Nov 16 2013

IWW picketer says he was falsely arrested by Cambridge police

Dr. Q

Open Media Boston reports:

A picket outside Insomnia Cookies in Cambridge resulted in the arrest of a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union Thursday night.

Jason Freedman was arraigned at Cambridge District Court in Medford Friday morning in a brief hearing by the court’s First Judge, Roanne Sragow.

Charged by Cambridge Police for assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct, Freedman called the allegations “ridiculous.”

Speaking to Open Media Boston at the court, Freedman said, “we weren’t blocking the sidewalk; we were there to protest terrible conditions and pay at Insomnia,” which he says are the “plight of millions of Americans.”

He was taking part in the picket, one of many since August when workers at Insomnia Cookies in Cambridge went on strike for better pay, improved working conditions, and healthcare; four workers were fired following that initial strike.

Freedman alleges that the police officers on the scene treated the demonstrators as if they were a “nuisance,” describing the officers’ behavior as “very aggressive,” and claims that they were there to “harass” and “detain” protestors, and “break-up” the picket.

He further alleges that the police “were there to make an example” of the demonstrators.

Adamant that he was taking part in the picket peacefully, Freedman says he “wasn’t trying to cause conflict” when he was allegedly targeted by police.

Photos and video captured of the incident show that Freedman was tackled to the ground by several Cambridge Police Officers.

He was arrested and released on bail after being held at a police station near Kendall Sq.

At the court, Freedman had a visible scrape and slight swelling above his right eye, and he complained of a great deal of pain in his left arm, noting that same arm had been broken before.

“I definitely felt punches on my body as they tried to wrestle me to the ground,” Freedman alleges, adding that they were “definitely assaulting me.”

He alleges that “it seemed like they … wanted to punch me, and kick me.”

After he had been arrested, he says he repeatedly said to officers, “please don’t touch my left arm,” because he thought it was broken.

Following multiple requests for medical attention, he was treated by paramedics who determined he had not received a broken arm.

This incident follows the firing of a fifth employee of Insomnia Cookies in Cambridge, Tommy Mendes, allegedly for becoming a member of the IWW.

Read the rest of this article here.


Nov 1 2013

Boston police block access to public spaces during Obama visit

Dr. Q

On October 30, 2013, President Obama visited the city of Boston to promote his healthcare law, the so-called “Affordable Care Act” more commonly known as “Obamacare.” During the visit, police suspended the right of everyone but themselves to access public spaces for Obama’s convenience.


Oct 17 2013

Making a public records request at the Massachusetts State Police HQ

Dr. Q

On October 11, a Massachusetts state trooper shot two unarmed men at a traffic stop in Medford. The state police have claimed that the driver, a 19-year-old man, attempted to hit the state trooper with his vehicle. The driver has been charged with numerous crimes including assault with a dangerous weapon. No allegations of wrongdoing have been made against the passenger. So far, the only evidence presented to the public that either of the shooting victims did anything wrong is the word of the very state trooper who shot them.

There’s a fairly easy way to tell whether or not the trooper is telling the truth about the shooting incident. Many police departments install dashboard cameras (dashcams for short) in their patrol cruisers. These cameras create objective records of traffic stops made by police and are therefore the perfect way to determine whether or not police have acted appropriately. If the Massachusetts State Police use dashcams, the videos recorded by them would allow us to see for ourselves whether the state police acted appropriately during shooting incidents like the one in Medford or another recent incident where a state trooper killed a mentally ill man who allegedly attacked him with a pen.

I’m actually not sure if the Massachusetts State Police use dashcams. Many police departments don’t use them at all. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 61% of local police departments and 67% of sheriff’s departments used dashcams in 2007. Myong Joun, a Boston-based attorney who specializes in police misconduct, told me it’s his understanding that the state police only have dashcams installed in certain unmarked vehicles, not their standard marked vehicles.

Nevertheless, I decided to make a public records request to determine if a dashcam was installed in the vehicle of the state trooper who shot the two people in Medford and to obtain a video of the shooting if it exists. Under the Massachusetts public records statute, all records kept by local and state government agencies must be provided to members of the public upon request unless they fall under certain exemptions. Government agencies are required to respond to a request within 10 days either by agreeing to disclose the records or by denying the request and explaining which exemption the records fall under.

I decided to submit my request in person at the Massachusetts State Police Headquarters which is located in Framingham. On October 15, KT of MassOps accompanied me to the State Police HQ and we both recorded the visit with our cellphones so we would have an objective record of what happened. I would recommend bringing a camera along to anyone who decides to make public records request to a police department or any government agency at all in person. The video can serve as proof that the request was made and, if the video is posted online, what date it was made on.

When we arrived at the State Police HQ, I spoke to Steve Lane at the front desk and told him that I wanted to submit a public records request. He walked off, grabbed a form, passed it to me, and told me I needed to fill it out to make a request.

Under the public records law, a government agency cannot require a person to use a specific form to make a records request. A simple letter is considered a legitimate public records request and government agencies are obliged to accept and comply with such requests. In fact, records requests can even be made verbally with no written request at all. According to “A Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law,” a document published by the Secretary of the Commonwealth:

A written request is not required but is recommended. An oral request made in person (not by telephone) is permitted…

There is no specific form that must be used to request records, nor is there any language that must be included in such a request. A records custodian may provide a form, but cannot demand that the form be used.

I had already typed up my request and didn’t feel like wasting my time rewriting an almost page-long letter by hand for no reason, so I informed Lane that I had already written out my request and that he could not require me to use the form. He immediately became angry and accused me of “trying to cause a problem.” He then told me that he would get someone else to help me.

While I waited, I looked over the form that Lane had handed me. He had actually given me a form for requesting a crash report from the Registry of Motor Vehicles which means that the form wasn’t even relevant to the records I was trying to request. I pointed this out to Lane, but he insisted that I still had to fill it out.

Lane also expressed hostility toward the fact that KT and I were recording him.

Soon, I was greeted by Sergeant McGilvry. I told him that I was trying to make a records request. He told me that even though I was already present at the State Police HQ, I would need to mail my request in which is not true. When I insisted on submitting the request in person multiple times, McGilvry finally told me he would make a phone call to determine if he could accept my request. Before he walked off, he told me that I needed to “just grow up” because he was upset about the fact that I was recording him.

A couple minutes later, McGilvry came out a second time and accepted my letter without offering an apology for the incorrect information he had given me.

Although the public records statute has its flaws, it is one of the most important tools in our state for ensuring that police departments and other government agencies are transparent to the public. It’s incredibly disappointing, to say the least, that employees working at the main office for the largest police department in the state are so ignorant about the public records statute and treat people who make public records requests with such hostility even though they are required by law to accept and comply with them.

If I was treated like this by the employees of a private company, I’d probably choose to never do business with that company again. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with the government, taking your business elsewhere isn’t an option.

I’ll post an update as soon as I’ve gotten a response to my records request from the state police.

Here’s the full text of my public records request:

To whom it may concern,

This is a request under the Massachusetts Public Records Law (M. G. L. Chapter 66, Section 10) for records from the Massachusetts State Police. As you may be aware, the Public Records Law requires you to provide me with a written response within 10 calendar days. If you cannot comply with my request, you are statutorily required to provide an explanation in writing.

I would like to know if the Massachusetts State Police use dashboard cameras (or dashcams) which are video cameras that can be mounted in cars. I would like copies of any policy documents related to dashcams.

A state trooper was involved in a shooting incident in Medford on October 11. According to news reports, the trooper shot two men during a traffic stop after the driver allegedly tried to hit him with his vehicle. If the trooper involved in the shooting had a dashcam installed in his cruiser, I would like a copy of the video and audio of the traffic stop and shooting incident as well as the events leading up to it. I would also like dashcam videos with audio from any other state police vehicles that were present at the scene of the shooting. I would also like copies of any police reports, notes, and other documentation of the shooting.

It is my understanding that the shooting incident in Medford is currently the subject of an ongoing investigation. As you may be aware, there is an exemption to the public records law for information related to ongoing investigations by law enforcement, however, be aware that this exemption only applies to a record if it can be shown that releasing the record to the public would prejudice the results of the investigation.

If you withold a record under any exemption at all, I expect you to specify which exemptions you are citing and to articulate why the exemption applies to the record in question. If you withold any records under the investigatory exemption, I would still like copies of the records after the investigation is complete. Please take steps to ensure that you do not destroy any records I have requested.

Please provide a list of all documents that my request applies to as soon as possible. I recognize that you may charge reasonable costs for copies, as well as for personnel time needed to comply with this request. If you expect costs to exceed $10.00, please provide a detailed fee estimate. I would appreciate it if you waived any fees associated with the fulfillment of this request as I believe the release of these documents is in the public interest.

I appreciate you taking time to read over and consider this public records request. I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Note that when I typed up my request, I wrote that the shooting happened on October 15 which was the date I was submitting the request, not the date of the shooting. I realized my error while in the parking lot of the State Police HQ and crossed out the 15 with a pen and wrote in 11 which is the correct date.


Oct 7 2013

Rally for Denis Reynoso — Iraq war vet killed by the Lynn police

Dr. Q

On September 5 of this year, police entered the home of Iraq war veteran Denis Reynoso in Lynn, Massachusetts without a warrant and shot him to death. The police have said little about the shooting, but claimed that Reynoso was shot because he tried to grab a police officer’s gun. The shooting investigation is currently being handled by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office.

On October 5, exactly one month after the shooting, family members of Reynoso and their supporters gathered in Lynn to demand an independent investigation of the shooting. The protest began at the Lynn Commons where several people gave speeches criticizing the Lynn police. After the speeches ended, we all marched to the Lynn Police Station. Jessica Spinney, Denis Reynoso’s wife, entered the police station to hand in a petition calling for an independent investigation and changes to the Lynn Police Department’s use-of-force policies.

After Jessica left the police station, the protest continued on for some time. Many of the protesters eventually began marching a second time. I heard they were marching to the church the family attends, but I left the protest at this point.

I took dozens of photos at the protest and shot some video as well.

You can sign an online petition here calling on Lynn Mayor Judith Kennedy and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to provide an independent investigation of the Denis Reynoso shooting.

Raw videos:

The mainstream media’s reporting on the shooting:

Boston Globe:

Lynn Daily Item:

Lynn Journal:

Fox 25:

WCVB:


Sep 13 2013

Copwatching at No War With Syria rally & march in Boston

Dr. Q

Last Saturday, I participated in a rally and march in Boston to protest the United States federal government’s plan to bomb Syria. I arrived at the protest around 1 pm and stayed until the end. I spent the majority of the time taking photographs.

The first part of the protest was a rally with a number of speakers. After the rally ended, protesters began marching through the city, chanting slogans like “Don’t bomb Syria.” During the course of the march, the Boston police took notice. Naturally, I recorded them.

At one point during the protest, I witnessed part of an incident in which some hecklers told a bike cop that a protester had a knife. The cop frisked the man, but didn’t find a knife. Later, the police told the hecklers to leave the scene. After the march was over, I met up with Rich Fu, a witness to the incident, who explained to me what he saw.

Later during the march, I spotted the same bike cop who frisked the protester and I started recording him again. After a short period of time, he took out his phone and started recording me back. I flashed him a peace sign.

After the march was over, I noticed a Boston police sergeant observing the protest and talking with the bike cop I had seen earlier and a second bike cop. I recorded them for more than 10 minutes until they finally left. Unfortunately, the audio did not turn out very well, but the gist of what happened is that the police were trying to find out who had organized the protest. They asked several people who the “leader” was and who had been using a bullhorn during the protest. They also wrote down the names of groups that had participated. Seeing these cops documenting the protest was not surprising since the Boston Police Department was revealed to have been surveilling antiwar groups thanks to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

I wish I had been able to publish these videos sooner, but I’ve been dealing with some personal issues over the past week and didn’t have any time to edit them.


Sep 3 2013

Police in North Attleborough recorded beating and pepper spraying man during arrest

Dr. Q

A man has published a video depicting North Attleborough police beating and pepper spraying his friend, who was a suspect in a domestic violence case. At first, the man refused orders to get on the ground as police beat and pepper sprayed him, but after he fell to his knees, the police continued beating him.

Here’s a video about the incident from Fox 25/WFXT:

The [North Attleborough Police Department] issued a press release after a video was released showing officers in a violent struggle with one man, ordering him to the ground, and hitting him with what appeared to be batons.

Officers received a domestic disturbance call Sunday from a woman claiming her ex-boyfriend was strangling her and attempting to prevent her from calling police; however, during the struggle, she was able to break away.

Minutes later, officers encountered the suspect outside the victim’s home on North Washington Street. The suspect, who was much larger than either of the responding officers, police said, allegedly laughed and told them, “There are just two of you? You better call for back up.”

According to police, the man was immediately combative and would not listen to officers. He refused to get on the ground despite officers’ repeated requests, and at one point, he even allegedly took a fighting stance with his fists raised.

In the video, it appears the suspect pushed an officer and took a swing at another. The four officers appear to hit and use pepper spray on the suspect. After more than a minute, he finally falls to his knees. Police continue to hit him with batons, something witnesses say was over the top.

And here’s the raw video:

According to Fox 25, “Police acknowledged the video and said all information is being thoroughly reviewed.” So, the police say they are reviewing what happened, yet they have already tried to exonerate the officers in the court of public opinion with their press release which offers nothing but justifications for the officers’ violence. This is precisely why all investigations of excessive force allegations and other misconduct allegations against police should be handled independently from the police department and local DA’s office. There is an inherent conflict of interest when a police officer is investigated by his or her colleagues.

This story should also be a reminder to everyone that you should always record the police when you see them. You never know what might happen. Few people are going to take the word of a domestic violence suspect and his friend over the word of the police, so it’s important for the public to have objective records of police encounters.