City attorney originally claimed responsive documents did not exist
The Somerville Police Department is denying access to a list of the firearms used by its officers.
In a continuing examination of the tools being used by law enforcement — such as drones and automatic license plate readers — MuckRock submitted a request to the department for equipment inventory lists.
Somerville City Solicitor, Frank Wright, said in a February 13 letter, that no master inventory list existed. Lists for specific equipment — radios, printers, copiers, he said — were available.
MuckRock refined the request to specify equipment used in field operations, and also requested the name of any software specific to law enforcement operations.
Nearly one month after the initial request, the department produced a vehicle fleet list.
In the correspondence attached to the vehicle fleet list, Wright again said that lists responsive to the request were “generally not in existence.”
On March 15, Wright informed MuckRock that the department did in fact possess a list of firearms, but cited a public safety exemption in the Massachusetts public records law as grounds for withholding it.
That exemption includes: “any other records relating to the security or safety of persons or buildings, structures, facilities, utilities, transportation, or other infrastructure located within the Commonwealth, the disclosure of which, in the reasonable judgment of the record custodian, subject to review by the supervisor of public records ... is likely to jeopardize public safety.”
After the department denied the existence of responsive records and then used the public safety exemption to deny access to one such record, MuckRock appealed the denial to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office on March 19. The Supervisor of Records sent a letter acknowledging the appeal, received at MuckRock on March 25.
MuckRock filed the same request with the Massachusetts State Police on Feb. 12, and is awaiting a response.
Police photo courtesy of the Drug Enforcement Agency.
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