Potential Class-Action Lawsuit Unveils Secret Recordings by MA State Police, Jeopardizing Criminal Cases Statewide

FITCHBURG, MA — The Massachusetts State Police are facing a potential class-action lawsuit after it was revealed that troopers secretly recorded almost 200 people without their consent, violating federal and state law. The recordings, which took place between approximately 2017 and March 2023, may have implications for criminal cases throughout the state. The lawsuit, filed against the state police and Motorola, alleges that the troopers violated the state’s two-party consent law and failed to disclose the recordings in court.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of three Fitchburg residents and a Gardner man, all of whom had their interactions with troopers recorded and added to a database maintained by Callyo, a law enforcement software company acquired by Motorola in 2020. According to the suit, the state wiretapping law prohibits the recording of audio without consent, except in cases related to organized crime investigations. However, none of the plaintiffs were involved in organized crime.

During court hearings in late 2023, troopers involved in the recordings admitted to having little to no training on how the Callyo system worked. A state police audit of cases where Callyo was used also revealed that many recordings were made outside the legal parameters governing surreptitious audio recordings in Massachusetts. The audit highlighted the lack of clarity in Callyo’s interface, which often failed to indicate whether an event was being recorded or livestreamed.

In addition to the recordings, the lawsuit accuses the state police of violating civil rights by routinely giving monetary “tips” to informants who made drug buys as part of larger investigations. The informants were required to leave their cell phones with the troopers, leading to illegal searches of their phones.

The lawyers behind the lawsuit are seeking compensation, including legal costs and fines, for the individuals who were recorded. They also want the appointment of a special master to oversee the case. This scandal adds to a series of other recent incidents involving the Massachusetts State Police, including a bribery scheme, an overtime fraud scheme, and the conviction of two troopers on federal fraud charges.

The revelations about the secret recordings have raised concerns about due process and the rights of individuals involved in criminal cases. The full extent of the impact on ongoing cases across Massachusetts remains to be seen. As the lawsuit progresses, it will be important to ensure that accountability is upheld and that measures are taken to prevent similar violations of privacy and civil rights in the future.