Police Accountability

The ACLU of Massachusetts works to ensure police accountability by supporting the use of police-civilian receipts, better training, better data and body-worn cameras, for which we offer our model policy, backed by civil rights groups and community groups.

We advocate for Massachusetts to require licenses for police officers as it does for 50 other trades and professions, including hairdressers, barbers, plumbers, electricians, lawyers, teachers, doctors and many others.

We defend the right to record the police in the performance of their public duties through cases Glik v. Cunniffe and Martin v. Evans.

We also stand against the militarization of local law enforcement, which disproportionately targets the poor and people of color.

Using military equipment and tactics brought home from wars abroad, police departments across the country and in Massachusetts increasingly treat neighborhoods like combat zones. Massachusetts has already received more than 1,000 military weapons—including machine guns, grenade launchers and “peacekeeper armored vehicles”—through the 1033 program, which gives Department of Defense items to state and local law enforcement, without public oversight.

We documented this dangerous trend in our national report War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, which the White House cited in recommendations on how federal law enforcement agencies can support local agencies’ appropriate acquisition of equipment.

The ACLU of Massachusetts has also taken on this issue locally. We sued over the secrecy surrounding the use of SWAT teams in Massachusetts, reaching a settlement agreement with the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) that resulted in a declaration that NEMLEC’s records are subject to the state’s public records law and the disclosure of more than 900 pages of documents. And our own local report Our Homes Are Not Battlefields details how the militarization of law enforcement relates to our work on racial justice, because it disproportionately targets the poor and people of color. In one particularly terrible local incident, an officer killed Eurie Stamps—an elderly, unarmed African-American grandfather of 12 in Framingham—when the city’s SWAT team used battering rams and flash bang grenades to smash into his apartment to search for Stamps’ stepson and another man suspected of dealing drugs.

Incidents like this show that treating our neighborhoods like battlefields is counterproductive and does not make us safer.  We must demilitarize law enforcement agencies and ensure their focus remains on keeping the peace, not finding uses for weapons and tactics of war.

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