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
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.