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Monday
Sep142015

Judge approves settlement of class action about male guards filming strip searches of female prisoners at the Chicopee Jail

On September 10, 2015, in Federal Court in Springfield, Judge Michael A. Ponsor granted final approval of the settlement in our class action lawsuit Baggett v. Ashe. Last year, the judge ruled that the Chicopee Jail’s policy permitting male guards to videotape female prisoners during strip searches violates the Constitution as well as basic human dignity. The parties then reached a settlement, which requires the jail to change its policy to prohibit male officers from filming strip searches except in an emergency. Defendants will pay $675,000 to settle the case. Any woman held at the WCC and videotaped by a male officer during a strip search since September 15, 2008, is a member of the class. The parties have identified 176 class members.

Click here to read more about this hard-fought case. 

Tuesday
Aug112015

Simon Glik says police should expect to be recorded

Our client Simon Glik, the plaintiff in Glik v. Cunniffe—the case that established a civilian’s right to record police performing the duties in public—recently spoke to the Boston Herald. Simon says he did not start the trend of recording the police. This may be true, but we think Simon is too modest about how his actions affirmed the people’s right to videotape police. Simon fought against false charges, including the felony charge of wiretapping, and then chose to sue the police to clearly establish his right to record police officers. His courage helped people throughout the country who record police officers. As a result of the Glik case, police officers are now trained to expect to be recorded. Unfortunately, too many police officers still threaten people who record them, arrest people who are recording them and even try to destroy the recording devices to prevent public disclosure of police brutality or other misconduct.

Wednesday
Aug052015

12 Videos That Show The Difference Between What Cops Said And What Actually Happened

We recommend this article on Huffingtonpost.com. The article shows videos of police brutality along with the police officers’ description of what happened. There is a pattern to the language cops use to cover up their misconduct. 

Friday
Jul242015

Howard Friedman on WBUR regarding the reinstatement of David Williams

David Williams is a Boston police officer who has been terminated by the police department in two separate cases. The first case involved the assault on undercover Boston police officer Michael Cox in 1995. Three officers were terminated, and only David Williams rejoined the force. In 2009, our firm sued him and the City of Boston after David Williams assaulted and choked Michael O’Brien, then a Middlesex County correctional officer. An arbitrator ruled in favor of David Williams. Now a court has ruled that he must be reinstated. Professor Craig Futterman from the University of Chicago Law School discusses the problem of disciplining police officers on WBUR. Civilians rarely complain, and when they do, police departments rarely take action. Finally, as shown in this case, even when police departments terminate a police officer, they often win their job back.

Thursday
Jul232015

The police code of silence continues to protect police officers

Police misconduct often goes undisciplined because of the “code of silence,” an unwritten rule that officers do not report misconduct or testify against their fellow officers. While police officers routinely deny that a code of silence exists, their actions show us that it is real. Two stories in the news recently demonstrate the code of silence in action.

Earlier this week, the Chicago Independent Review Authority—the agency charged with investigating police misconduct complaints for the Chicago Police Department—fired an investigator who concluded that several police shootings had been unjustified.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul152015

What is Qualified Immunity?

Qualified Immunity is a defense that police officers often use in an effort to defeat claims of police misconduct. Qualified Immunity is complicated, but its essential concept is that a police officer is not liable for violating anyone’s rights, unless they violate a right that is “clearly established” and obvious to any reasonable officer. For more information about the history and implications of Qualified Immunity, check out this excellent cartoon by Nathan Burney.

Wednesday
Jul012015

15 Most Outrageous Responses By Police After Killing Unarmed People

We recommend this article on alternet.org, which describes how 100 unarmed people have been shot and killed by police in 2015. Police officers who shoot and kill people often provide excuses that stretch credulity. The article lists fifteen of the most unbelievable explanations.

Thursday
Jun112015

Rare occurrence: 4 Illinois police officers charged with perjury

Cook County prosecutors made the uncommon decision to bring felony perjury charges against four police officers (three Chicago officers and one from suburban Glenview) after video footage proved that the officers lied when testifying in a drug case.

Although police officers often lie in their testimony in drug cases to evade constitutional protections and to get convictions—a practice known as “testilying”—police officers are not held to the same standard as civilian witnesses. (Read these four articles for more information about testilying.)

Prosecutors should more frequently hold officers accountable by bringing perjury charges when officers falsify testimony to obtain a conviction. In the case in Cook County, prosecutors relied on footage from a camera in a police car to show that the officers’ testimony was false. As video surveillance—from police dash cams, security cameras and as civilians’ cell phone cameras—becomes more common,  it will become harder and harder for officers to evade perjury charges. We need to end the “war on drugs,” which fails to solve the drug problem, fills our prisons with non-violent prisoners and pressures police officers into committing perjury.

Wednesday
Jun032015

Justice Department pushes police reform, but what will make the changes last?

Last week, the Justice Department issued an agreement with the city of Cleveland, detailing many changes that must be made to the police department’s policies and practices. Read about the Justice Department’s agreements with Cleveland and other cities at themarshalproject.org.

These mandated changes are a step in the right direction. But, changing police practices is difficult. Police supervisors must be vigilant to prevent backsliding. Members of the public have to keep an eye on the police department to prevent a return to old ways. The Justice Department should better monitor and enforce their reforms. For reforms to be effective, the police department and the community must resist pressure from police officers and their unions.

Wednesday
May272015

David Milton testifies in favor of reforming Massachusetts’ public records law

David Milton testified yesterday at a legislative committee hearing on proposals to reform Massachusetts’ public records law, which is one of the worst in the country. David and representatives of a wide array of public interest and media organizations, as well as numerous state lawmakers, urged the committee to endorse much needed reforms designed to make obtaining public records easier, quicker, and less expensive.

The current law lacks any meaningful enforcement mechanism, permitting agencies to blatantly violate the law with impunity.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
May202015

Howard Friedman will speak about civil rights cases on a panel at the Federal Court 

On June 8, 2015, Howard will speak to other legal professionals in a program entitled, “Litigating Civil Rights Cases under Section 1983.” Along with other distinguished speakers and federal judges, Howard will help practitioners understand how to bring successful lawsuits using the federal civil rights statute and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act. Our firm relies on these laws to bring civil rights cases about police misconduct, excessive force, false arrest, wrongful conviction, prisoners’ rights, and other issues concerning police accountability. Learn more or register for the program here.

Thursday
May142015

After pressure, Boston police agree to disclose names of arrested officers 

Howard Friedman is quoted in this article in the Boston Globe: Boston police agree to release names of arrested officers. After pressure from the Globe and community members, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans has agreed that from now on, when officers are arrested for crimes such as drunk driving, the department will release their names to the public. This is a step towards ending the double standard that protects police officers when they break the law. Click here and here to read our past blog posts about this double standard.

Friday
May082015

That’s What You Get for Filming the Police

Here’s an excellent article on the epidemic of police retaliation against people who film them: That’s What You Get for Filming the Police. Filming the police is a clearly established First Amendment right – thanks in part to our firm’s victory in the federal appeals court for the First Circuit, Glik v. Cunniffe. But despite this opinion, police continue to harass, intimidate, arrest or assault people who record them. And police continue to confiscate or destroy the cameras of, and delete the footage taken by people who film them. The article correctly lays much of the blame for this problem on the failure of police departments to discipline officers who violate civilians’ constitutional right to record the police.

Tuesday
Apr282015

Blue Shield: Did you know police have their own Bill of Rights?

Police officers get special protection—their own “Bill of Rights.” This article by Eli Hager at The Marshall Project explains how police unions have obtained special legislation to give police officers who are accused of misconduct rights far beyond those of the rest of us. Police officers get a “cooling off” period after an incident with time to speak to their lawyers and union representatives before writing reports or being interviewed about an incident. If a civilian exercises his or her right to speak to an attorney, those same police officers take that as a sign of guilt. If only the guilty need time to get their thoughts together, why do police officers get this special treatment? This article explains the way these laws shield police officers from the consequences of their misconduct.

Wednesday
Apr222015

Howard organizes seminar with the civil rights committee of the Massachusetts FBA 

On April 8, 2015, Howard assisted the civil rights committee of the Massachusetts FBA in organizing a seminar on litigating federal civil rights cases. The speakers were Professor Karen Blum of Suffolk Law School, a co-author of the treatise “Police Misconduct: Law and Litigation,” and Massachusetts Federal District Judge Timothy Hillman, who trains new magistrate judges on handling civil rights cases. Howard assisted in organizing the program as a member of the Board of Directors of the Federal Bar Association’s Massachusetts chapter. 

 Professor Karen Blum, Howard Friedman, Michelle Hinckley and Judge Hillman

Tuesday
Apr212015

Public radio program discusses the right to record police officers

The right to record police officers is discussed in this program from WNYC, a public radio station in New York. The discussion focuses on Glik v. Cunniffe, the case our firm handled in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which makes it crystal clear that the public has a First Amendment right to record police officers performing their public duties in public. We hope that those federal appeals courts that have yet to decide this issue will also recognize the important right to videotape police officers in a public space.

Tuesday
Apr142015

Settlement of class action about male guards filming strip searches of female prisoners at the Chicopee Jail

We are pleased to report that last Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Ponsor granted preliminary approval of the settlement in our class action lawsuit about the policy at the women’s jail in Chicopee permitting male guards to videotape female prisoners being strip searched. The settlement requires the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center (“WCC”) to change its policy to prohibit male officers from filming strip searches except in an emergency. Defendants, Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe, and Patricia Murphy, head of the WCC, will pay $675,000 to settle the case. Any woman held at the WCC and videotaped by a male officer during a strip search since September 15, 2008, is a member of the class. The parties have identified 176 class members. Each class member who submits a claim form is expected to receive $1,000 or more.  

We were contacted by the lead Plaintiff, Debra Baggett, more than five years ago. Debra, who at the time was still a prisoner at the WCC, wrote that male guards routinely videotaped strip searches when women were taken to segregation (whether for disciplinary or mental health reasons). The firm receives many letters from prisoners describing many disturbing prison practices, but this one stood out.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Apr022015

We support the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition

The Law Offices of Howard Friedman is a proud sponsor of Professionals for Transgender Rights, tonight’s fundraising event for the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. MTPC does vital work to protect the rights of trans people in Massachusetts. MTPC was instrumental in passing the 2011 Act Relative to Gender Identity, and is committed to getting public accommodations protections included in our state’s nondiscrimination laws.

Another of MTPC’s many accomplishments was to work with the Boston Police Department to draft a new policy that instructs officers how to properly interact with and respect transgender people. The BPD announced this policy in June of 2013, just a few months after our client, a transgender woman, agreed to accept $30,000 and a judgment against the City of Boston to resolve her claim that she was falsely arrested and subject to discrimination for using the women’s bathroom at a homeless shelter. 

Our firm represents trans people who are denied their rights, particularly when law enforcement agencies are involved.

Thursday
Mar192015

Video MBTA tried to hide from us shows transit police officer beating our client 

MBTA surveillance video we obtained through a public records suit shows MBTA Transit Police Officer Sean Conway assaulting a man immediately after pulling him from the edge of the Red Line track at Park Street Station last May. Last year the MBTA released a portion of the video showing the apparent rescue but stopped the video just before the officer punched the man, Anthony Ferrier. The MBTA denied a public records request for the full video, which it released only after we sued them in Superior Court under Public Records Law.

In a news conference on the day of the incident, May 7, 2014, Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan called the actions of Officer Conway “tremendous” and said the agency was “very proud of him.” The MBTA posted the edited video on its blog and to other social media, and it was shown in local and national news stories.

The complete video shows the officer in a different light.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Mar112015

Double standard in Massachusetts: civilians’ arrests are public while officers’ arrests are private

The Massachusetts Secretary of State has announced its view that police agencies can legally release arrest information for private citizens while withholding the same information when a police officer is arrested. Police agencies typically release the name, age, occupation and town of a private citizen who is arrested. Police departments feel this is information that should be public. A double standard protecting the privacy of police officers should not be permitted.

This special policy protecting police officers from embarrassment is improper and dangerous.

Click to read more ...

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