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Call for government accountability and transparency
Boston City Councilors Julia Mejia and Ricardo Arroyo filed a hearing on Jan. 26 about the government’s usage of surveillance equipment. This order was developed as a response to “recent reports which found that the Boston Police Department used over $600,000 in funds obtained through civil asset forfeiture to purchase a cell site simulator, otherwise known as a “stingray,” without notifying the Boston City Council,” according to a media release. The councilors and a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union demanded increased accountability.
“As a City Council, it is unacceptable that we are getting more information about what our police department is doing from the news than we do from our own city,” said Mejia. “We filed this hearing order because we need accountability and oversight. Our hope is that we can use this hearing to ensure that we’re putting a spotlight on any ‘hidden’ pots of money, especially money being used without our consent.”
“Protecting civil liberties and protecting our communities are not mutually exclusive,” said Arroyo. “Doing so is dependent on our ability to ensure transparency and accountability. This is a continuation of our efforts and responsibility to do so.”
“Too often, police departments obtain invasive, costly surveillance equipment in secret and without any democratic engagement or public debate,” said Kade Crockford, Technology for Liberty program director at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The ACLU stands with Councilors Mejia and Arroyo in their continued pursuit of transparency and oversight to ensure community control of Boston Police surveillance, and we look forward to a robust discussion at the hearing.”
DigBoston published an article in May 2021 about a push to grant City Council more oversight and approval of surveillance technology. Another story, which came out in June 2021, covered the Boston Police Department’s desire to add more surveillance cameras in Dorchester.
Shira Laucharoen is a reporter based in Boston. She currently serves as the assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. In the past she has written for Sampan newspaper, The Somerville Times, Scout Magazine, Boston Magazine, and WBUR.