A Fall River man says he was recording a police officer who was out of control, but instead, he was arrested and his cell phone was seized.
Now the video he recorded is gone. Police say he erased it, even though they were the ones holding the phone.
George Thompson says last January he was just sitting on his front porch, watching a Fall River police officer working a paid detail. Thompson says the officer was on his phone and was swearing very loud.
That’s when Thompson pulled out his phone. Thompson says Officer Tom Barboza then rushed him and arrested him, charging him with unlawful wiretapping.
But in Massachusetts it’s perfectly legal to record video and audio of a public official, including police, as long as they are performing their duties and the recording isn’t hidden. Barboza’s own police report shows that Thompson acknowledged he was recording the officer.
“I think we all have our basic rights and I think people should not record others secretly or surreptitiously,” Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine told WPRI.
Thompson was released from jail, but police kept his phone and that’s where the story takes an interesting turn.
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.
“If a Fall River police officer erased that video, he’s fired,” Chief Racine said. “And I would suspect the district attorney would take out charges.”
George Thompson is not buying it. “They’re investigating themselves and there’s a code of blue and everybody knows that,” Thompson says.