• BPD Commissioner Gross slams ACLU after lawsuit filed over gang database

    By: Julie Leonardi

    Updated:

    BOSTON - Boston's top cop is firing back at a lawsuit filed by the ACLU over the city's gang database.

    According to the lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union says the city's police department is being too secretive about its public records regarding gang members.

    The civil rights group is accusing police of targeting people of color when investigating gang violence, alleging Boston Police's system used to monitor gang members racially profiles, targets and investigates a disproportionate number of black and brown people who may not even belong to a gang.

    Commissioner William Gross took to Facebook to express his discontent with ACLU, calling the group "paper warriors." Gross defended the department's active police work as they continue to stop gang violence plaguing the city, while also calling out the ACLU's lack of consideration for efforts already underway to combat pressing issues.

    "How would they know, they are never in the streets but always hiding and waiting for a slow news day to justify their existence," Gross wrote on Facebook. 

    Gross wrote he feels the ACLU is being unfair, saying they don't understand what officers have to go through when dealing with gang violence. 

    In his post, Gross also credited Boston 25's recent report about the Boston Police Department's trip to El Salvador, home to two of the cities biggest gangs, to learn more about gang activity.

    "I sure as hell didn't see the ACLU in El Salvador working to find a solution to our youth being inducted into the MS-13 Gang and The 18th Street Gang," Gross wrote. "Didn't see the ACLU there or at any of our 22 programs and initiatives for our citizens and youth. Despite the paper warriors, we'll continue to do our jobs."

    Gross also said he "didn't see" the ACLU support police efforts or participate in any of their 22 youth programs and initiatives aimed at ending the "atrocities" committed by violent gangs in the state.

    Police spokesman Sgt. John Boyle told the Boston Herald last night the commissioner “shared his opinion on his personal Facebook page.” He declined to comment further.

    The post also calls out the ACLU for not taking the initiative to send their condolences to the police force when an officer is shot.

    Gross cites the shooting of Boston Police Officer John Moynihan, who was shot point-blank in the face by a convicted felon during a traffic stop in 2015 and recalls how the ACLU's intentions were to defend the suspect instead of having the "common decency" to offer their condolences after the officer was shot.

    "I sure as hell saw a member of the ACLU in the background taking pictures as a certain group tried to crash through the crime scene three hours later as they advocated for the criminal that shot the officer," Gross wrote.“No ACLU when officers are shot, no ACLU when we help citizens, no ACLU present when we have to explain to a mother that her son or daughter was horribly murdered by gang violence."

    Gross mentions how the ACLU is quick to criticize and point blame, but won't "take a risk or even walk the streets to interact with our communities."

    In response to Gross, the ACLU of Massachusetts responded with a statement saying, “Commissioner Gross’ accusations appear to be nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from the serious issues raised by an ACLU lawsuit that seeks to uncover whether the Boston Police Department is unfairly and arbitrarily targeting people of color through its gang database and sharing that information with federal immigration officials.”

    Boston 25 News reached out to to a Boston Police spokesperson, but they declined to comment on the commissioner's post and lawsuit. 

    "It’s not that I don’t think the ACLU should care about police being racist, of course they should," said Wendy Murphy, Attorney and victim advocate. "The question is, is this the right way to go about solving that potential problem and the answer is obviously not." 

    Murphy went on to say that though it sounds like a noble thing for the ACLU to do, it might be doing more harm than good in regards to how the police is viewed.

    "But if what they’re really doing is protecting the gangs, making up the claim that this is all about prohibiting racism when in fact they’re going to undermine the ability of police to stop the violence," she adds. 

    ACLU of Massachusetts, the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, Greater Boston Legal Services, the Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts, the Muslim Justice League, the National Lawyers Guild, Massachusetts Chapter, and the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project are all taking part in the lawsuit.

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