Center For Constitutional Rights Enforce First Amendment On Monitoring Police Activity.

Video documentation of police activity can and has been instrumental in drawing national attention to incidents of police brutality, as in the 1992 police beating of Rodney King and the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant, an unarmed young black man, by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer. This week, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed an amicus brief in Glik v. Cunniffe, et al. arguing that Copwatch activist groups that monitor police misconduct by video recordings are protected under the First Amendment.

In 2007 Simon Glik was arrested for using his cell phone to record an arrest by the Boston Police Department and was then himself arrested. While Glik’s charges were ultimately dismissed, in 2010 he filed a lawsuit against the officers and the Boston Police Department for violating his First Amendment rights. Mr. Glik won in District Court, but the case was appealed to the First Circuit. Glik is represented by attorneys David Milton, Howard Friedman and Sarah Wunsch.

CCR has submitted the amicus brief in Glik v. Cunniffe before the First Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Berkeley Copwatch, Communities United against Police Brutality, Justice Committee, Milwaukee Police Accountability Coalition, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development and Portland Copwatch. The brief argues that activists, concerned individuals and Copwatch groups have the right to record public police activity and that this right is clearly protected under the First Amendment.

These Copwatch groups are made up of concerned community members, who take action to lawfully monitor local law enforcement activity in their neighborhoods. Copwatch groups are proactively working to reduce police violence and misconduct in exercising their right to hold the police accountable for their actions. Many Copwatch groups use video recording to document police misconduct, thereby shifting the balance of power between law enforcement agencies and the communities they patrol, and in some cases affecting changes in police practices and policies. Video recordings of police activity are both constitutionally protected and vital to help deter police misconduct or expose it when it happens.

Thank you for standing with us in the fight for justice.


Annette Warren Dickerson

Director of Education and Outreach

Center for Constitutional Rights