Police officers need to get the message that photographing or videotaping them in public isn’t a crime. The belated recognition by the Boston Police Department that two officers showed bad judgment by arresting a bystander who was taping them on Boston Common in 2007 is a step in that direction - but now officers need to take it to heart.
The bystander, Simon Glik, filed an internal complaint after his arrest. He had pulled out a cellphone camera to tape the two officers, John Cunniffe and Peter Savalis, because he believed they were using excessive force against a suspected drug offender. Glik was arrested and accused of unlawful wiretap and aiding the escape of a prisoner - charges that were subsequently dismissed.
The initial police investigation in 2008 backed up the officers; it was only after Glik filed a federal lawsuit that the department reversed course. Now, the two officers will face discipline ranging from an oral reprimand to suspension.
The spread of cellphone cameras means police are under a microscope like never before, and some have bridled at the increased scrutiny. But when every citizen is a photographer, it provides a powerful check on misconduct. Officers need to get used to it.