September 19, 2017

Over two-dozen civil rights, civil liberties, social justice, and religious organizations call on the Boston Police Department (BPD) to change its policies to protect the most vulnerable from the Trump administration's attacks. Specifically, the coalition asks BPD to end participation in so-called "countering violent extremism" programs; change its privacy policy to forbid the collection and sharing of information about people not suspected of crimes; cease collaboration with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force; and endorse the Safe Communities Act.

In May 2017, the five organizations leading the coalition—the ACLU of Massachusetts, Muslim Justice League, Council on American-Islamic Relations Massachusetts, Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, Jewish Voice for Peace - Boston, and Digital Fourth—met with Boston Police commissioner William Evans and his staff to discuss these issues. Following the meeting, we sent a letter to Commissioner Evans and to the City Council, outlining our demands. On September 19, 2017, we published that letter, along with endorsements for our demands from over two-dozen groups working on civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights issues across the city.

The groups demand BPD:

  • Focus violence prevention efforts on reducing all violence that victimizes communities, and avoid involvement in outreach programs that suggest lawful behaviors or ideas protected by the First Amendment (such as information seeking, political speech, mistrust of law enforcement, or religious beliefs and practices) are precursors to crime.
  • End involvement in community outreach programs (called by any name, and funded by any means or not at all) that credit false and stigmatizing theories about predispositions toward violence or “extremism,” including the Youth and Police Initiative Plus.
  • Develop—through a publicly advertised process with opportunity for formal public input—and publicize stringent rules for separating community outreach initiatives and social services initiatives from intelligence gathering operations.
  • Modify the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) privacy and civil liberties policy to institute a criminal predicate requirement for surveillance, intelligence collection, and information sharing. Doing so will go a long way towards ending surveillance based on political opinion, race or religion, which tars BPD's image, wastes public resources, and harms community trust.
  • Cease collaboration with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). BPD should not engage in suspicionless investigations, either at the local or federal level. Yet the FBI does not require a criminal predicate for JTTF investigations. Reporting by the Guardian newspaper shows the result of this policy problem: a BPD officer tasked to the JTTF was involved in improper surveillance and targeting of the political activity of a Boston-based Dakota Access Pipeline protester in North Dakota. These kinds of surveillance operations harm community trust, chill political speech, and do nothing to advance public safety.
  • Endorse and publicly support the Massachusetts Safe Communities Act (S.1305, H. 3269). We appreciate the Commissioner’s statements in support of defending immigrant communities' safety in Massachusetts. An important step toward defending immigrants' safety against family separation; expulsion to face possible persecution, trafficking, famine and/or disease; and abuse by local actors who would exploit their immigrant status is passage of the Safe Communities Act. The Act would bar Massachusetts agencies from contributing towards a discriminatory “Muslim Registry,”enhance due process rights for immigrants, and ensure police resources are spent protecting communities—not harming them by involving them with Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

The following organizations have endorsed the demands: African Community Economic Development of New England (ACEDONE), ACLU of Massachusetts, Asian American Resource Workshop, Black & Pink, Boston Workmen's Circle for Jewish Culture & Social Justice, Brazilian Womens Group, Chelsea Collaborative, Council on American-Islamic Relations MA, Defending Rights & Dissent (formerly BORDC), Digital Fourth, Families for Justice as Healing, Harvard Anti-Islamophobia Network, IfNotNow Boston, Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, Jewish Alliance for Law & Social Action, Jewish Voice for Peace - Boston, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Massachusetts Pirate Party, Massachusetts Refugee and Immigrant Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), Muslim Justice League, National Lawyers Guild-Massachusetts Chapter, No Drones Eastern Mass, No Drug Arrests Collective (NDAC), Stuck on Replay, Student Immigrant Movement (SIM), Suffolk Muslim Law Students Association, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)-Boston, Unitarian Universalist Massachusetts Action Network, & Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

Read the June 20 letter to BPD