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ACLU sues Boston for access to documents related to Methadone Mile 'Clean Sweep'

The ACLU of Massachusetts today sued the city of Boston for what the organization says is the city's refusal to turn over documents related to the planning and carrying out of "Operation Clean Sweep" - in which police swarmed the area around Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard for several days in August of 2019 after a Suffolk County corrections officer was beaten just outside the South Bay House of Corrections.

The ACLU sued the city in Suffolk Superior Court under the state public-records law, more than a year after it first asked for documents related to Operation Clean Sweep:

ACLUM submitted a public records request to the City on August 12, 2019, seeking records related to this "Sweep" to be able to analyze the City’s actions and to evaluate whether civil rights or civil liberties were improperly invaded. The request covered among other things documents that would show who ordered the action (and when and why), the planning or coordination between the various departments and agencies involved in the "Sweep," who was arrested for what and why, inventories of seized property,and after-action reports and any other records related to the "Sweep." The request also asked for documents from a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in which strategies to combat homelessness were discussed.

In its complaint, the group says the city finally sent it copies of a few "cryptic email communications" and a spreadsheet that lists the people arrested, only with their names blanked out and their alleged offenses missing, even though both are public records under state law (and, in fact, Boston Police posted the names and alleged offenses of many of the people arrested).

No pre-operation planning or coordination documents, no actual police reports, no arrest logs, no property seizure logs or records, no communications between the Boston Police and City Hall or the other departments or agencies engaged in the "Sweep,"and no documents from the Department of Public Works or the Mayor’s office are included with regard to the requests specifically related to "Operation Clean Sweep."

The produced emails include none sent or received during the first night of the "Sweep" on August 1, but do include some from August 2, the "second night of operation clean sweep" from Captain Jack Danilecki, who was apparently in charge. In this email thread, Captain Danilecki reported: "Atkinson was clean We hit surrounding area We have 9 under arrest so far Between uniform and drug control 9 arrests One female who was pregnant and overdosed in front of us was taken by H&H We checked blackstone park and Worcester sq Not a lot out We are continuing" and "Drug control made some more" to which the Commissioner of the Boston Police Department responded "TY great job." No records were produced explaining what was meant by "hit[ting]" the surrounding area, revealing for what conduct arrests were made, or explaining the underlying purposes of "operation clean sweep."

Another email thread from August 5 is also instructive and makes clear that other records have not been produced. At 9:12 p.m., Captain Danilecki reported: "Sir/Ma’m We conducted scaled down version of operation clean sweep tonight We had service unit from D-4, C-6, B-2 and State and Sheriff ride around mass, Cass and southampton st and we moved the homeless and a drug abusers and had them go back to Atkinson st Atkinson st was a ghost town And there was not a lot of people in the neighborhoods nor on street Found some under Xway ramp at mass and large group on Cass All cooperated and went to Atkinson st." The only response to this produced by the City was from Major Richard Ball of the Massachusetts State Police saying: "Outstanding! Thank you." Yet no records were produced containing after-action reports by the service units or others involved, any pre-action communications with the State Police or the Sheriff’s office, any explanation as to why people were being sent back to Atkinson Street when just nights before they had been forced away from that area, and who ordered any of this activity.

The suit asks a judge to order Boston to hand over all of the records and communications the ACLU says it has a right to under the public-records law.

Complete ACLU complaint (5.9M PDF).

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Comments

Good! Thanks to the ACLU.

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Voting closed 26

Thanks for what? It sounds like the ACLU is fishing to find out "whether civil rights or civil liberties were improperly invaded" (their words).

If there was a specific violation, then ok, it makes sense to investigate it. But the ACLU here is making a broad request when it's not clear anything wrong happened.

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Voting closed 66

"It's not clear anything wrong happened" sounds like a great argument against public oversight of our government. If we never look, we'll never find problems, so there will be no problems!

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Voting closed 46

Then here's an additional argument: government FOIA requests trigger a surprising amount of manual labor. Broad search terms against emails, means a government lawyer ends up printing out, reviewing, and sorting, and redacting hundreds or thousands of emails. It's a big load on government resources, and impacts other FOIA requests the government needs to answer.

Doing things that improve government is good, but with this specific ACLU action, I don't think the cost/benefit of it makes sense.

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Voting closed 37

Nice standard deep state bullshit excuse.

FOIA is the law, dear. Massachusetts has dragged its feet complying, and makes it look like actual oversight is onerous, but then again refuses to keep records properly.

You might want to check on how the Commonwealth has been smacked upside the head for this in courts before and told to STFU and produce the information or else, leading to at least state agencies needing to immediately cough up information. Then tell us again about cost/benefit.

I personally don't see benefit in abusing homeless people, and don't want my tax dollars paying the cost.

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Voting closed 28

Important work is expensive. Not doing it is more expensive.

We'll pay one way or another, either the money it costs to aid transparency or we'll pay with our rights. FOIA suits are sometimes frivolous, but I would much rather waste that time than not have the insight.

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Voting closed 13

Don't recognize abuse of power by the state when they see it, or when it gives them the tingles in certain special places.

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Voting closed 15

Let me get this straight: we're here in 2020 and are presented with the following facts:

- An officer is assaulted by Methadone Mile
- Shortly thereafter a raid is carried out in that area, many people are detained, nothing is fixed, no higher goal is accomplished (as anyone who still drives by MM can tell)
- The BPD are not producing information that should be public record relating to these events

And you're siding with the cops, and questioning why the ACLU is looking into it?

Yikes. We're never going to see eye to eye if you still don't think the cops should be at a minimum held to existing standards, if not higher ones (please, let there someday be higher ones).

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Voting closed 30

The ACLU is right in asking for and getting public records, but there is probably no maniacal laughing going on in the background by the cops.

Atkinson and Southampton Streets were (and still are) bedlam and then someone was attacked. One group of individuals, who just happen to be the local law enforcement, said enough and did something about the lawlessness of the area.

I can probably get the paragraph above needlepointed if the ACLU wants it. Drop me a line.

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Voting closed 63

Long after the situation in the Combat Zone became intolerable, action was finally taken after the stabbings of two Harvard football players, one of whom died. Through a combination of laissez faire enforcement, and outright corruption, the area had become a dangerous open marketplace for drugs and prostitution. Some believed in good faith that a red light district was necessary for a big city, which had until a few years earlier also been a Navy town. In the case of the Methadone Mile, there are good faith believers that the out of control people in need of recovery should be given a safe area and a wide berth. The end result is the same. Whose neighborhood should host such an environment? Chinatown, Tufts Medical and the Theater District put up with the Zone for years. That was an injustice, and so is the Methadone Mile for Roxbury and the South End. Time to clean it up.

https://www.nytimes.com/1976/12/04/archives/boston-combat-zone-becomes-t...

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Voting closed 44

The Commonwealth closed mental health facilities and never replaced them with community supported care.

This isn't an issue of "which" neighborhood - it is an issue of funding and implementing programs so that any person in all neighborhoods has access to housing, substance use disorder treatment, mental health care in a structured setting, etc.

So stop with the excuses for attacking homeless people for just being there - start with the advocacy for getting them off the street and keeping them in the places where they have support.

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Voting closed 18

This is a disgusting sentiment, but a good illustration of the major divide in this country. Part of the population wants to help people and part of the population wants to punish people. The people you dismiss as "some junkies" are your fellow human beings and they are in dire need of help, not domination by the police. Getting at the root of the problems of addiction, poverty, and homelessness and actually trying to help people out of these situations would provide a much greater benefit to everybody than just viewing it as "lawlessness" that can only be dealt with by policing.

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Voting closed 37

It wasn't exactly clear what it had to do with methadone mile, but hey great excuse to hold a pogrom!

Attacking people for just being in public and not having anywhere else to go is lawlessness. The ACLU is trying to PREVENT such lawlessness. The law isn't just something that cops and mayors office toadies get to make up whenever they need to feel like big erections.

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Voting closed 39

Triggered!

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Voting closed 48

need to dig a littler deeper into your bag of grammar-school playground taunts. What are you, nine years old?

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Voting closed 32

Okay boomer.

Although you probably wouldn't think this state sponsored pogrom was so great if involved power-drunk liberals attacking and arresting and brutalizing older Eiresatz male bigots for feel-good sport (despite the obvious service to society involved).

(p.s. ACLU is supposed to be all caps, honey)

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Voting closed 18

You are older than me.

Also, since dementia might be creeping in, let me point out that you capitalized DEEP STATE and PREVENT.

Thanks for playing.

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Voting closed 50

Is wayyyy older than me.

But keep on advocating for some people to exist in a completely lawless world of state-funded brutality and you will get the third world shithole you so very much desire.

Oh, wait ... you already live in Marshfield.

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Voting closed 19

Are there actually 26 people so messed up that they liked this pointless, stupid, nasty comment, or do you have that many sockpuppets?

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Voting closed 15

She only has 7 thumbs up. Learn how to count.

By the way, isn't it like kale harvest and tofu making season or something like that where you live? How do you have time to make snide comments or is it because you live in the next time zone?

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Voting closed 17

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you e-Balls Bob Hope. He'll be here all week, alas.

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Voting closed 6

...isn't it time for you to get a life and stop being such a gratuitously toxic shithead? You're getting long in the tooth for toddler tantrums, pops.

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Voting closed 6

If each of these supporters would house one Mass & Cass citizen we would solve many of the problems faced by these severely addicted, forgotten citizens of metropolitan Boston.

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Voting closed 17

I'm not sure that "donating to a non-profit organization" is a good qualification for properly supporting people experiencing chronic homelessness and drug addiction, and all of the associated medical issues that can arise from both of those conditions.

In fact, I'm fairly certain that the reason that many give to non-profits is because they know that the organization's mission and aims are beneficial and would be unable to have such a direct impact on the issues that are being handled.

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Voting closed 12

arbitrarily assigned the mission of being responsible for these humans. As a building burns firefighters don't speculate on the cause of the fire. They put it out then determine cause. ACLU litigation makes some feel good in defending those poor souls. In my observation it also gives those that should act an excuse not to.

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Voting closed 10

As democracy breathes its last sputtering gasp, I take comfort that the ACLU is using its resources on... this.

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Voting closed 5

...where you would find that, among other things, they are promoting voting rights.

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Voting closed 6