Mass. state trooper threatens to steal camera during traffic stop

kenneth harold 209x300 Mass. state trooper threatens to steal camera during traffic stop

An old photo of Kenneth Harold, the statie who threatened Maya (Source: The Milford Daily News)

On December 6, 2013, BSE reporter Maya was pulled over on 495 South for a victimless driving infraction by a belligerent state trooper who threatened to steal her camera when he saw that she was video-recording him.

Maya was stopped just before 1:30 AM, when it was pitch black out. The situation made Maya feel vulnerable – she was a young woman isolated on a dark stretch of highway and was being stopped by an armed stranger whose intentions she did not know.[1]

Out of concern for her safety, Maya used her camera to document the traffic stop so that she would have an objective record of what happened.

Although many police departments across the country have video cameras mounted in their patrol vehicles, the Massachusetts State Police are not among them. In response to a public records request we made earlier this year, the state police said that they do not have cameras installed in any department vehicles.

When no one records a police stop, it produces an inevitable “he said, she said” dispute and police departments will rarely take the word of an average person over that of one of their police officers. For instance, the Telegram & Gazette learned earlier this year that a state trooper who is currently facing criminal charges after allegedly exposing himself to a teenage relative had seven prior complaints, but never faced any disciplinary action as a result. Five of the seven complaints similarly alleged that the trooper acted aggressively during traffic stops, suggesting a pattern of abusive behavior, but none of the seven complaints was sustained.

When the police officer who stopped Maya approached her vehicle, he said he had pulled her over for an out-of-date inspection sticker.

“You saw my inspection sticker from behind me somehow?” Maya asked incredulously.

“We have this thing called a computer. We run the plates and it tells us everything about the vehicle and the owner,” the police officer said.

The officer noticed that Maya was recording him and told her to turn the camera off. “It’s illegal to audio or visually record me without my permission,” he said.

When Maya refused, the officer threatened to steal her camera. “I will ask you one last time, then I will take that from you,” he said.

The officer did not end up stealing the camera, but when Maya pointed it at him a second time, he told her she was violating “the wiretap law” and began yelling at her to point it in a different direction.

The officer was wrong about the law. Under Massachusetts law, it is legal to openly video and audio record others with or without their consent. Massachusetts wiretapping law only criminalizes surreptitious audio recording. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court stated more than a decade ago in the case Commonwealth v. Hyde that a recording is not surreptitious as long as the recording device is “held… in plain sight.” Additionally, a federal court ruling in 2011 specifically stated that openly recording public officials is a well-established right protected by the First Amendment. That ruling stemmed from an incident in which a man was arrested for recording Boston police officers making an arrest with his cell phone.

Maya asked the officer what his name was, but he refused to provide it verbally. He said the name was on the citation, but the writing was illegible. The officer also never told Maya what police department he worked for, however, the letters “TPR” were written on the citation before his name, leading us to conclude that he was probably a state trooper. The officer did write his badge number (3282) on the citation in a legible manner.

Visiting the state police HQ

In order to find out whether or not the officer who stopped Maya was a state police officer and to inquire about state police policy, Maya and Andrew, another journalist with The Bay State Examiner, traveled to the Massachusetts State Police Headquarters in Framingham, bringing cameras to document what happened.

When we first arrived, we were briefly barred from entering the building by a desk clerk who did not want our cameras in the building. We were soon greeted by Lieutenant Detective William M. Pinkes, who allowed us to enter the building and courteously provided us with some assistance.

Pinkes was able to confirm that Maya had been stopped by a state trooper and was able to use the badge number on the citation to determine that the trooper was Kenneth Harold of the Leominster state police barracks.

Pinkes confirmed for us that state police officers are required by department policy to identify themselves by their name and badge number upon request.

Pinkes also told us his own understanding of the Massachusetts wiretapping law. Like the trooper who pulled Maya over, he falsely stated that the law makes it illegal to audio record others without their consent, although he also said that police can’t force people to stop recording them in a public area. He also said state police receive training on the state wiretapping law.

“We try to give them the training relative to the most recent case law that exists,” Pinkes told us.

Pinkes also accepted a records request from us asking for policy documents describing how state troopers should deal with members of the public who record them, policy documents describing the Massachusetts wiretapping law, and policy documents describing when state police must identify themselves to the public.

On December 22, we received a response to the records request from Glenn M. Rooney, Staff Counsel for the state police.

“As to your request for policies, procedures, and and/or related materials on the topic of video/audio recording by the public, please note that the Department does not currently have a policy regarding this issue. Instead, the Department is bound by the relevant case law and statutes and Department policy cannot supersede the same,” wrote Rooney in his response letter.

The fact that both the trooper who pulled Maya over and Lt. Det. Pinkes misunderstood the law combined with the fact that the state police have no written documents on the subject undermines Pinkes’s claim that state police officers receive training on the current case law.

With no written policy or training documents, it’s impossible to say for certain how much training state police officers receive on this issue, but whatever training they do receive does not appear to be adequate.

We were also provided with a copy of the state police’s official policy on identification. The policy states that state police must “furnish their name, current duty status, and identification number to any person requesting that information when they are on-duty or while they are acting in an official capacity.”

As previously stated, the state trooper who stopped Maya refused to provide his name, a clear violation of this policy.

According to The Boston Herald, Kenneth Harold’s job paid him $128,680.31 in 2012.

Traffic stop may have involved controversial license plate reading technology

The state trooper who pulled Maya over claimed that he had a computer that tells him “everything about the vehicle and the owner.” He may have been referring to an automatic license plate reader (ALPR), a surveillance technology being adopted by police across the country that has come under criticism as invasive and damaging to privacy.

According to The Boston Globe, “More than 60 law enforcement agencies across Massachusetts use automated license plate recognition technology, including every police department in the Boston area. The scanners use high-speed cameras to compare plates against police databases, including vehicles associated with outstanding warrants, lapsed registration, expired insurance, or unpaid parking tickets.”

“The readers also record the date, time, and GPS location of each vehicle, even in heavy traffic. The technology thus offers a wealth of information for surveillance as well as investigations: with enough scans over time, police can trace a particular vehicle’s path and discern driving habits.”

A report published earlier this year by the American Civil Liberties Union warns that the use of license plate scanners by police is largely unregulated, allowing police to save information about drivers permanently and track their movements even if they are not suspected of committing crimes.

The Massachusetts State Police have refused to provide any information to the public about how many license plate scanners they use, what they use them for, and how long they store the data.

Earlier this month, the Boston Police Department indefinitely halted its use of license plate readers after they inadvertently released the plate numbers and GPS data for more than 68,000 vehicles that had been scanned by the readers to The Boston Globe in response to a public records request.

The ACLU of Massachusetts has called for a statewide moratorium on the use of license plate readers until more regulations and oversight are put into place. The group is advocating for a law called The License Plate Privacy Act that would require police to delete ALPR data after 48 hours unless they obtain a court order to preserve it.

Correction (Dec. 24, 2013): When we wrote this article, we said that the trooper who pulled Maya over was using an automatic license plate reader, however, we were never able to confirm whether he was using an ALPR or had simply run her plate manually because the trooper would not give her an answer. We’ve corrected the article to say that he may have been using an ALPR.

  1. [1] According to the Cato Institute’s Police Misconduct Reporting Project, sexual misconduct – including violent sexual crimes like rape and sexual assault – is one of the most common types of misconduct that police officers are accused of. Police officers are often able to use their perceived authority to isolate their victims and then use their guns or the threat of arrest to coerce them.

    Earlier this year, a Lowell police officer was convicted of extortion after he confessed to using his badge to elicit sexual favors from prostitutes. Also this year, state police investigated an allegation that a state trooper had sexually assaulted a woman behind a store on Route 24 in Avon while on duty. The trooper committed suicide before any criminal charges were brought against him.

    Another concern is that a significant percentage of police shootings take place during traffic stops. Typically when police shoot at a driver, they say the driver attempted to use their vehicle as a weapon. In one shooting that took place this year, a state trooper opened fire during a traffic stop in Medford, injuring both the driver and passenger.

42 thoughts on “Mass. state trooper threatens to steal camera during traffic stop

  1. Thanks so much for your continued perserverance with these issues.

    I wanted to ask- MGL Ch41 S98D states that city/town (local) police are issued a photo id and are required to present it upon lawful request. MGL Ch22C S19 states that EOPS may adopt similar regulations for the issuance of id to MA State Police. I have not found any policy on the EOPS page, but it might make for an interesting public records request to determine whether you can require a statie to furnish a photo id on demand like you can with a city/town officer.

    • Why bother? Once the cop or murderer has succeeded in pulling a person over on a dark road at night, the person is at their mercy and there is no photo id that will save them.

  2. So this annoying person is mad because she was pulled over for something not once but twice? She acted as though she had no idea why she was pulled over all the while knowing she was driving a defective vehicle that would fail inspection. Seriously? He was very professional and it was very clear that she was the one antagonizing him. He did not stop her without cause and she should have just accepted the ticket and moved on. Don’t try to sugar coat the fact that she was breaking the law and he was doing his job. That had to be one of the most annoying videos I have ever watched! He was not rude and acted very professional she on the other hand kept goading him to say something she could use against him. Shame on her!

    • Kelly maybe you don’t understand but this Professional did not know the law on recording and and giving you name and badge number. If you are not doing anything wrong he should not be worried about the cameras and a professional would give his or her name and badge number. The police work for the public and they have to remember it.

  3. That is the dumbest video I’ve ever seen & a prime example of how the media twists things to conduct a “story” the officer did not “yell” at this woman nor did he threaten to steal her camera. In fact he offered her advice on how to get a 30 day extension for her EXPIRED inspection sticker. Why is the media making this woman, who btw is breaking a mass state law, out to be some kind of victim when the trooper was only trying to do his job & from what anyone with a brain can see was displaying more patience than you or I would have…. Grow up & let these men & women do their jobs without fear of these liberal idiots turning a traffic stop into a false accusation of intended theft!

    • Um you are very convienantly leaving out the fact he out right LIED to this woman. He claimed it was illegal to audio record him without his permission and then doubled down on his lie by claiming he could confiscate her camera! This is simply not true! I will agree with you she was wrong she is annoying and you may not like her but she is correct. he is 100% in the wrong. You cannot just gloss over that fact and if you do it makes you look stupid.

      You can’t simply ignore facts that are clearly visible in the video to try to support your other claims. It doesn’t work that way. You too must be a cop.

    • Yeah he did raise his voice and threaten her. When a LEO tells you something is illegal it comes with the implied threat of arrest. You obviously did not pay attention to the facts here as she was not pulled over twice for the inspection sticker. She plainly said that she was not the one that got the warning ticket. I personally see no hazard to driving with airbags not working. In fact you can disable them. Why they are part of the inspection process I have no idea. But I digress. The trooper plainly said he was “going to come around there and take that” just before he moved to the driver’s side.
      When you defend the wrong actions of the police you look like a police lover. When you argue with facts before you, you look the fool. Also she is plainly not an idiot; that is an IQ of 25 or less. You however might well be a moron. Look it up.

      • Why are we even listening to this idiot Maya? She got pulled over for a violation that she admitted she was aware of. The Trooper may have been slightly wrong about the wiretap statute but that is correctable. Now we have to put up with this idiot trying to divert the attention away from the fact that she committed a violation. This smoke screen will not save her! As for the newspaper sensationalizing the event….typical. Stranger in the dark? wow. As for identifying himself, the Trooper did that when he handed over a citation with his ID number on it. Do you think he was really trying to hide who he was> Give me a break. Pay the damn ticket and grow up!

  4. Oh ya & my favorite part? She was being pulled over on a dark rd by an “armed stranger” …. Um when she saw the bright flashing blue lights & a man in a state police uniform walking towards her with a flashlight wouldn’t she have realized she was not in danger lol. There are bad people in every field… Because one doctor is convicted of harming his patients does that mean all doctors are bad & we should avoid them at all costs… These stories really irritate me as I have just recently witnessed a trooper give a homeless woman all the money he had in his wallet but you’ll never see THAT on the news :/

    • Angela, did you know you are 8 times more likely to be killed by a cop than a terrorist? You think being pulled over by a cop in the middle of the night means you are not in danger? So naive young one! This is when you are MOST in danger. Everyone needs to record during any police stop. It’s the only way the abuse will stop.

      • There is no need to talk to these paid trolls. Many of them work for private military contractors, polluting social media and comment sites with their pro-police state propaganda.

    • Did she know him? Did she have any idea of his charecter? (besides the obvious cop attitue) STRANGER Was it a dark rd? Was it night? night? DARK ROAD. Do cops carry multiple weapons? ARMED
      Bright blue flashing lights do not a policeman make. I had one for years never was or will be a LEO.
      When one doctor is covicted, No, we don’t avoid all doctors at all cost. When several doctors from evey hospital are convicted and the rest are incompitant, arrogant, and cover up, lie, and hide the wrong doing of the other doctors? You Betcha. I think what really irritates you is that many LEOs are asses, do have superiority issues, are blatant liars, (indeed have every incentive to lie) it’s destroying your beliefs as to what LEOs should be and you can’t stand to be wrong.
      Well, no matter how hard you jump and stomp your feet, you are wrong. Just sayin….

  5. Maya, and all of you at The Bay State Examiner, we’re behind you 100%!
    I read about this on “Carlos Miller’s Photography Is Not a Crime” site and I applaud your grace under pressure, your aplomb and your ability not to be rattled or intimidated when you knew this LEO was tossing you a load of nonsense. I record each and every auto trip from start to finish for just this reason. They HATE to have cameras expose their nefarious ways.

  6. I know this trooper and he does not have automatic plate reader. He typed in the plate of one of 50 cars he saw at 2 am and it came up as expired. Sorry, half your story is unrelated. Liberal pussies. He should have towed the “lady” and made her spend more $ to get her car out.

    • I know this trooper and he does not have automatic plate reader. He typed in the plate of one of 50 cars he saw at 2 am and it came up as expired. Sorry, half your story is unrelated. Liberal pussies. He should have towed the “lady” and made her spend more $ to get her car out.
      Joey: So he just ran the plate for no reason except to see if he could find a reason to generate some revenue. She was not driving fast, carelessly, or had an obvious defect, so why run the plate.Speak of that “running the plate” , I can’t text and drive but a troope can operate a computer? You know choose an input field, type a number with alpha charecters,(no ten-key “finger memory” here) rread it to make sure it is correct and then read the results? Just how often does he do this before it counts as a distraction? Sorta seems like a double standard to me. Oh right, Troopers have “specail training” so they can not be human; because any human is distracted doing two thought processes at once.
      I’ll assure you I am not a liberal, nor a pussie, and I think you have crapped and fell back in it with your post.

      • They are trained to “run plates.” It is something that the state police have found out that they can do reasonably well and they like to do it, like those kids’ toys where you pound the wooden peg in one hole and another peg pops out the other hole.

    • that is the story as you just stated, Mass make is as miserable for the driver as possible, you should be reminder that the extortion of dollars is high in law enforcement, laws are made for profit not safety.

  7. thanks for this… but in the future, don’t put yourself at risk of harm by LEOs who are on a power trip and ripe to beat someone for ‘contempt of cop’ even when the cop is clearly wrong. even sadder is that at the very beginning of this traffic stop, the officer sounded really nice and courteous and even PLEASANT! then, like a psychopath switched that off and turned on the ‘beast’! Lol, but not funny.. :(

  8. This guy clearly needs to get a life! Mass State Troopers have such bigger things to worry about and never know what kind of car or person they are approaching..the last thing they need to worry about is some guy with a camera in his face. GET A LIFE! FYI Wiretap law says you can’t secretly video or audio record..after agreeing to put the camera away he continued to record secretly duuhhh!
    How classless do you need to be post a soldiers picture online with a bullshit story! Shame on you karma’s a bitch.

  9. Pingback: Mass. state trooper threatens to steal camera during traffic stop |

  10. So this is the 2nd time the reporter was cited for failing to get her car inspected? Trooper should have towed her car. She was looking for trouble from the beginning when she made the wise remark about him seeing her inspection sticker from behind the car. If she had nothing to hide she wouldn’t have been recording the incident on the phone. She must come from a great family. I know my parents taught me to respect authority and I wouldn’t have been asked several times to produce my license and registration. I would’ve complied from the beginning and probably would have received a warning. She didn’t know it was a trooper? what about the Mass State Police uniform and the cruiser with the flashing lights. Instead of bashing law enforcement at any level we should be commending them for putting their lives on the line for us every day. What a joke…

    • Kinda hard to see all that when it’s BEHIND you and there is a very bright light shining in you eyes. My parents taught me to respect authority too, and about Santa, the Easter bunny, and honest politicians. I grew up and learned better, learned the mantra of MY generation QUESTION AUTHORITY! Authority is a synonym for power, and power corrupts. All that trooper needed to worry about is the ticket and the crime he was dealing with. He just thought he could intimidate the woman and prove his authority.

      • James Morris do us all a favor and hold your breath for 45 mins straight. Hopefully your balls will drop from your gapping vagina. You shouldve been shot on your mothers back to save the rest of us from ever having to hear from such a spineless hatchetwound such as yourself.

  11. Either the trooper was uninformed or simply harassing her. Mass law only proscribes “secretly” recording but has been rendered moot by Glik v Cunniffe on First Amendment grounds. Federal law 18 USC 2511(2)(d) permits one party consent audio recording. Period. State and Federal laws are written to be comprehended by a eighth grader. Presumably the trooper graduated high school.

  12. The copologists who get so easily sidetracked by activists’ behavior are missing the obvious, central theme to the growing rights movement. If we want the freedom and justice we were promised as kids, then we must reject the strict obedience many of us were fed like pablum. As individuals, we’ve gotta get used to asserting *all* of our rights, whether inalienable or constitutionally protected, lest government and other forms of tyranny continue to erode them. It would be great if we could always do this politely and “legally,” but conscience and common sense are often better goal posts.

    Public officials, whom we the people have entrusted to protect our interests, are going to have to get used to the new normal: transparency, accountability, limitations on authority and a return to constitutional principles. Nowhere is this more relevant then up nawth here in Massachusetts. Activism in other states has certainly helped reign in cops and effect an attitude adjustment. In MA, entitled and overpaid bureaucrats show a total disdain for the public they are supposed to serve. This state needs an enema in the worst way.

    At the very least, shouldn’t we expect a trooper whom we pay more than $500 a day, someone who has apparently been to Iraq and fought for our freedom, to know the law and treat citizens courteously? Everybody has bad day here and there, but patterns of abuse of authority, if that is the case here, point to a much bigger problem that only we can correct. Our system of checks and balances is broken so let’s get out there and fix it!

  13. You were pulled over because you were wrong. The trooper was letting you know you were wrong. Then you pull this stupid camera BS and wanna fight for your right to being wrong. You took time to go after this Trooper/Soldier that obviously is here to help serve and protect your dumb sorry waste of space ass. Fix your sensor get your car inspected then wake the fuck up you oxygen thief. The same people your screwing with are the first people you call when you need help WTF are you doing questioning there job and or tactics. When ever you need help in an emergency call your buddy with the camera and see how that works for you. Other than that I’d be more than happy to explain this to you in person.

  14. Pingback: This career parasite cop gets paid $129,000 a year to harass the living shit out of the people who pay his salary. Welcome to Bizarroworld…. | Powdered Wig Society

  15. Was that really a woman or a guy? Hard to tell but anyways…. I would have pulled her/him out of the car and charged her with a felony under the Massachusetts wiretape laws. These people that run around with cameras and claim to be jurnalists think they are attorneys. She/he will get locked up soon.

  16. Dear Bay State Examiner,

    Please, by all means, enjoy your last days of even marginal relevancy by spewing out baseless and wasteful trash like this article. This is a perfect manifestation of why small media outlets are dying. You bring nothing of value to the world and employ voices who write without integrity due to their lack of any original or useful ideas. You bring less than nothing of value as you recklessly defile other people’s reputations under the flimsy and mislabeled name of reportage.

    I wish Maya and everyone at the Bay State Examiner a speedy decline into oblivion.

    • You said the article is “baseless,” yet you’ve failed to point out even a single thing about it that you believe is incorrect. If the article is “baseless,” what do you feel is incorrect?

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