As you may have noticed, we are extremely critical of cops, and of authorities in general, plus politicians who enable and facilitate unchecked state power, in our processing of news each week. This is for countless reasons, but mainly because we believe that the role of alternative and independent media is to report on things that aren’t being covered nearly enough. And in case you didn’t notice, despite the growing sympathy for victims of police brutality amidst NFL National Anthem controversy and other watershed movements and trends, most journalists have hardly peeled the onion back on the conditions that make life on the dark side of the thin blue line unbearable for those in minority and poor communities.
This week’s issue of DigBoston packs two features that dive beyond where most journalists will tread on the topic of police militarization. In the first installment of a statewide series on SWAT raids and questionable use of force, Seth Kershner brings us to some of the small towns that are directly affected. Also, ace record-digger Maya Shaffer of Critical Mass explains how in one Merrimack Valley city, playing music too loud can lead to a 20-ton militarized truck being parked by your apartment.
Of course it’s not all doom on the policing front. Since I criticize where I see fit, it’s only fair to also applaud those who eschew the mold, like the courageous Mass state troopers who turned in a superior for apparently pushing them to alter the arrest report of a judge’s daughter. There is nothing easy about exposing such truths, especially from the inside, and that’s what makes the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officials spectacular cowards. No matter how many bullets they shoot or dangerous arrests they may make, those who cover up atrocities and fortify a system that coddles the family and friends of the powerful are pathetic and weak next to the few who facilitate transparency.
Not everyone’s a hero, though. Even in a moment like this, in which Mass State Police Col. Richard McKeon announced his retirement amid the aforementioned revelations, we saw Gov. Charlie Baker, as well as far too many morons in the media, give some of the culprits a free pass. In Baker’s case, he essentially defended the retiring colonel (who may collect a significant six-figure pension), and “recognizes the motivation to protect those with substance use disorders from potentially embarrassing information contained in their public records.” Which is funny, because even as the governor of a state with unconscionable drug lab scandals—whose victims have yet to be substantially acknowledged—he’s never made this kind of seemingly selective stink about the stench attached to drug offenders before.
As one of the brave troopers who came clean has said, “If this was some random person and not a judge’s kid, none of this would be happening.” You bet your ass, and until such bold behavior from the inside becomes more of the norm among officers, we will continue being the kind of watchdogs that Mass needs. Unapologetically.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.