BPD seems determined to suppress First Amendment rights of citizen journalists
The photographer, Paul Weiskel, captured other pictures of [Officer Vaden] Scantlebury looking angrily at the camera. In one photo, Scantlebury's hand is directly in front of the lens.
Weiskel, a photojournalist .. said he believed Scantlebury was trying to take his camera.
If BPD Officer Scantlebury was not trying to take Paul Weiskel's camera, he was clearly trying to interfere with Weiskel's use of it, which is Weiskel's First Amendment right.
Less than eight months ago in Federal Court, Boston Police officers lost their appeal of the decision that they had violated the First and Fourth Amendment Rights of Simon Glik, in the very same location -- on the Boston Common -- to "openly videorecord and audiorecord police officers in public." by arresting him for doing so.
The decision noted that citizen journalists as well as professional journalists had the right to record police in places as public as the Boston Common. A reasonable person would think the Boston Police Department had been advised of this ruling and adjusted their procedure accordingly:
The officer repeatedly told him [Paul Wieskel] to step back and took the camera out of his hand twice, Weiskel said.
Weiskel said he is talking with representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union about any potential legal remedies.
It is extremely disheartening to read BPD spokesperson Elaine Driscoll refer to the issue as a 'nuance' of the Massachusetts wire-tapping statute instead of as an adjudicated, decided, and reaffirmed in Federal Circuit Court as a First Amendment Rights issue.
First, Paul Wieskel was not recording video to my knowledge, so spokesperson Elaine Driscoll's claim that the issue could have anything to do with the Mass. wiretapping statute is basically bullshit. And second, the issue framed as a criminal wiretapping violation by the official spokesperson of the Boston Police Department, even though its been decided in the Massachusetts court of law and reaffirmed in Federal circuit court that it is NOT A VIOLATION of the Massachusetts wiretapping statute, is nothing short of infuriating.
Fire BPD spokesperson Elaine Driscoll and hire someone who can read and who respects the authority of the Commonwealth and Federal Circuit Courts of law.
[BPD Spokesperson Elaine] Driscoll said officials have stressed training officers on the nuances of the state’s wire-tapping statute, which allows members of the public to photograph police officers as they work.
We know for a fact that it is not the state's wiretapping statutes that guarantee the right of Paul Weiskel to photograph Boston police in a public place like the Boston common. Instead, we know it is the First Amendment to the US Constitution ... but BPD spokesperson Elaine Driscoll is not done with her ill-informed misinformation:
“There is a difference between the wire tapping statute and assault,” Driscoll said. “They’re getting assaulted by individuals that are holding cellphone cameras half an inch from their face and being told ‘you can’t do anything, you can’t do anything.’
First, it's a falsehood that photographing is felony assault. Second, Weiskel's camera is a digital SLR with a zoom lens. To take closeups, he does not have to get 'half an inch' from his subjects.
Take a look at Paul Weiskel's other photos and see if you can identify any evidence that he assaulted Officer Vaden Scantlebury, which is the impression official BPD Spokesperson Elaine Driscoll has left on the public.
Boston residents pay Officer Scantlebury and BPD Spokesperson Driscoll's salaries. I'll leave it to Wieskel, his attorneys and Officer Scantlebury to work out their issues. But in my opinion, official BPD Spokesperson Elaine Driscoll has lost the trust of the public she is hired to serve. She should resign or be fired.
Boston would be a better place if it's police department spokesperson was well informed and provided a balanced view of the issue not a defense or excuse-making for police in disputes, the resolutions of which are grounded in law. Boston would be a better place if the Boston Police focused a more on upholding rather than suppressing the rights of citizens.