State upholds Somerville firearms list secrecy

MuckRock has filed similar request with 69 Massachusetts police departments

Written by George LeVines

The Massachusetts supervisor of public records has decided that the Somerville Police Department may keep its firearms list from public release.

In February, MuckRock requested a complete inventory of equipment maintained by the Somerville police. Somerville City Solicitor Frank Wright replied that a master list did not exist, but that lists were kept by particular type of equipment. When MuckRock narrowed its query to an inventory of firearms, Wright denied the request.

SPD justified its denial based on two sections of the Massachusetts public records law: exemption (b), which exempts documents that relate solely to “internal personnel rules and practices” the release of which would hinder the agency’s functioning, and exemption (n), which covers records that are “likely to jeopardize public safety” if released.

After MuckRock appealed the denial to the state, Massachusetts Supervisor of Records Shawn A. Williams upheld Wright’s determination.

“I find the Department properly withheld the responsive list pursuant to Exemption (n) of the Public Records Law,” Williams said in a letter.

MuckRock sent the same inventory request to 65 Massachusetts municipal police departments, one regional department and two state agencies. Of the 69 requests, 11 departments including SPD have rejected the query to date, while the Plymouth Police Department and Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department asked for $1,600 and $123.56, respectively, for access to the documents. So far, only the Peabody Police have provided a firearms inventory.

The following agencies have rejected the inventory request:


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