Massachusetts law about police conduct

Laws, cases, and web sources on police conduct and audio and video recording of police activity by the public.

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Table of Contents

I. Police conduct


Search and seizure jurisprudence is always evolving. Please update your research by checking for the latest cases on your particular issue.

> State agencies & filing complaints

Agency File a complaint Disciplinary records
POST Commission
"The Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission is charged with creating a mandatory certification process for police officers, as well as processes for decertification, suspension of certification, and retraining in the event of certain misconduct."
Police misconduct complaint form
"Use this form to submit a complaint about police officer misconduct to the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission."
Officer Disciplinary Records database
"View the database of active law enforcement officer disciplinary records here."
Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS)
EOPSS is responsible for the policy development and budgetary oversight of its secretariat agencies, independent programs, and several boards which aid in crime prevention, homeland security preparedness, and ensuring the safety of residents and visitors in the Commonwealth.

> Constitutions

U.S. Constitution, 4th Amendment, Right against unreasonable searches and seizures
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights
“Every subject has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches, and seizures, of his person, his houses, his papers, and all his possessions.”

> Massachusetts laws

St. 2020, c. 253 An act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the Commonwealth (Police Reform Law)

MGL c. 6, § 220 Use of facial and other remote biometric recognition

MGL c. 12, § 11H(b) Right to bias-free professional policing

MGL c. 90, § 25 Refusal to submit to a police officer

MGL c. 276 Search warrants, rewards, fugitives from justice, arrest, examination, commitment and bail, probation officers and Board of Probation

> Massachusetts regulations

555 CMR Police Officer Standards and Training Commission, including:

  • 555 CMR 1.00 Procedural rules
    Regulations governing the processes for receiving, investigating, hearing, and adjudicating complaints regarding law enforcement officers in the Commonwealth.
  • 555 CMR 6.00 Use of force by law enforcement officers
  • 555 CMR 7.00 Recertification
  • 555 CMR 10.00 Specialized certification for school resource officers

> United States Supreme Court and Massachusetts cases

Selected court cases on the topic of police conduct, police procedure, and citizen's arrest

> Most wanted lists

> Web sources

Addressing police misconduct laws enforced by the Department of Justice
This document outlines the laws enforced by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) that address police misconduct and explains how you can file a complaint with DOJ if you believe that your rights have been violated.

Know your rights: What to do when encountering questions from law enforcement, ACLU.

Know your rights: stopped by police, ACLU.

Massachusetts criminal practice, 4th ed., by Blumenson, Eric D.
Full-text available via Suffolk University Law School. C 2012.

> Print sources

Community policing: a contemporary perspective, 8th ed. Routledge, 2020.

Community policing today: issues, controversies, and innovations, SAGE, 2021.

Constitutional policing: striving for a more perfect union, American Bar Association, 2023.

Criminal defense motions, 5th ed. (Mass Practice v.42) Thomson Reuters, 2019 with supplement.

Criminal law handbook: know your rights, survive the system, Nolo, 2022. (eBook available at link with library card).

Mackenzie L. Brockmyre, "Getting it right: law enforcement's use of ancestry websites to catch criminals," 21 J. HIGH TECH. L. 165 (2021). Available through the law libraries' document delivery service

Police community relations: a conflict management approach, West Academic, 2019.

Police misconduct: law and litigation, West, annual editions.

Search and seizure: A treatise on the fourth amendment, Thomson Reuters, annual updates.

Suppression matters under Massachusetts law, LexisNexis, annual editions.

II. Recording police

> Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 272, § 99 Interception of wire and oral communications

Ruled unconstitutional as applied to recording police in most circumstances. See Project Veritas Action Fund v. Rollins below.

> Selected cases

Selected court cases that provide a brief history regarding the right to record police in Massachusetts

> Web sources

ACLU of Massachusetts statement on Martin v. Rollins, ACLU, 2020.
“The new decision confirms that the First Amendment protects the right to secretly record police officers discharging their official duties in public spaces, and it upholds the district court’s ruling that the Massachusetts “wiretap law” unconstitutionally violates that right.” You can find more information on the history of this case online.

A federal appeals court upheld the right to secretly record police officers working in public in Mass,, 2021.
“A recent ruling by the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision that allows for the right to secretly record police officers while they are on the job in public in Massachusetts. The court, however, maintained that that right does not extend to recordings of government officials, who can be openly recorded, but not discretely, without consent.”

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Last updated: April 17, 2024

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