Image of Harvey Keitel via Bad Lieutenant
In a recent bombshell of an investigation, the Associated Press revealed that there are hundreds of documented cases nationwide of police officers losing their badges for sexual misconduct, including charges of rape, fondling, and child molestation. The nearly 1,000 cases that stacked up over the past six years is a low estimate of the number of such crimes that actually took place, says the AP, because it only accounts for places where offending officers are subject to losing their shields. Some states don’t keep tallies of this type of misconduct.
The Commonwealth is one of those states. It’s laughable to think that Massachusetts doesn’t maintain such data, especially considering the amount of other information that authorities here collect on us. You don’t have to look far to find Big Brother—there are surveillance cameras on every corner, shiny new machinery perched on our rotting infrastructure. Despite their ubiquitous nature, and even though DigBoston has uncovered thousands of documents on surveillance in the Commonwealth, a comprehensive list of cameras has not been made available to the public, and may not even exist.
I’m not done. While the city now says it decided against adopting facial recognition software, Boston authorities had no qualms about secretly testing biometrics out at Boston Calling two years ago. Meanwhile, an ACLU survey published last week revealed that Commonwealth schools do not extend the right to privacy on their computers and tablets to pupils. Some policies go as far as to claim that students have “no expectation of privacy” on these devices. Finally, let’s not forget Boston’s automated license plate reader (ALPR) data, which city contractors left on an unsecure server, open to anyone who knew where to look.
Our state seems preoccupied with surveillance. Eyes pointed out, authorities can’t even manage to protect the data they collect on us, all while the state says it doesn’t keep numbers on officer wrongdoing. The whole thing smacks of willful ignorance, especially in light of AP news that some departments allow their “bad officers to quietly resign, keep their certification and jump to other jobs.”
Earlier this year, the Massachusetts secretary of state ruled that the Boston Police Department is not required to release the names of officers charged with drunken driving, citing an exemption from the public records law. This is one area where the state is clearly committed to privacy, but these protections shouldn’t extend to the public lives of cops. It is our right to know the numbers when it comes to sexual misconduct, and it’s the state’s responsibility to provide them.