ACLU launches probe into Philly police use of ‘military’ weapons

guns
Rikard Larma/Metro.

The Pennsylvania ACLU – along with ACLU chapters in 22 other states – yesterday filed more than 255 right to know requests in an attempt to measure local police departments’ use of federally subsidized military technology and tactics.

“It was part of a national effort to get a better picture across the country of the militarization of police,” legal fellow Alexandra Morgan-Kurtz of the Pennsylvania ACLU said yesterday.

“In recent years, police have been seen less as being there for protection and more like a combat unit, in both their weaponry and their tactics, most of which has come out of the War on Drugs and federal funding. We wanted more information about what departments are getting funding, where they are receiving it from, what they are using it for and what are their interactions with citizens.”

The requests seek records related to the funding, protocol and tactics of Philadelphia SWAT and the Department’s use of cutting edge weapons and technology, including Mobile Forensic Data Extraction and GPS devices, biometric technology, unmanned aerial vehicles, shock cuffs and facial or behavioral recognition technology.

“From an anecdotal perspective, this disproportionately impacts poor and minority communities,” Morgan-Kurtz said.

“We want to make sure they’re getting adequate protections and not being afraid of police. When we get this information, we will recommend policy changes, if we something on a state level needs to be changed in regards to how SWAT teams perform their duties.”

The filings also request information about funding and equipment the Department requested and received from the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“A lot of departments don’t need the technology they’re getting,” Morgan-Kurtz said.

“They’re not in Iraq or Afghanistan, where they would need drones and tanks and really high-powered rifles. But they’ve been trained to be fearful of the population and think they need them. And in turn, the population is afraid of them and reacts negatively to them.”

She said she expects the group’s request will be granted – for the most part. “It might not be the entire request – as you can see, we asked for a lot of information and there are some exceptions to the Right to Know Law.  … But we definitely feel the information we’re requesting absolutely is public information.”

Similar requests were also filed with 27 other local law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania, as well as with the state police and National Guard.

“Pennsylvanians deserve to know the extent to which our local police are using military weapons and tactics for everyday policing,” executive director of the Pennsylvania ACLU Reggie Shuford said.

“The militarization of local police is a threat to Americans’ right to live without fear of military-style intervention in their daily lives, and we need to make sure these resources and tactics are deployed only with rigorous oversight and strong legal protections.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

US military tried, but failed to rescue journalist…

The U.S. military earlier this year tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria ,but failed to find the captives.

National

Fate of captured beluga whales in hands of…

A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.

Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

Television

'Doctor Who' personality profile: the 4 Doctors

When the time comes for a new Doctor, there's always some anxiety over the big question: Who will he be? The series owes its longevity…

Television

Billy Crystal to commemorate late actor Robin Williams…

  Comedian Billy Crystal will pay tribute to late actor Robin Williams at television's Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 25, the show's organizers said on…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

GAMES Hudson Common Open Aug. 21, 7 p.m. Hudson Common 356 W. 58 St. Free, www.hudsoncommonnyc.com The U.S. Open begins on Monday, but most of…

Movies

Review: Sadly, Matthew Weiner's 'Are You Here' is…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner tries his hand at movies with "Are You Here," a misjudged Owen Wilson-Zach Galifianakis comedy that turns into a drama.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

NFL

Jalen Saunders still unsure what caused car accident…

Jets rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since his car accident, but he didn't say a whole lot.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Wellbeing

Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…

Wellbeing

Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…