2 years, 10 months ago
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.
The reddit comments are priceless:
If they are private corporations, then they shouldn’t have immunity from being sued. That’s just bullshit.
I believe the bigger issue is that if they claim themselves to be “private corporations” then they should have zero access to surplus weapons of war. If they want their tanks, they have to pay full price like everybody else. It’s cool, they’re a corporation, so you know they can afford it. While we’re at it, we should probably get rid of their public funding. Nobody likes a Wellfare Queen.
Not to mention liscenses for all of those personally owned automatic weapons. Also demolitions licenses for all of those personally owned explosives.
Also, as private corporations if they show up at my doorstep with ill intent I can safely stand my ground.
Can you say “secret police?” Or Gestapo? This argument is the most crass, brazen, insulting thing SWAT could have done concerning truthfulness in law enforcement. Not even Soldiers and Marines get to claim secrecy like this if they get charged with violation of the ROE.
And this certainly doesn’t comport with Herschel’s law (named by Ned Weatherby). As for the Massachusetts SWAT teams, they have long ago lost the mandate of heaven. When that happens, it’s not immoral to treat them like the criminals they are.