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

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.