Comcast not welcome in Worcester, Mass thanks to bad customer service

The City Council told its manager not to transfer the town's cable license from Charter to Comcast (Comcast is in the process of borging Charter and assimilating its customers).

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SWAT teams claim to be private mercenaries, immune to open records laws


The ACLU reports [PDF] that when it made Freedom of Information requests for Massachusetts SWAT team records, the SWATs claimed that because they were organized as "law enforcement councils" (jointly owned by many police departments, with additional federal funding) that they were not government agencies at all, but rather private corporations, and not subject to open records laws.

SWATs are the white-hot center of the increasingly brutal and militarized response of US police forces, which have outfitted themselves with ex-Afghanistan/Iraq military materiel and have deployed it in an escalating violent series of attacks, largely as part of the war on drugs. As Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post, the SWATs' claim to be private companies doesn't pass the giggle test: they are funded by the government, pay government employees, and do the government's business.

The argument boils down to this: we are not the police, we are private mercenaries armed with automatic weapons and military-grade vehicles and equipment, and when we attack and kill in the streets of American cities, we do so as private soldiers who happen to be funded by the police departments' budgets.

The ACLU is suing the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council to challenge this ruse, but even if they win, this should be setting off alarm bells for anyone who believes in good government and responsible policing. The cornerstone of democratic legitimacy is a duty to the public, with all the transparency and respect that implies. When police forces up and down the state structure themselves to create and exploit a loophole that lets them obscure the details of their most violent, most spectacular screw-ups -- which generally result in gruesome injuries and deaths to innocent members of the public -- there is no way they can claim to be acting in the public interest.

The fact that the city governments that oversee these departments and the federal agencies that fund the LECs have been complicit in this suggests that this isn't a matter of police overreach, but rather is a policy that goes literally all the way to the top of the policing regulatory structure in America.

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Woman who recorded Massachusetts police beating charged with illegal wiretapping

Michaelann sez, "Four Springfield Mass police officers beat Melvin Jones in 2009 and the incident was captured on videotape by a resident. Now, one of the four officers involved, who was suspended for 45 days, is seeking a criminal complaint against the woman for illegal wiretapping. This article has a link to the original video, where the woman doing the taping pretty much said everything I would have said-- "strong language." The woman will be in court on Wednesday and some members of my group, Arise for Social Justice, will be there to support her."
Police Sgt. John M. Delaney, aide to Commissioner William J. Fitchet, said Sedergren filed the complaint personally, not on behalf of the Police Department. “If officer Sedergren feels his rights were violated under the law then he has the opportunity to make his case in court, just like everyone else,” Delaney said. A lawyer for Jones – who was charged with shoplifting, domestic battery and drug trafficking on separate occasions since the 2009 incident – contends Sedergren can be heard on Greene’s videotape calling Jones a racial expletive. “They’re really just trying to intimidate and silence her, but whether she’s charged or not (the tape) can still be used in court,” said attorney Shawn P. Allyn, who represents Jones in a civil rights lawsuit against the police in U.S. District Court.

Ann Lambert, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Boston office, said although the ACLU opposes a “big brother” society, the law is designed to combat secret audiotaping of conversations, not amateur videographers, which are rampant.

Videographer of alleged Melvin Jones beating could be charged with illegal wiretapping (Thanks, Michaelann!)