Police Weapons (Boston Police Department)

David Brown filed this request with the Boston Police Department of Boston, MA.
Tracking # SPR17-001
Est. Completion None
Status
Fix Required

Communications

From: David Brown

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Public Records Law, M.G.L. c.66, §10, I hereby request the following records:

• Any lists, databases, and inventory rosters containing weapons used by officers (i.e., firearms, tasers, batons, etc.).

If no such records exist than I request the alternative records:
• All records pertaining to the weapons that may be carried by officers as determined by the chief of police, or the board, or officer having control of the police under the authority granted in M.G.L. ch.41, §98
• All records pertaining to the most recent audit of firearms owned by the department

There is an active public debate on the utility of firearms to provide safety and protection. This debate involves elected officials such as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh who is on record stating there is no need for Boston police officers to have long guns. A list of weapons that are currently owned, duly authorized, and safely stored by the state police is of great interest to the public in providing greater context for this public discourse.

I also request that, if appropriate, fees be waived as we believe this request is in the public interest, as suggested but not stipulated by the recommendations of the Massachusetts Supervisor of Public Records. The requested documents will be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, processed by a representative of the news media/press and is made in the process of news gathering and not for commercial usage.

I expect the request to be filled in an accessible format, including for screen readers, which provide text-to-speech for persons unable to read print. Files that are not accessible to screen readers include, for example, .pdf image files as well as physical documents.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 10 calendar days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

David Brown

From: Media Relations

September 1, 2016

David Brown
Muckrock

Dear Mr. Brown:

Pursuant to G. L. c. 66, § 10 (b), this correspondence is to confirm
receipt of your request for documents that are potentially in the
possession, custody or control of the Boston Police Department.
Specifically, you have requested:

• Any lists, databases, and inventory rosters containing weapons used by
officers (i.e., firearms, tasers, batons, etc.).

If no such records exist than I request the alternative records:
• All records pertaining to the weapons that may be carried by officers as
determined by the chief of police, or the board, or officer having control
of the police under the authority granted in M.G.L. ch.41, §98
• All records pertaining to the most recent audit of firearms owned by the
department

We will contact you as soon as possible with our findings, and will send
you a cost estimate for your requested materials if fulfilling the request
is expected to exceed $10.00, per 950 C.M.R. 32.06(1); 950 C.M.R. 32.03;
M.G.L. c 66 § 10(a).

Please be advised that we research each request in the order it was
received, and it may take longer than ten days to be fulfilled. If your
request requires a substantial amount of research, reviewing and redacting,
fulfilling the request will take a significant amount of time. Please plan
accordingly.

Thank you,

Office of Media Relations

Boston Police Department

617-343-3520
www.bpdnews.com

From: Media Relations

Dear Mr Brown,

Pursuant to your records request below in which you request:

• Any lists, databases, and inventory rosters containing weapons used by
officers (i.e., firearms, tasers, batons, etc.).

If no such records exist than I request the alternative records:
• All records pertaining to the weapons that may be carried by officers as
determined by the chief of police, or the board, or officer having control
of the police under the authority granted in M.G.L. ch.41, §98
• All records pertaining to the most recent audit of firearms owned by the
department

There is an active public debate on the utility of firearms to provide
safety and protection. This debate involves elected officials such as
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh who is on record stating there is no need for
Boston police officers to have long guns. A list of weapons that are
currently owned, duly authorized, and safely stored by the state police is
of great interest to the public in providing greater context for this
public discourse.
The Boston Police Department does not currently keep a list, database or
roster of batons, tasers, spray etc. As such we have no responsive
documents to this portion of your request.

The additional information you have requested (i.e.list of firearms carried
by officers etc.) is exempt from disclosure as public record. See MGL c. 4
s. 7(26)(f) and (n). Disclosure of this information would not be in the
public interest and would prejudice the possibility of effective law
enforcement. The protection of such information is essential to ensure that
the Department can continue to effectively monitor and control criminal
activity and thus ensure the safety of private citizens.

Disclosing information regarding the type of equipment utilized by Boston
police officers would potentially endanger the lives and physical safety of
the officers, as well as the citizens of the City of Boston, by allowing
those suspected of engaging in criminal activity to obtain their own
equipment to avoid and/or counter the efficacy of the Department’s
equipment. In addition to the safety risks associated with the provision of
this information, disclosure would adversely impact the Department’s
ability to respond to criminal activity and provide police services.

The exemption of this information from disclosure by M.G.L. c. 4 s.
7(26)(f) and (n) is consistent with the Court’s approval of withholding the
location, equipment and techniques used by law enforcement. *See United
States v. Green*, 670 F.2d 1148 (D.C. Cir. 1981). In *Green*, the Court
approved the withholding of the location of a police surveillance post at a
suppression hearing based on an analogy to the well-established informer’s
privilege. *Id.* at 1157, n. 4. The Court further stated that the
disclosure of the location of, manner of, and equipment used in
surveillance would educate criminals about how to avoid future
surveillance, would educate third parties about how to conduct illegal
surveillance, would frustrate future similar surveillance activities, and
would pose a risk to individuals conducting surveillance or allowing it to
occur on their premises. *Id.*

As such, the production of this information in response to a public record
request would have a negative impact on the Department’s ability to rely on
this equipment while in the performance of its duties thereby prejudicing
effective law enforcement, which is exactly what the United States Court of
Appeals, District of Columbia, sought to prevent in *Green*.

For the reasons stated above, the Department is denying your request.

Please note that you have the right to appeal the Department's response to
Secretary of State's office.

Lt Michael McCarthy

Director, Media Relations

From: David Brown

Supervisor of Records,

In response to a public records request for
(1) Any lists, databases, and inventory rosters containing weapons used by officers (i.e., firearms, tasers, batons, etc.)
(2) All records pertaining to the weapons that may be carried by officers as determined by the chief of police, or the board, or officer having control of the police under the authority granted in M.G.L. ch.41, §98
(3) All records pertaining to the most recent audit of firearms owned by the department
the Boston Police Department has asserted that these records are exempt from public release under the exemptions listed in "MGL c. 4 s. 7(26)(f) and (n). Disclosure of this information would not be in the public interest and would prejudice the possibility of effective law enforcement." I believe the release of these records is in the public interest and that they do not fall under any exemption and so I appeal the matter to your authority under Massachusetts law.

In regards to exemption (f) the firearms carried by Boston police officers are neither investigatory materials nor compiled out of the public view. It is ridiculous to claim weapons carried in public would fall under either classification.

In regards to exemption (n) - the law goes to great lengths to reference specific preparations. Indeed, of course it would jeopardize public safety to release the security plans, as examples, for any specific event, for bank security, or for the police armory. These are necessarily excluded while they are active as their disclosure allows their weaknesses to be evaluated and exploited. But to apply this exemption - in the interest of public safety - to such general preparations of a police department as the weapons officers carry is not in the spirit of the public records law. Unlike a specific preparation such a general preparation will never expire from active use and become available. Furthermore if the weapons are carried by officers in their duties they are a public act, they are visible to the public. If one had unlimited time they could compile their own list simply through their own observations. The public records law is intended to prevent that need of the citizens to watch so closely the public acts of officials in order to ensure the best interests of the people are being taken care of. The weapons are carried to provide safety and security not just to the officers, but also to the whole community. The community has a right to know what weapons are being used to provide that. The disclosure of merely the weapon types that may be carried does not endanger public safety in the way that the knowing the current location, the deployment plan, or other tactical specifics would.

The issue of what weapons are carried and used by the Boston police department is of great public interest. In August the Boston Herald reported on an undated letter from the Police Union that "demanded that Boston police officers be allowed to carry long guns, wear heavy armor ballistic plates in their vests, and carry extra loaded magazines." (Boston Herald. August 5, 2016. "Mayor Walsh: ‘No need for long guns’ for Boston patrol officers") The Boston Globe joined in - Mayor Marty Walsh's response towards the idea was negative (Boston Globe. August 5, 2016 "Mayor Walsh Rejects idea of Boston Police Carrying Long Guns"). In order to have an informed public discourse on the appropriate arms for the police department - the current inventory must be known!

Furthermore the public interest deserves special consideration in my request for (3) audit records. The recent case of the Braintree Police department's evidence locker shows that the public cannot assume that proper procedures are being followed with police inventories. In this recent Braintree case from the police evidence locker "eight guns were missing, along with $70,000 in cash and 'a lot of drugs,' according to someone with first-hand knowledge of the audit’s findings. At least two of the weapons were found in Braintree police officer Susan Zopatti’s house." (Boston Globe. September 14, 2016. "Emerging scandal in evidence room puts hundreds of drug cases at risk"). It is unacceptable that the public must assume that proper care is being taken with the weapons used on police business.

All communications related to this request can be found here: https://www.muckrock.com/foi/boston-3/police-weapons-boston-police-department-28024/

Please order the department to provide the relevant public records for my requests (1), (2), and (3). Thank you for your consideration.

Best Regards,
David Brown

From: Sullivan, Kellie (SEC)

Good afternoon Mr. Brown,

Thank you, received and acknowledged.

Kellie Sullivan
Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth
Public Records Division
One Ashburton Place, Room 1719
Boston, MA 02108
617-727-2832

From: Boston Police Department

A letter stating that the request appeal has been received and is being processed.

From: Boston Police Department

A letter stating that the request appeal has been received and is being processed.

From: Media Relations

Dear Mr. Brown,

Please find attached supplemental response to you recent appeal. (SPR
17/001) Should you have any additional questions please don't hesitate to
ask.

Lt McCarthy

From: Nathan, Kevin (SEC)

Good Morning Mr. Brown,

The purpose of this email is to formally inquire on the status of a response concerning SPR17/1240. As you are aware, SPR17/1240 was closed with the understanding that a representative from the Revere Police Department would provide a supplemental response. Have you received the aforementioned response yet? If so, are you satisfied with the status of your request? Do you require any further action from this office.

Please let me know.
Thank you.

Very Respectfully,
Kevin Nathan

Kevin Nathan
Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth
Public Records Division
One Ashburton Place, Room 1719
Boston, MA 02108
617-727-2832

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