At Popehat, Ken White discusses the fascinating case of the public affairs office of the Boston Police department as a “victim” of “intimidation” from callers:
The story begins typically for Photography Is Not A Crime with a story about a Boston Police Department sergeant thuggishly assaulting a photographer recording a traffic stop. A PINAC fan and journalism student named Taylor Hardy called the Boston PD’s Bureau of Public Information on its public line to ask about the story. Hardy spoke with Angelene Richardson, a spokesperson for the Boston Police Department who provides information to the media and public. When Hardy published a recording of that call, the Boston Police Department arranged for him to be charged with wiretapping. Hardy claims that he informed Richardson that he was recording the call (though he did not successfully record that part of the conversation), apparently Richardson claims that he did not.
Even assuming that Hardy didn’t disclose that he was recording (and it would be foolish to take the BPD’s word on that), it’s very dubious policy for the government to charge a citizen with a crime for recording a call with a police department’s public information officer on the phone line the department identifies as its public information line. Any such communication can’t possibly be regarded as private. There may be constitutional problems with a wiretapping statute that allows prosecution of a citizen under those circumstances. But the BPP wasn’t done doubling down yet.
When Carlos Miller wrote about the wiretapping charges against Hardy, he encouraged readers to contact Richardson at her BDP telephone number and email address, which the BPD published online:
Maybe we can call or email Richardson to persuade her to drop the charges against Hardy considering she should assume all her conversations with reporters are on the record unless otherwise stated.
In other words, Miller encouraged his readers to petition the government for a redress of grievances, as protected by the First Amendment.
Detective Nick Moore also assured me he would do the same to any PINAC readers if they continue to contact departmental spokeswoman Angelene Richardson as they have been doing since yesterday.
“I can go and get warrants for every person who called her,” he said during a telephone conversation earlier this evening. “It’s an annoyance. It’s an act of intimidation.”
Indeed — an act of intimidation is involved. But it’s an act of intimidation by the BPD, which is sending a clear message about how it will handle citizen dissent.
What a accomplishment: the Boston Police Department has discovered a way to make it a crime for citizens to contact the person it designates to talk to citizens.