A video surfaced this week showing a Boston police sergeant, seemingly upset that he was being video-recorded, confront the videographer and wave a suspect’s gun in his face.
The video starts off showing a group of police officers standing outside a home, detaining a male for reasons that are not clear at this moment.
The videographer was standing across the street. One of the police officers, wearing sergeant stripes, crosses the street to confront him.
“You wanna jump the in the cruiser with us someday?” the officer ominously asks. “I just thought you might be interested in getting some real live footage.”
When the videographer attempts to point his camera at the officer’s face, the cop orders him to turn it away. “I’m not giving you my permission to film,” he says.
The video, posted Tuesday on Cop Block, does not specify when the incident took place or identify the videographer.
The sergeant, who also remains unidentified at this point, 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.
In the video, the cop and videographer continue speaking for a few moments before the cop walks back across the street. A few seconds later, the police officer returns, holding a gun in his right hand.
“This is why we’re here,” the cop says.
“Get a real close video of this,” the cop says, shoving the gun in front of the man’s camera. “See that? That’s why we’re here.”
“Have a good day,” the cop says, before crossing the street again.
The man continues recording only for a police officer to tell him that the person they are detaining is 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 and will hopefully update this post with more details.
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.
UPDATE II (4/30/15): 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.”
UPDATE III (5/1/15): WBUR has Boston Police Commissioner William Evans’ reaction to the video:
“Everyone is allowed to videotape. It’s their constitutional right to do it,” Evans said. “We’ve stressed that continually. Sergeant Staines made a mistake saying the guy couldn’t. He was clearly wrong here, and we’ll make this a good teaching moment, a training moment and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Evans said there is no excuse for what Staines did, that police are told during their training that videotaping is allowed. He says as a result of this incident, the department will be “putting our training bulletin back out.” Evans said he believes Staines got caught up in the emotions of chasing down what turned out to be a teen with a fake gun. Police say they’ve seized 214 realistic-looking fake guns over the past year.
The teenager who’s shown in the video kneeling on the ground with his hands behind his back was not charged for having the fake gun.
Evans said Staines “regrets his actions, he’s embarrassed by this, he knows he messed up, and he’s willing to take whatever discipline is going to be imposed. I think he acted truly out of character for himself.”
According to The Boston Globe, Staines took home $190,177.03 worth of tax dollars last year, making him one of nearly 600 city employees who received more money than the mayor. That seems like a high price to pay for someone who can’t follow basic rules or treat the people he is supposed to serve with respect.
UPDATE IV (5/1/15): The police department has issued a press release, which says that Staines has apologized for his actions:
Five days after the taping of a video that showed a Boston Police Sergeant flashing a replica firearm in the face of a videographer and questioning his right to take the video, today, Sergeant Henry Staines met with the videographer and issued an apology. Staines and the man who took the video, herein referred to as Brother Lawrence, met during a face-to-face sit down meeting coordinated by civil rights leaders Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, and NAACP Boston President Michael Curry, at NAACP Boston headquarters in Roxbury.
During the meeting, Staines stood up, looked Brother Lawrence in the eye, and offered a full, sincere and genuine apology and took full responsibility for his actions. Said Staines: “I’m humiliated and embarrassed. I’m my own toughest critic and five days ago, I let my city down, my department down, I let myself down, but more than anything else, I let Brother Lawrence down and for that I’m truly sorry and I take full responsibility.” Said Boston Police Chief William Gross: “For all involved, this was a teachable moment. Henry realizes he made a mistake and took full responsibility for his actions. His apology was heartfelt and sincere and Brother Lawrence – upon hearing the apology – graciously accepted it.” Said Brother Lawrence: “The sergeant’s apology was sincere. Everyone deserves a chance if they do something wrong. I have made mistakes in my life. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t allow someone to have a chance.”
Moving forward, the Boston Police Department will continue to nourish and strengthen the strong relationship that exists between our officers and the community members we protect and serve. Additionally, officers will be reminded to respect that fact that community members have a right to take video of their interactions with the members of our department provided it’s done in a responsible and respectful way.