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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