June 29, 2014

When ‘To Protect and To Serve’ is turned on its head [Darleen Click]

Radley Balko on how left-wing Massachusetts protects and empowers its warrior class from the taxpayers.

As part of the American Civil Liberties Union’s recent report on police militarization, the Massachusetts chapter of the organization sent open records requests to SWAT teams across that state. It received an interesting response.

As it turns out, a number of SWAT teams in the Bay State are operated by what are called law enforcement councils, or LECs. These LECs are funded by several police agencies in a given geographic area and overseen by an executive board, which is usually made up of police chiefs from member police departments. In 2012, for example, the Tewksbury Police Department paid about $4,600 in annual membership dues to the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, or NEMLEC. (See page 36 of linked PDF.) That LEC has about 50 member agencies. In addition to operating a regional SWAT team, the LECs also facilitate technology and information sharing and oversee other specialized units, such as crime scene investigators and computer crime specialists.

Some of these LECs have also apparently incorporated as 501(c)(3) organizations. And it’s here that we run into problems. According to the ACLU, the LECs are claiming that the 501(c)(3) status means that they’re private corporations, not government agencies. And therefore, they say they’re immune from open records requests. Let’s be clear. These agencies oversee police activities. They employ cops who carry guns, wear badges, collect paychecks provided by taxpayers and have the power to detain, arrest, injure and kill. They operate SWAT teams, which conduct raids on private residences. And yet they say that because they’ve incorporated, they’re immune to Massachusetts open records laws. The state’s residents aren’t permitted to know how often the SWAT teams are used, what they’re used for, what sort of training they get or who they’re primarily used against.

This is unacceptable.

One of the very few legitimate provinces of Government power is policing power to protect and secure the rights of the citizenry. With that power comes the obligation and responsibility of complete transparency and civilian oversight. As recently as 2012 the right of citizens to video tape police activity was upheld; an activity that incentivizes police officers to follow policy and procedures.

The huge upswing in misusing SWAT teams has unconscionable consequences.


Posted by Darleen @ 11:01am

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Comments (8)

  1. If they’re private they’ve relinquished sovereign immunity. Sue the mfs.

  2. This is why Fascism is beating out the old fashioned Communism all over.

    The intertwining of private crony-corporate-capitalism with authoritarian government creates the perfect vehicle for complete power and control hidden behind a thin curtain of “private property rights.”

    Rights which begin and end when and where convenient for the ruling class but leave most people feeling that they still own things. Ownership that is like that strip of land between the sidewalk and the street. It’s yours to take care of (and you’d better) until some State agency “needs” use of it.

  3. As ‘to protect and serve’ fundamentally transforms into ‘ to plunder and slay’, a reminder of Hobbes’ great insight regarding actual equality may be in order: namely, that everyone not only fears violent death, but that everyone is subject to a potential death while sleeping, potentially at the hands of the weak, where even especially the strong must also sleep.

  4. I believe it is Ohio that has expanded its Castle Doctrine to absolve citizens of a duty to retreat when in their homes and autos, no matter who the aggressor may be. Even LEOs.

  5. If they’re private they’ve relinquished sovereign immunity. – See more at: http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=54220#comment-1090916

    True dat. Private corporations that are not covered by FOIA laws don’t get to intrude on private property and commit armed assault, much less murder. This is why most private security companies arm their (ahem) officers with nothing deadlier than a two-way radio and some pepper spray. They also have no more power to arrest than the average citizen.

    Further, I wonder what might happen if some private citizens were to start incorporating and arming up with military surplus weaponry, in order to protect their neighborhoods from police incursions. It’s not like the drug gangs don’t have the cash to give it a try, and “sauce for the goose” and all…

  6. McGehee,

    If they’re private they’ve relinquished sovereign immunity. Sue the mfs.

    Too clever by half, aren’t they? This opens one big-ass can o’ worms…

  7. Some of these LECs have also apparently incorporated as 501(c)(3) organizations

    One problem with this…

    According to the IRS’ own website ( http://tinyurl.com/mu59fje ), 501 (c)(3)’s are limited to certain, fairly specific purposes:

    The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals. The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.

    Only by grossly distorting the meaning of the terms “combating community deterioration” and “juvenile deliquency” can they possibly qualify as a 501(c)(3). And I really doubt that they can claim serving warrants (even the felony variety) would be considered “defending human or civil rights”.

  8. in joining these 501 (c)3 organizations, do the townsfolk know about the possible liability these arrangements expose them to?