Massachusetts’ police continue to use the state’s stringent wiretapping law to crack down on citizens who record them in the line of duty.
The latest case took place early this morning when Springfield police arrested a woman for being drunk and disorderly, only to later realize the phone in her purse had been recording the interaction, allowing them to tack on a felony wiretapping charge to the misdemeanor charges she was already facing.
According to Mass Live:
Springfield Police Capt. Harry Kastrinakis said 24-year-old Karen Dziewit of Chicopee was drinking in front of 140 Chestnut Street shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday when police were called to assist a security officer at that address. Police said Dziewit was screaming and yelling and disturbing the tenants of the buildings, and she refused to stop her tirade when police asked her to.
She was arrested. But, before she was taken into custody, she apparently started the voice recorder in her smart phone and put it in her purse.
She was taken to police headquarters for booking and as officers inventoried the contents of her purse, they found the phone actively recording the entire process.
Dziewit was charged with unlawful wiretapping, disorderly conduct and an open container violation. She will be arraigned in Springfield District Court on Monday.
The state wiretapping law forbids citizens from surreptitiously recording others, even if they are in a location where there is no expectation of privacy – unlike other all-party consent states that include an expectation of privacy provision, making the law unenforceable in these situations.
The law is not only outdated, but abused considering police use it to crackdown on citizens attempting to hold them accountable in the line of duty when the law was written decades ago to protect the privacy of citizens.
The general court further finds that the uncontrolled development and unrestricted use of modern electronic surveillance devices pose grave dangers to the privacy of all citizens of the commonwealth. Therefore, the secret use of such devices by private individuals must be prohibited.
It is absurd to argue that recording police as they are arresting you poses “grave dangers to the privacy of all citizens” when the reality is, it adds a layer of protection to citizens being arrested.
But Massachusetts police will not let that fact prevent them from abusing the law, sending a message to citizens that their actions are not to be documented without their knowledge, even if their actions can land you in prison on fabricated charges.
In fact, a wiretapping conviction can land you in prison for five years, despite the landmark Glik vs. Boston decision from 2011 that confirmed citizens have the right to record because that only applied to citizens who are openly recording.
But just the fact that they are allowed to arrest citizens for secretly recording them enables them to abuse the law against citizens who openly record them as we saw this year with a Fall River man whose charges were eventually dismissed.
But that didn’t stop the Fall River Police Department from maintaining possession of his phone, claiming they were going to send it to a mysterious forensics company to determine how the footage of the man’s arrest ended up deleted while the phone was sitting in the evidence room – as if they couldn’t just review surveillance video and follow the chain of custody of the phone.
Police are suggesting Thompson deleted the footage remotely, an accusation Thompson has denied.
It also turns out, the company they contracted, Ken Bell & Associates, is owned by an old college buddy of Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine.
But the department has refused to respond to four PINAC public records request, asking for more information about this business relationship, including the following sent last month.
So now we are talking to lawyers to see how to proceed with this blatant public records violation, not to mention this illegal possession of Thompson’s phone.
Last year, Boston police tried to abuse the state’s wiretapping law in coming after PINAC correspondent Taylor Hardy, who recorded a media spokeswoman during an interview, which then to them filing a criminal complaint against me for witness intimidation when I reposted her public number on this site.
They also threatened to charge any PINAC reader who called the number with witness intimidation, which ended up backfiring on them when they were swamped by calls, forcing them to have to withdraw the felony complaints against us.
But even that experience did not prevent the Boston Police Department from trying to intimidate journalists from the Bay City Examiner a month later, accusing them of being way too “aggressive” in asking for public records.
The Springfield Police Department, who arrested the woman this morning, has been particular fond of abusing the state’s wiretapping law or outright confiscating video evidence and deleting footage, not that they have been able to obtain convictions with those arrests.
In one case, a district attorney even threw out a case on the basis that police do not have an expectation of privacy in public, despite the fact that the statute does not include this provision.
So even though it’s clear that police in Massachusetts will do anything in their power to prevent citizens from holding them accountable, it is even more clear that the state’s wiretapping law needs to be challenged and ruled unconstitutional as was recently done with the draconian wiretapping law in Illinois, where the much-abused law no longer exists.
Call the Springfield Police Department at (413) 7870-6302.