We rely on police to uphold public safety, but we also entrust police with extraordinary authority, including the powers to use deadly force and to decide who gets stopped, searched, arrested, and funneled into the criminal legal system. This great power must be balanced by accountability and transparency.
The ACLU relies on various strategies to challenge a broad range of unjust police practices – including litigation to defend the right to record police in the performance of their public duties, as well as policy advocacy to win broader measures to hold public officials accountable.
The ACLU stands against the militarization of local law enforcement, which disproportionately targets the poor and people of color. Using military equipment and tactics brought home from wars abroad, police departments across the country and in Massachusetts increasingly treat neighborhoods like combat zones. We documented this dangerous trend in our national report War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, which the White House cited in recommendations on how federal law enforcement agencies can support local agencies’ appropriate acquisition of equipment.
A July 2015 report confirmed what community members and the ACLU of Massachusetts have known for a long time: The Boston Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices racially discriminate against Black and Latinx communities. The study confirms the conclusions of our 2014 Black, Brown and Targeted report, which first highlighted the racial disparity.
In July 2014, the Boston Police Department (BPD) reportedly pledged to release stop-and-frisk data every year. We will work to hold the BPD to this pledge. The public is entitled to know, as soon as possible, whether people of color in Boston are still being subjected to discrimination from the BPD.
We support the right to protest—and to do so without the chilling effects of surveillance. We detailed the Boston Police Department’s routine spying on First Amendment-protected activity in a 2012 report, Policing Dissent, released with the Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. In 2016, we released a shocking report detailing the Boston Police Department’s social media surveillance program.