Thursday, July 16, 2009

Police wiretapping probed in Portsmouth


PORTSMOUTH — For four or five months, a microphone recorded conversations of civilian employees working inside the police department's records office without their knowledge.

Digital recordings of their conversations were fed to a supervisor's computer, allowing the supervisor to listen to everything said inside the records office from a different floor in police headquarters and in real-time. When employees realized their conversations were being recorded, they complained to police brass, prompting an internal investigation, then a review by the county attorney's office, which ruled no law was broken.

Those and other conclusions are revealed in a three-page report by County Attorney Jim Reams, who wrote that state wiretapping law — punishable with jail time and $100-a-day fines — was not broken because the police employees who installed the bug and listened to the conversations thought "the recording system was lawful and would serve the public good by (ensuring) that the interactions of employees with the public were professional."


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