The ACLU of Massachusetts has sent a public records request to the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO), seeking information about a violent incident that occurred last week at the BCSO’s immigration detention facility.
The reported incident involved a confrontation between BCSO personnel and immigration detainees that escalated to physical violence, and resulted in the hospitalization of three detainees. After the incident, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson made a series of public assertions about the sequence of events, including that he was present and personally initiated the use of force against a detainee by attempting to forcibly remove a telephone from a detainee’s hand. Conflicting reports of the incident have since emerged, making transparency and accountability even more critical.
“Matters like these require transparency in order to ensure public trust in government,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “That is especially true when the leader of that government institution has been accused of personal misconduct during the incident. This oversight should be a foundation upon which we hold sheriffs accountable to the job voters elect them to do, namely preserving public safety.”
The ACLU, represented by Foley Hoag LLP, is seeking audiovisual recordings, documents, and other records concerning the incident. The public records request also includes communications between the BCSO and any federal department or agency, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Executive Office of the President, concerning the incident.
Under Massachusetts law, the BCSO must respond to the request within 10 days. According to the request, the BCSO is a Massachusetts state entity, and it may not voluntarily or contractually relinquish its responsibilities to comply with state public records law and with state investigations into the conduct of state officials.
The public records request follows the ACLU’s call for an immediate, independent investigation. Three investigations have since been announced.