Operation Smoke and Mirrors: In the Chicago Police Department, If the Bosses Say It Didn’t Happen, It Didn’t Happen

We recommend this article from Operation Smoke and Mirrors: In the Chicago Police Department, If the Bosses Say It Didn’t Happen, It Didn’t Happen

This in-depth article is worth reading; it describes serious police corruption in Chicago, where officers were extorting money from drug dealers while allowing them to continue their business. The evidence shows that officers charged drug dealers a “tax” to sell drugs in Chicago’s housing projects, ran their own drug lines, planted drugs, and even murdered rival drug dealers. In addition to this large-scale corruption, racist remarks and excessive force were tolerated in the daily policing of public housing buildings. It is a true story of corruption and the system that allowed it to continue.

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Massachusetts Super Lawyers recognizes all our firm’s lawyers

Super Lawyers, an attorney rating service, has announced its ratings for 2016 and all of our firm’s attorneys are recognized. Howard Friedman and David Milton were named as Massachusetts Super Lawyers. Howard Friedman has received this recognition for over a decade; David Milton has since 2013. Drew Glassroth was once again recognized as a Massachusetts Rising Star.

The rating system names no more than 5% of Massachusetts attorneys as Super Lawyers, and no more than 2.5% of Massachusetts attorneys as Rising Stars.


Police escalate traffic stops, leading to disproportionate fatalities of black people

Last month, an Arizona trooper stopped a man driving a rental car because the car was mistakenly listed as stolen. Although the man complied with the officer’s instructions, the cop threatened to shoot the man and pointed his gun at the man’s 7-year-old child. Read the article here. The driver, who is white, made a Facebook post in which he shared his terrifying experience and encouraged people to support the Black Lives Matter movement. He compares his story to that of Philando Castile, a black man who was shot and killed by a Minnesota police officer during a traffic stop. Castile was complying with the officer’s orders, and he had a valid permit for the gun he carried.

These cases show how police traffic stops can violently escalate, turning innocent actions such as renting a car or lawfully carrying a gun into a dangerous confrontation. Last December, the Washington Post published an article—A disproportionate number of black victims in fatal traffic stops—that relied on a database of deadly police shootings to determine that traffic stops are “one of the most common precursors to a fatal police shooting of a black person in 2015.” Sadly, this trend continues; two days after the Arizona man was threatened, Milwaukee erupted in protest when police shot and killed Sylville Smith​, a young black man, after a traffic stop. This trend must be stopped. It is unacceptable for police officers to shoot first and ask questions later. Better training and appropriate discipline are essential to change this dangerous pattern.


Federal judge declares ‘black lives matter’ during hearing over Seattle police reform

We recommend this article: Federal judge declares ‘black lives matter’ during hearing over Seattle police reform. The federal judge is presiding over a 2012 consent decree that requires the Seattle police department to make major changes in response to complaints of excessive force and biased policing. When the police union rejected a contract, the judge told the union that they could not hold the city “hostage” for increased payments and benefits.


Howard is quoted in article about Gov. Baker’s proposal to make assault and battery on a police officer a felony when there is “serious bodily harm”

Howard Friedman is quoted in this article in the Bay State Banner: Civil rights advocates slam Baker bill. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker supports legislation that would cause the charge of assault and battery on a police officer to become a felony when the police officer suffers serious bodily harm. Howard Friedman and other civil rights advocates believe that there is no need to change the law. Police officers commonly use the charge of assault and battery on a police officer to cover up their own brutality and excessive force. Making this a felony would put increased pressure on the civilian, who may be a victim of police misconduct.


Howard spoke at a seminar on law enforcement and the U.S. Constitution

On June 26-28, Howard Friedman attended and spoke at a seminar on law enforcement and the U.S. Constitution. The program was attended by Virginia law enforcement officers. Howard spoke to the group on municipal and supervisory liability for police misconduct under Section 1983, the federal civil rights act. This seminar was put on by the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution and James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange, Virginia. The program allowed for interesting discussions with police supervisors on the issues they face performing their jobs and the restrictions placed on police by the Constitution.

The seminar included a review of the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Howard was pleased to see that one of the Task Force’s recommendations is: “Law enforcement agencies should acknowledge the role of policing in past and present injustice and discrimination and how it is a hurdle to the promotion of community trust.”


How Union Contracts Shield Police Departments from DOJ Reforms

We recommend this article from In These Times magazine: How Union Contracts Shield Police Departments from DOJ Reforms. In response to some recent instances of police brutality, misconduct, and wrongful death, the Department of Justice has initiated investigations in some cities and demanded reforms in the way police departments operate. However, the power of the police unions prevents the full implementation of these reforms. This article explores this problem in detail.


Federal judge allows falsely imprisoned Springfield man's lawsuit against police to advance  

Check out this article on about our client Charles Wilhite, whose case was heard in federal court today. This case involves two Springfield police officers, Anthony Pioggia and Steven Tatro, threatening and coercing witnesses in order to falsely convict Charles. (Learn more about the case here.) The officers filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which the judge denied after today’s hearing. The judge called the officers’ legal arguments “unpersuasive.” Read our response to their motion here. The case will now proceed to mediation or trial.

(Photo by Stephanie Barry,


We sued Taunton Police Officer Robert Kramer and Police Chief Edward Walsh after booking video reveals unprovoked attack on our client

Yesterday, we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Taunton police officer Robert Kramer and others for physically attacking our client, Joseph O’Brien, in the booking room of the police station, causing a concussion. The incident was captured on video. We sued the chief and the City of Taunton as well because they have condoned Kramer’s repeated use of excessive force.

Here is a news story by NBC10 News:


View the complete footage from the booking room here:

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F.B.I. Director should praise, not fear, civilians filming the police

F.B.I. Director James Comey is once again claiming that viral videos of police brutality are causing police officers to fail to properly perform their duties. He further claims that these videos are the cause of an increase in the murder rate. He made a similar statement a month or so ago. Now he admits that his view is not supported by data, but he continues to spread this misinformation. This is distressing.

It is hard to understand why Director Comey would think that videos of police officers committing civil rights violations—for example, shooting people in the back for no reason, beating a person who is handcuffed, or arresting and beating a person because she is recording the police—would cause law-abiding police officers to fail to perform their jobs.

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New police review board recommended to Mayor Walsh

Howard Friedman is quoted in this Boston Globe article: New police review board recommended to Mayor Walsh. The 3-person panel charged with overseeing civilians’ complaints to the Boston Police Department asserts that Boston needs a separate office of accountability that can investigate civilians’ complaints independently. The Globe previously reported about problems with the Boston Police Department’s internal investigations such as lengthy delays and concerns about officers with numerous complaints of misconduct. We support the proposed changes. However, we favor making all internal affairs information public. The public should know the number of complaints filed against every police officer and how they were resolved. Police officers are public servants. The public should have the information to assess their performance.


Lawyer Johnson, wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, shares his story

On March 25, 2016, our client Lawyer Johnson was a guest speaker at Northeastern University School of Law. Lawyer, a black man, was wrongfully convicted of murdering a white man in 1972. Lawyer’s conviction was based primarily upon the testimony of Kenny Myers, a police informant. Eventually a witness came forward and testified that she saw Myers shoot the victim. Racial bias permeated Lawyer’s trials. His second trial took place as court-ordered busing was beginning, a time of heightened racial tensions. Originally sentenced to death, Lawyer served ten years in prison before being freed. He describes this ordeal as a “legal lynching.”

Our firm represented Lawyer on his compensation claim under state law for his wrongful conviction. Howard’s former law partner, Michael Avery, won Lawyer’s freedom on a motion for a new trial.

Lawyer seeks speaking opportunities so he can share the story of his wrongful conviction and his career as an activist, advocate against the death penalty, and inspire conversations about changing our criminal justice system. Lawyer also enjoys presenting the artwork he created while he was in prison. If you would like to invite Lawyer to speak at your event, please contact Carmen at 617-742-4100.


Howard Friedman to speak to criminal defense lawyers about civil cases against the police

On April 5, 2016, Howard Friedman, along with Carl Williams of the ACLU of Massachusetts, will be presenting a program for criminal defense lawyers on police misconduct law. Howard’s presentation is intended to provide lawyers practicing criminal law with basic information about civil rights law and police misconduct cases. This information can help criminal defense lawyers preserve (and even strengthen) a client’s potential civil rights claims, including claims of excessive force, false arrest, unreasonable search, malicious prosecution, wrongful conviction, and failure to provide needed medical care. Howard will describe how a criminal lawyer can affect potential civil rights claims during a criminal case as well as provide information on civil rights law and litigation more generally.


City’s scrutiny of police conduct questioned; Judge allows suit claiming bad behavior unpunished

The Boston Globe reports on a recent court decision that reveals that the Boston Police Department does not properly investigate allegations of misconduct. Most troubling is the failure of the Boston Police Department to investigate when a prosecutor forwarded an audio recording of officer Paul Murphy threatening to beat a man to “within an inch of his life.” Boston’s Internal Affairs officers never bothered to question officer Murphy about the recording. Failing to take an action on this complaint signals that complaints by ordinary civilians who do not have recordings are not going to be properly investigated.

Internal affairs records are considered confidential by the City. This case shows that the City keeps this material from the public because the truth is embarrassing. It is time to make these records public. People who live and work in the City of Boston have a right to a properly run police department. This means the department must effectively discipline its police officers when they violate the constitutional rights of others.

Read the judge’s decision here


Howard Friedman speaks about bringing police misconduct cases for children and young people

On March 10, Howard spoke at Cardoza Law School in New York City as part of an educational program for lawyers and youth advocates on representing children and youth in police misconduct cases. Howard discussed the special challenges in representing young people who are suing police officers. All too often, young people are the victims of police abuse. Protecting the civil rights of young people is important because young people are particularly vulnerable to police misconduct and brutality.


We mourn the passing of our client George Thompson

With great sadness and shock, we learned that our client George Thompson has passed away. He was 53. We represented George in a civil rights lawsuit against a Fall River police officer who arrested George for exercising his First Amendment right to record the officer in public. George was falsely arrested, forced to spend the night in jail, and prosecuted on baseless charges, including violating the Massachusetts wiretap law, all of which were dismissed. The police department seized his phone, and police officers erased all of its contents, which included the video that would have shown the officer’s misconduct. George channeled his anger at the violation of his rights into a vigorous campaign against corruption and dishonesty in the Fall River Police Department and city government as a whole. George, a lifelong Fall River resident who had never been political before his arrest, had the heart and soul of an activist. He had a clear sense of justice and an intolerance for police officers and others who abuse their authority. He was outspoken and fearless, and he had a flair for the dramatic, and for comedy. With the money from his settlement, he planned to open a food truck called Bozo’s after his name for the officer who violated his constitutional rights. After his lawsuit settled, he continued to demand reform and accountability from public officials. We will remember George fondly as we do the same.

George Thompson (Photo by Dylan Avery via


Our client, Michael O’Brien, speaks about the problem of disciplining police officers

We recommend that you watch this news story, “Discipline for Boston police officers frequently overturned.” The story describes how arbitrators have overturned 72 percent of the Boston Police Department’s disciplinary decisions since 2007. Under this arbitration system, even when the department terminates police officers for misconduct, the officers often win their job back. As a result, problem officers go back on the force where they can commit further misconduct.

The story includes an interview with our client, Michael O’Brien, who talks about this problem and the recent reinstatement of David Williams, the police officer who was fired after attacking Mr. O’Brien in 2009. The Boston Police Department has tried to fire Williams in two separate cases. The first case involved the near-fatal assault of undercover Boston police officer Michael Cox in 1995. The department terminated Williams, but an arbitrator overruled that decision and ordered that he rejoin the force. Back on the force, Williams assaulted and choked Mr. O’Brien, who was then a Middlesex County correctional officer. Our firm sued Williams and the City of Boston in 2009 on behalf of Mr. O’Brien. After the lawsuit settled for $1.4 million, the police department again fired Williams, but another arbitrator ruled that he must be reinstated. The City has filed an appeal in that case.


Howard Friedman speaks about bringing successful police misconduct lawsuits

On January 20, Howard Friedman was a speaker at a program titled “Police Misconduct Litigation” put on by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE). Howard provided the plaintiff’s perspective on bringing civil rights lawsuits alleging police misconduct such as brutality, false arrest, illegal strip searches, and wrongful death. Howard gave practical advice on how lawyers can avoid the many legal obstacles for plaintiffs in police misconduct litigation.

The other speakers were Federal Judge Denise Casper, Professor Karen Blum, and defense lawyer Leonard Kesten. Over one hundred people attended either in person or on line.


Cellphone video records police officers illegally detaining and framing a police accountability activist

We recommend that you read this article and watch the activist’s cell phone video: “Gotta Cover Our Ass” Illegally Confiscated Cellphone Records Cops Framing an Innocent Man.

The video shows the police questioning and detaining the activist because he was recording the officers and complaining about police activity. You can hear the police officers casually fabricating a story to bring false charges.

This incident proves how the act of recording the police can protect civilians and reveal police corruption.  


Fall River settles our lawsuit concerning the right to record the police

The City of Fall River paid $72,500 to settle the federal civil rights lawsuit we brought for our client, George Thompson, against the Fall River police officer who arrested Mr. Thompson for exercising his First Amendment right to record the officer in public. Watch the report on NBC 10 News.

In January 2014, Mr. Thompson was sitting on his front porch when he noticed Fall River Police Officer Thomas Barboza loudly and repeatedly cursing on his cellphone while working a traffic detail. When Mr. Thompson began filming Officer Barboza with his smartphone, Barboza became angry and charged into Mr. Thompson’s yard, threatening him and arresting him. Officer Barboza charged Mr. Thompson with violating the Massachusetts wiretap law and with resisting arrest.

Mr. Thompson did not resist arrest nor is it illegal to videotape police officers. In 2011, our firm handled the landmark case, Glik v. Cunniffe, confirming the right to record public officials in a public space. The DA’s Office later dropped all charges against Mr. Thompson. Officer Barboza later admitted that he told Mr. Thompson he was going to “f--- [Mr. Thompson] hard on paper” and come by his house every night.

Officer Barboza confiscated Mr. Thompson’s smartphone during the arrest. While the phone was in police custody, police officers deleted its contents, including the video Mr. Thompson had recorded of Officer Barboza’s belligerent and improper behavior. The Fall River police department initially denied deleting the video, but an independent forensic investigation later confirmed that the Fall River police were responsible for deleting the contents of the phone. Despite this, Police Chief Daniel Racine did not discipline the officers who deleted the video.

Mr. Thompson plans to put his money to good use in a way that will benefit his community. He will continue shining light on the lack of accountability for police officers who commit misconduct in Fall River and beyond.

For more press coverage of this case, read Fall River man arrested for filming police officer settles suit with city for $72,500 and Fall River reaches $72,500 settlement with man arrested for recording cop. The Fall River Herald ran this excellent editorial: Our View: In Thompson settlement, what price justice?

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