Massachusetts Cop Block was started in 2011 to raise awareness about police brutality and misconduct in my home state. I stopped working on the site over a year ago for personal reasons. Basically I was suffering from activism burnout and social media burnout. It’s pretty time consuming to keep one’s self informed about every police misconduct case and every civil liberties threat in the state and it can be exhausting trying to do it on top of other everyday commitments. I did all the work for the site in my free time. I was never paid anything for the work I did and, in fact, I invested some of my own money in the site and in various projects for it.
While it was probably good that I took a break, I occasionally thought about starting the site back up again. I even felt a little guilty sometimes for not being involved with activism. The feelings became a little stronger recently and I started getting more serious about resuming work on the site. Shortly after the Boston marathon bombing and the subsequent police manhunt, I finally decided it was time.
I felt genuinely creeped out as I watched the TV coverage of the manhunt and saw the thousands police officers – with their black and camouflage body armor, their military-grade weapons, their armored personnel carriers – moving through Boston and surrounding towns and cities. Some of the scenes I was watching looked more like occupied Iraq than Boston.
I was relieved when the police finally caught Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on April 19, but I still felt uneasy. The talking heads I was listening to on TV proclaimed the cops to be heroes, but I knew that even if the police arrest the occasional terrorist, the United States still has problems with police brutality, misconduct, and corruption, not to mention the fact that even many of the “legal” things police do – like locking people up for victimless “crimes” – cause society a lot more harm than good. I also expected that the marathon bombing would produce the typical demands from the government officials and the media that ordinary people must permanently give up more of their freedoms in exchange for so-called security.
With these things in mind, I felt I could no longer in good conscience refrain from participating in activism of some kind and I decided to resume work on Massachusetts Cop Block. I want this website is to be a tool for anyone who lives or works in Massachusetts and is interested in police accountability. Just to give you an idea of the direction I want to take the site in, here are the projects I am currently working on or planning:
- The other day, I started a “Know your rights” page. I plan to post all kinds of educational material on this page to help people understand and protect their rights during encounters with the police. So far, all I have is links to a few videos (which are great, by the way), but I expect to add lots more material to this page in the future.
- Another thing I want to work on is improving the site’s police misconduct report database.
The old reports were all taken from David Packman’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project which has since been taken over by the Cato Institute. I’d really like to clean up these old reports quite a bit. When I’m done, all reports will be in complete sentences with no abbreviations (they were originally written for Twitter) and some will be expanded with more details or re-written entirely. Many of the sources for the old reports are now dead links, so I will replace them with links to other news stories. In some cases, I will also replace source articles with more comprehensive and/or more credible sources. Also, I will be using direct links instead of shortened links for the sources to decrease the chances of link rot.
In addition to re-working the old reports (which only covered 2009 and 2010), I’d also like to add reports for 2011 to the present.
I hope to add all new misconduct reports to the blog as I find out about them and then periodically update the database to keep it current.
- I’m also interested in tracking all police shootings that take place in Massachusetts using media reports. Before I can start, I need to figure out the criteria for what stories go into the database and what kind of info gets tracked. I also need to find the best method for collecting data (which media outlets I should search, which search terms to use, etc).If I do work on this project, I would not start collecting data until July at the earliest (so I would have data for half the year) or possibly October (so I would have data for the quarter).
- Finally, I appreciate it when people share information with me. If some have information about a police misconduct incident, a threat to civil liberties, or something along those lines, please send it to me. Also, if you’re planning some sort of event like a Flex Your Rights video showing, a CopWatching meetup, or anything that you think readers of this site will be interested, you can send it to me and I’ll try to help get the word out. I can be reached on Twitter or Facebook or you can email me using the “Contact” page.
Thanks for reading.