Listen to This
After he became Rehoboth's police chief in 2008, Stephen Enos had a new phone system installed at the police station that allows him to listen to all the incoming and outgoing calls, which he does regularly. But there's one big problem, and this week we find out what the chief did when Jim Hummel started asking questions.
When you call the Rehoboth Police on the routine business line, the dispatcher informs you the phone call is being recorded. It's not only a courtesy to the caller - it's the law.
Hummel: ``That's because Massachusetts is what's called a two-party consent state - meaning if you're going to record a phone call both the caller and the receiver need to know it's being recorded. If only one knows, it's illegal - and in the most extreme case - if both don't know and somebody else is listening to a recording, that's a wiretap.''
In the summer of 2009 - nine months after Stephen Enos took over as chief - he put in a new telephone system at the police station that recorded not only the 911 and incoming business calls, but all the calls from the station to the outside world.
Enos has access to the recordings regularly listens to them in his office.
The chief put out a memo in July of 2009 telling the department about the new system and the need to announce they were on a recorded line when calling somebody on the outside. But there was no follow-up or monitoring by the chief - and officers do not routinely notify those on the other end of the line it is being recorded when they make calls from the station.
To prove the point, the Hummel Report requested the first 10 calls made on an outgoing line on Monday Feb. 14th. The department excluded several because they were quote: ``investigatory'' in nature. Most, we found, were to places where voicemail kicked in .
But two clearly show the recording disclaimer is not being given.
``Hi, it's Rehoboth, we have a tow...''
And this one from Chief Enos's secretary.
``It's Barbara from the Rehoboth Police Department. Wanted to know if you used the cruiser on the detail the other night. Can you call me?''
The Hummel Report has learned that last week, Chief Enos - after being alerted to our public records request - issued another memo reminding the department about the recording disclaimer - the first reminder in 20 months.
Sutter: ``If you are knowingly taping somebody else and that person is not aware you are taping them, that's unlawful. So it's just that simple.''
We took the issue to Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter.
Hummel: ``When you call Rehoboth Police they inform you, they say `This is Rehoboth police it's a recorded line.'"
Sutter: ``Which is standard. When I make a phone call to a police department as a district attorney I get that recording that says you're being recorded and my understanding is if I'm transferred to another office I'm already on notice that I'm being recorded.''
Hummel: ``The issue that we have found, though, is the outgoing calls are also being recorded and there has not been notification. If you pick up the phone at the Rehoboth Police Department and any other that does this - and you're Sam Sutter and you're calling out - people are either not being instructed or they don't know that line is being recorded. So we wanted to bring that scenario to your attention and get your opinion on it.''
Sutter: ``Now that you have brought it my attention I can say very candidly and straightforward that if that is taking place that's unlawful...that needs to stop.''
Sutter said there is also a far more serious issue of those arrested at the station calling their attorneys on outgoing lines that are being recorded without their knowing it.
Hummel: ``If you're a defendant at the Rehoboth Police Department and they give you a line to call out, presumably that is being recorded...''
Sutter: ``If that's being recorded that cannot be used in evidence...unless there is a recording that says this phone call is being recorded; at that point in time it could be used, but if that is not taking place, and I think you're telling me there is no mechanism...it cannot be used. And furthermore it's a breach of the law. Not only is it inadmissible, there's a breach of the law taking place.''
And, he says there is a simple remedy - one they use in prisons.
Sutter: ``When the person makes the phone call - there is a recording that comes on at the outset of the phone call that apprises the person that is making the phone call that the conversation is being recorded and I think that the mechanism must also hold true for the person receiving the phone call. Those disclaimers are automatic now.''
Chief Enos did not return our calls seeking comment. But Sutter says he will be having a conversation with the chief himself, very soon.
Sutter: ``I can't turned a blind eye to what you're telling me and I will follow up to determine for my owns satisfaction if this is taking place and if I find it may be taking place I'm certainly going to try and convey to those responsible for it, that they need to stop.''
In Rehoboth, Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.