September 24, 2019

The ACLU of Massachusetts today filed a lawsuit against the City of Boston seeking information about “Operation Clean Sweep.” According to the complaint, the City has failed to adequately respond to a public records request relating to a series of police actions near Massachusetts Avenue, Southampton Street, Melnea Cass Boulevard, and Atkinson Street in Boston.

In a multi-day mission last month, the City of Boston, including its Police Department and Public Works Department, organized and executed what it described as “Operation Clean Sweep.” The operation drove people experiencing homelessness or substance use disorders from the area, resulted in dozens of arrests, and spurred substantial press coverage and several community meetings.

"The ACLU of Massachusetts has deep concerns about so-called 'Operation Clean Sweep’ and the lack of transparency about the City’s actions,” said Ruth Bourquin, senior and managing attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Public safety must be protected, but not at the cost of people’s basic legal rights. The ever-growing problem of homelessness and substance use disorder in Boston will be solved only by smart delivery of services and housing — not sweeping arrests and harassment.”

On August 12, the ACLU of Massachusetts submitted a public records request to the City of Boston, seeking documents related to the operation, as well as follow-up police actions in the area where the initial operation occurred. More than five weeks later, the City sent its first substantive response. Review of the September 17 response shows that many responsive records are missing. Despite the initial ACLU request, the City’s response does not include documents related to pre-operation planning or coordination, police reports, arrest logs, property seizure logs or records, or communications between departments engaged in the operation.

Learn about the case