Victory! The Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) in June 2015 settled a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Massachusetts and agreed that its records are subject to the state public records law, effectively ending a dispute that began more than two years earlier when NEMLEC initially refused to provide the public with information about its activities.
NEMLEC, a group of 61 police and sheriff departments in Middlesex and Essex counties, oversees several operational units and receives government grants and taxpayers' dollars. Its Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team uses armored vehicles, automatic weapons and combat gear to carry out military-style operations, including forced entries into homes to serve search warrants.
In 2012, the ACLU of Massachusetts requested records relating to NEMLEC's SWAT team and other operations as part of its efforts to document regional policing operations and the militarization of police. NEMLEC refused to allow access to those records, claiming that its records were outside the reach of the public records law.
The ACLU of Massachusetts filed suit in state court in June 2014 to obtain the documents.
NEMLEC ultimately reversed its position and agreed that its records are subject to the public records law. In keeping with its revised position, NEMLEC released more than 900 pages of documents about its activities to the ACLU of Massachusetts, including SWAT team after-action reports, policies, financial statements and training materials.