First Circuit Judge Kermit Lipez reflects on the decision he wrote in Glik v. Cunniffe finding that people have the right to record the police performing their duties in public

Judge Kermit Lipez, Senior Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, recently published an essay in the Maine Law Review reflecting on the case our firm handled with the ACLU on behalf of Simon Glik, who was unlawfully arrested on the Boston Common for filming the police with his cell phone. In 2011, Judge Lipez wrote the landmark Glik opinion confirming civilians’ First Amendment right to record the police performing their duties in public.

Judge Lipez’s essay provides a rare opportunity to understand the judge’s view of the opinion. It gives insight into the Glik decision as well as the judge’s reflections on how smartphones, body-worn cameras and other technologies are revolutionizing both policing methods and communities’ responses to policing. Judge Lipez calls the act of filming the police a “potent tool of accountability” and discusses how videos of police have forced the recognition that “black Americans experience the criminal justice system, including police interactions, differently from their white neighbors.” Judge Lipez accepts the legitimacy of the black community’s grievances about police misconduct while honoring the work of the police as a whole. He believes that the power of video will help bridge the divide between communities and their police officers.

Our firm agrees with Judge Lipez that videos of police misconduct have become a powerful tool to validate black communities’ grievances about deep-seated racism in our police departments. As for the notion that video can help bridge the divide? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, more and more police officers will be held accountable for their actions as more and more courts agree with Judge Lipez’s statement in Glik that filming the police is “a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.”

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