When bystander and lawyer Simon Glik saw another man being arrested in Boston in 2007 and overheard a witness saying, “You are hurting him, stop,” he didn’t think twice about pulling out his cell phone to record the encounter. Glik was then absurdly arrested and charged with the felony of “illegal wiretap.” Glik personally stated that the arrest was a “vindictive attempt by some unscrupulous cops to suppress citizens’ right to record, observe and comment on police actions.”
Although Glik was quickly released and the charges were dropped eventually, he requested that the Boston Police Department investigate the actions of the officers who arrested him, but the department concluded that the officers did nothing wrong and the case was closed.
Glik, with some assistance from the Massachusetts ACLU, filed a federal lawsuit that alleged the officers had violated Glik’s First Amendment rights, which, in this case, basically infringed on his right of freedom of speech and his freedom of press. In August of 2010, the United States Court of Appeals affirmed Glik’s First Amendment right to record the actions of the police, which then encouraged the Boston Police Department to re-open Glik’s complaint. The re-opening of Glik’s complaint has recently led to the disciplinary action, from an oral reprimand to suspension, for officers John Cunniffee and Peter Savalis. It has officially been determined that the officers had shown an “unreasonable judgment” by taking Glik into custody.
The case marks another small step in the battle to freely photograph/record in public, an ongoing issue that reached a tipping point in 2011 where newly founded District of Columbia regulations prohibit any persons or businesses from “engaging in the business of taking photographs of any person or persons upon the streets, sidewalks, or other public spaces of the District of Columbia, for profit or gain,” an obscure regulation that also grabbed the attention of the ACLU and National Press Photographers Association (NPPA). After months and months of relentless back and forth and deliberation with Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, the agency has succeeded in a clarification of Article 31, Chapter 24, §§ 521 – 523 as it pertains to “street photography.”
A closer look into the Simon Glik case, along with thoughts from The ACLU’s Massachusetts Staff Attorney, Sarah Wunsch, can be viewed below: