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Tax-supported SWAT teams claim immunity from open access laws
June 26, 2014 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Massachusetts SWAT teams claim they’re private corporations, immune from open records laws
posted by Vibrissae (42 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Then they should be immune from public funding.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:30 PM on June 26 [61 favorites]


I can claim to be from Mars, that doesn't make it so.
posted by axiom at 6:34 PM on June 26 [7 favorites]


2bucksplus, then they would just self-fund with proceeds from asset seizures. They wouldn't even need convictions, or even have to file charges. That would just lead to more abuse.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 6:36 PM on June 26 [6 favorites]


Can private corporations benefit from asset seizures though?
posted by vuron at 6:39 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


“You can’t have it both ways,” Jessie Rossman, a staff attorney for the Massachusetts ACLU, told me in a phone interview. “The same government authority that allows them to carry weapons, make arrests, and break down the doors of Massachusetts residents during dangerous raids also makes them a government agency that is subject to the open records law.”

...

The ACLU is now suing NEMLEC. [North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council]


Donate to the ACLU here
posted by anonymisc at 6:43 PM on June 26 [33 favorites]


If the law agrees that you're from Mars, though......
posted by jpe at 6:43 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


Law enforcement in the US needs a big, hob-nailed boot up its collective ass. They've milked the whole post-9/11 "first-responder" hero worship for far too long. Time to come back to Earth, kids, and start serving the public.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:44 PM on June 26 [53 favorites]


Yeah forfeiture is a government function. Not that it works that way when the cop just takes your money and pockets it, but the big property seizures have to be laundered properly by going through the system which means the government gets the money.

Dick Cheney also claimed to be immune to government accountability despite drawing a government salary. Ironically he also shot an unsuspecting person in the face. Coincidence?
posted by localroger at 6:44 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


The level of compliance with Massachusetts' open records laws is ... well, it's not wonderful. Local police precincts routinely refuse to turn over public records to people unless they can prove that they "need" them (which is illegal), and even then they sometimes won't turn over records to people they dislike (such as criminal defendants) without a court order. The office responsible for ensuring compliance with these laws is under the Secretary of State (which of course in Mass is called the Secretary of the Commonwealth, because we've got to do everything differently). While there is an appeal process if you're denied access to records, in my experience not very much happens when you make an inquiry except that the office calls the agency that refused your request, and said agency gets very very angry and refuses to cooperate further without a court order.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:47 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


This is crazypants.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:47 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


well, PMCs seem to "work OK". By which I mean, keep getting funding while avoiding the public eye. I hope to see this story blow up.
posted by rebent at 6:47 PM on June 26


Private, self-funded piracy corporation or private TAX-funded piracy corporation, what a proposition/what a country. If this isn't dismantled in court we might as well just give up being a country.
posted by bleep at 6:52 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Now if we can just get some of our military contractors also designated as LECs we can forget that pesky Posse Comitatus Act.
posted by XMLicious at 7:11 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


I thought that only congress could issue letters of marque & reprisal.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:13 PM on June 26 [7 favorites]


American cops need to be put back in their place before this shit gets worse.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:22 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that the Supreme Court verdict about this will include the phrase "I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."
posted by mhoye at 7:23 PM on June 26 [7 favorites]


I deal with this stuff for a living (different state), but I feel pretty safe in saying this is bullshit. It makes me angry.

Public access to government records is fundamental to a free and just society. I guess these people hate our freedoms.
posted by marxchivist at 7:24 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


Something's wrong. I'm supposed to be *proud* to live in Massachusetts. We just raised the minimum wage to $11. Our baseball team is the thin red line that stands between the Yankees and western civilization. We brought you *Elizabeth Warren*, for crying out loud. How does this happen here?
posted by uosuaq at 7:29 PM on June 26 [20 favorites]


oh, well, then they should have a corporate slogan -

"NEMLEC - opening the door to your future."
posted by pyramid termite at 7:30 PM on June 26 [5 favorites]


Well hey, that's fucked!!
posted by mudpuppie at 7:31 PM on June 26


I dunno, I don't think this is the beginning of the end, it's just the beginning of any lawyerly action. Isn't this how these guys (and it seems to be this one guy, Jack Collins) always act?

ACLU: We'd like to see your records.

Jack: Um, no.

ACLU: Why not.

Jack: Because fakey kinda legal reason.

ACLU: But that's fake.

Jack: Prove it.

Journalist: Counselor Collins hasn't returned our calls.

Yeah, by all means, donate to the ACLU cuz they do righteous work, and I certainly hope they pursue this, because we need them to. But this is hardly the beginning of a police state, unless, of course, SCOTUS says so.
posted by valkane at 8:01 PM on June 26


This was posted on a friend's fb (friend is also a mefite!) and I dropped the link into the recent post about police departments getting leftover war gear, which post you should read if you haven't.

As I said there: Do you suppose they've made OCP patches for their jackets?
posted by rtha at 8:03 PM on June 26


What are they afraid of if they have nothing to hide?
posted by sloe at 8:05 PM on June 26 [12 favorites]


We could just bust their door down and *take* their records, then say we had the wrong address, I suppose.
posted by uosuaq at 8:07 PM on June 26 [28 favorites]


But this is hardly the beginning of a police state

You are correct. More like mid-way through a police state.
posted by el io at 8:59 PM on June 26 [14 favorites]


Something's wrong. I'm supposed to be *proud* to live in Massachusetts

Look at it this way: everywhere else, the SWAT teams haven't even been called out and forced to resort to bullshit justifications yet?
posted by mstokes650 at 9:05 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


Oh, hey, I thought of something else - if this is a private corporation that doesn't have to comply with public records law, that certainly means that it also doesn't get to claim qualified immunity, right? Right?
posted by el io at 9:42 PM on June 26 [7 favorites]


It can't be a police state if the police aren't state agents. It would be... something something corporatism?

Or maybe the police are telling porkies?
posted by anonymisc at 9:46 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Looks like the Massachusetts open records law has no attorney's fee provision, which creates a serious incentive problem: the penalty for refusing to turn over records, if a court rules against you, is having to turn over records. In the absence of a bigger downside to wrongful non disclosure, it kind of amazes me that state agencies turn over anything - though I guess they'd want to avoid having to pay their own lawyers too.
posted by heisenberg at 10:09 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


Officers threw a flashbang grenade in my son's crib and left a hole in his chest.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:11 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


They've milked the whole post-9/11 "first-responder" hero worship for far too long.

Especially everyone who knows anything about NYPD knows that FDNY are the real heroes.
posted by mikelieman at 12:09 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


So it's finally coming out that they're private contractors paid by the pharmaceutical companies?
posted by telstar at 12:17 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


"Can private corporations benefit from asset seizures though?"

Does a pirate love booty?
posted by klangklangston at 2:13 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


This is exactly why privatization of the functions of government scares me a hell of a lot more than their simple militarization. The military's been militarized for... quite a long time, and I don't see them as the same degree imminent threat to our collective freedom as these fuckers.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 2:46 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


How does this happen here?

I blame AG Coakley. AFAIK, she's never met a proposed expansion of police power that she didn't like.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:11 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


How does this happen here?

Corruption in local New England politics? No! I refuse to believe it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:15 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


So, it might be an NFP corp employing the swat teams, but the members are sworn officers with badges, right?

It sounds similar to when cops do mall security or event staffing while off duty, and wear their uniforms and badges. What happens in those instances if someone objects - do they have the power of law behind them, or are they merely corporate staff?
posted by rebent at 6:24 AM on June 27


It sounds similar to when cops do mall security or event staffing while off duty, and wear their uniforms and badges

Except in this case they are executing police functions, signed off by a judge (try going to a judge and saying 'as a private citizen, i'd like a search warrant that i can execute with a team of heavily armed masked ninjas' and see how that goes for you), paid for by taxpayers, jailing those they capture.

No, the 'we are a corporation' is a bullshit ruse attempted to prevent accountability, transparency, and compliance with state laws. Hopefully a judge will laugh that argument right out of court (and ideally toss a couple of contempt charges in there for good measure). Judge's don't like to be fucked with, and this kind of legal fiction is absolutely fucking with the judicial branch.
posted by el io at 12:56 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]


Fed Govt: "Where did you learn this legal fiction, Mass? Answer me!"

Mass: "I learned it from watching you, okay? I learned it from watching you."
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:26 PM on June 27 [6 favorites]


Fuck this shit
posted by Windopaene at 9:04 PM on June 27


100 Seattle Cops File Lawsuit Saying They Have Constitutional Rights to Beat Down Civilians
posted by jeffburdges at 8:29 AM on June 29


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posted by jeffburdges at 9:03 AM on July 4


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