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).