The ACLU of Massachusetts today filed a lawsuit against the Boston Police Department (BPD) and the City of Boston, demanding information about police use of force against, and surveillance of, people in Massachusetts.
Over the last seventeen months, the ACLU and its client have submitted nine public records requests related to BPD practices and potential City communications with federal law enforcement. According to the new complaint, the BPD and the City of Boston have regularly responded with months of silence and delay. All nine requests are well past-due—including four that have been pending for seven months or more.
“Transparency is at the heart of accountability,” said Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The public has the right to know what the police are doing in their name and with their tax dollars. Indeed, this information has taken on new urgency in the wake of nationwide protests against police violence and statewide conversations about police reform.”
The new lawsuit responds to a longstanding pattern of delay that violates the Massachusetts Public Records Law, which generally requires municipalities to produce responsive records within 10 business days of a request. The BPD and the City of Boston have repeatedly failed to produce records weeks and months past production deadlines without meaningfully engaging requesters about the existence of the records, their efforts to obtain them, or alternative production schedules.
The ACLU’s lawsuit seeks the release of several records: In June 2020, the ACLU and Taylor Campbell, a Quincy resident and plaintiff in the new lawsuit, sent public records requests regarding the BPD’s use of force during recent racial justice demonstrations in Boston, as well as City communications with federal law enforcement agencies. That month, the ACLU also requested information about the BPD’s use of teargas and pepper spray since 2016 to contextualize reports of its recent deployment of chemical agents. In September 2019, the ACLU and Campbell submitted public records requests regarding the BPD’s use of force during the so-called “Straight Pride Parade.” In 2019, the ACLU also requested records regarding the location of surveillance cameras in Boston, and potential communications between the BPD, the City, and federal immigration enforcement agencies.