A man in Fall River, Mass., was arrested and charged with “unlawful wiretapping” after he used his cellphone to video record an officer he says was out of control and loudly cursing while on the phone near his home. In Massachusetts, it is entirely legal to video or audio record a public official as long as they are performing their duties and the recording isn’t hidden.
The officer, identified as Tom Barboza, hauled off George Thompson off to jail and also confiscated the cellphone. The incident occurred in January.
While the device was in police custody, the video disappeared. Police say even though “they were the ones holding the phone,” Thompson could have wiped the phone remotely CBS Boston reports.
Police have issued a warrant to Apple Inc. to find out how the phone was reset. Thompson denies deleting the video remotely and claims he gave his password to the officers so they could access the video to use in his case.
Barboza’s own police report indicates that Thompson informed the officer that he was video recording him. But the arrest reports claims Thompson broke the law by trying to "secretly" audio tape the officer when he tried to conceal his phone, a claim the man denies.
Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine defended the officer in an interview with WPRI-TV, saying that everyone has “basic rights” and “people should not record others secretly or surreptitiously.”
He also addressed the issue of the deleted video, saying “if a Fall River police officer erased that video, he’s fired.” He said the district attorney “would take out charges” as well.
“Thompson claims that two days after his arrest, his phone, which was locked up at the police station, somehow had all of the video erased,” according to CBS Boston.
But Thompson says he’s not expecting a thorough internal investigation.
“They’re investigating themselves and there’s a code of blue and everybody knows that,” he said.
Discussing the video he shot, Thompson said he wants "everyone to see it."
Thompson pleaded not guilty at his arraignment the day after his arrest. His next court date is on March 13, where his attorney will reportedly ask that the charges be dropped.