Last year, the ACLU of Massachusetts sued the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) for records regarding its SWAT team. We wanted access to public documents—including the policies guiding the SWAT team's use of deadly force, training materials, incident reports, deployment statistics and equipment contracts—as part of an effort to document SWAT teams across the state.
At first, NEMLEC refused to allow access to those records, claiming that its records were outside the reach of the public records law. But NEMLEC ultimately reversed its position and, in keeping with that, released more than 900 pages of documents about its activities to us.
Writing in the Washington Post, Radley Balko—author of The Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces—said this:
"In the end, this is a victory for transparency. But it’s a begrudging sort of victory when it takes a lawsuit and a year for a police agency to finally agree that it’s subject to the same laws and transparency requirements as any other government entity."
Getting public records shouldn't be a battle. Please ask Massachusetts legislators to fix our broken public records law.
The ACLU of Massachusetts is reviewing the documents from NEMLEC and will release them in a few weeks to the public, along with in-depth analysis.
Boston.com and the Boston Globe also covered this win for transparency, along with regional papers including the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune.