment this morning, has been unable to make contact with the Boston Police Departments’ Bureau of Public Information, even though by now their number has been plastered on numerous websites following the Boston Boondoggle. Or maybe because of it.

“I’ve never spoken once to Angeline Richardson, who I’m supposedly intimidating,” Miller says. “I’ve never sent her an e-mail, never made a phone call.” And he says that there’s been no allegations that his readers have threatened Richardson.

“I’ve been writing this blog for six and a half years,” Miller says. “One of the things we do is I put a phone number up there. I encourage people to call police officers. My readers are very professional. They don’t make any threats. There are no allegations of that.”

What do Richardson and the City of Boston think about this? We’ve been trying to contact them for three days, but they haven’t responded to any of our calls or e-mails.

So maybe it’s time for interim Boston Police Commissioner William Evans to make a statement. Or take control. Or make some attempt at damage control considering his department has clearly lost control and has proven unable to provide a simple statement to one of the nation’s most respectable newspapers, the paper that brought down a presidency.

According to a Suffolk County District Attorney’s press release, the case against Welsh is moving forward, even though it is not very clearly written.

Of the 12 people arrested by Boston, State, and MBTA Transit police, Roxbury District Court Judge Tracy-Lee Lyons dismissed one case for lack of probable cause and continued a second man’s case for arraignment at a later date.  Those two men were a 23-year-old Allston man arrested by Transit Police for trespassing into the tunnel leading from the Blandford Street MBTA stop toward Kenmore Square and a 20-year-old Northeastern University student who allegedly refused to follow Boston Police officers’ orders to leave the area of Kenmore Square and recorded the confrontation on his cell phone.

I am assuming the case that was dismissed for lack of probable cause was the one of the 23-year-old student charged with trespassing and the case that was continued was of the 20-year-old Northeastern student, who would be Welsh, simply based on the order of placement within the sentences in which they are referenced.

But everything seems to work backwards in Boston, so you never know.

Maybe it has to do with that Dirty Water.

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About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.