Last year, across the country, over 1,100 people were shot by police.
In Massachusetts, we pride ourselves as being somehow different and more sophisticated than the rest of the country, but our police still shoot people at sixteen times the rate of people in Germany.
We have a situation so absurd that the police chief of the tiny town of Rehoboth can apply for, and receive, a $700,000 mine-resistant military assault vehicle, and the town doesn’t even bat an eye. They didn’t hold hearings, they didn’t take a vote, they just left it up to the police to decide how much to turn themselves into a military occupying force in that town.
Our police are trained, through initiatives like Urban Shield, to think of themselves as quasi-military, and the people as their enemies.
None of this is good enough.
This morning, Tuesday March 8, there will be a hearing at the State House on our bill to help deal with this, H. 2169. Come make your voice heard; head below the fold for the background.
H. 2169, “An Act assuring municipal control of military equipment procurement by local law enforcement”, sponsored by Rep. Denise Provost
Digital Fourth’s Testimony to the Committee
Continue reading Rein In The Warrior Cops: State House, Tuesday March 8, 10:30am
Last month, we broke the news that even small towns in Massachusetts, like Rehoboth and Norfolk, were getting mine-resistant armored vehicles for free from the federal government, and had no good answer for why they needed them.
Last Friday was the deadline for filing bills for the Massachusetts legislature’s 2015-16 session, and we took the opportunity to draft a solution to the state’s police militarization problem.
Sponsored by Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville), our bill doesn’t ban police departments altogether from getting military-style equipment. What it does is forbid them from getting them for free, either from the federal government or as a gift from any third party. If they want to get military equipment (including stingrays or drones), the mayor and city council (in a city) or the selectmembers (in a town) have to vote publicly to approve that purchase, in effect forcing the purchase to come out of municipal funds.
Right now, the process is not democratic. The federal surplus programs are a remote corner of the federal budget, and their costs are a rounding error in DC. But to the taxpayers of a town like Rehoboth, it makes a big difference whether it’s them or the feds paying for a $700,000 MRAP.
Continue reading Our New Bill, H2169, Reining In Militarization in Massachusetts