In the case of Glik v. Cunniffe, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has issued a unanimous opinion in support of the First Amendment right to record the actions of police in public.
For those of you not familiar with Simon Glik’s case, Glik was arrested on October 1, 2007, after openly using his cell phone to record three police officers arresting a suspect on Boston Common. In return for his efforts to record what he suspected might be police brutality — in a pattern that is now all too familiar — Glik was charged with criminal violation of the Massachusetts wiretap act, aiding the escape of a prisoner and disturbing the peace.
Unlike most arrestees, Glik, with the assistance of the ACLU, fought back against this treatment. Undeterred, in February 2010, Glik filed suit in federal court against the officers and the City of Boston under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act. Glik alleged that the police officers violated his First Amendment right to record police activity in public and that the officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights by arresting him without probable cause to believe a crime had occurred.
The First Circuit ruled that “Glik was exercising clearly-established First Amendment rights in filiming the officers in a public space, and that his clearly-established Fourth Amendment rights were violated by his arrest without probable cause.”
Let’s see if we can find some more excellent quotations.
“[I]s there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public? Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative.”
“Glik filmed the defendant police officers in the Boston Common, the oldest city park in the United States and the apotheosis of a public forum. In such traditional public spaces, the rights of the state to limit the exercise of First Amendment activity are ‘sharply circumscribed.’”
“[A] citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.”
“Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting ‘the free discussion of governmental affairs.’”