SWAT team's website yanked as ACLU lawsuit looms

Website spurred controversy over mission statement that reported agency was established in 1963 out of a fear and distrust of civil rights advocates

By Keith Eddings
The Eagle-Tribune

WILMINGTON, Mass. — The regional police agency in court over its refusal to release its records has taken down its website, even as the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union cites seven pages on the site as evidence in its lawsuit seeking the agency's records.

The website for the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) spurred controversy last summer when The Eagle-Tribune visited the site for a story about the ACLU lawsuit and found its mission statement reported it was established in 1963 out of a fear and distrust of civil rights advocates, anti-war activists and city dwellers moving to Boston's suburbs.

"The disorder associated with suburban sprawl as people migrated from larger cities, the development of the interstate highway system, the civil rights movement and the growing resistance to the Vietnam War threatened to overwhelm the serenity of the quaint, idyllic New England towns north and west of Boston," NEMLEC said in an undated statement on its website, using what critics said are code words for race and class to describe what led local police chiefs to organize the agency.

In a story The Eagle-Tribune published in July about NEMLEC's self-described origins and the ACLU's lawsuit seeking records about the SWAT team it operates, a former vice president of NEMLEC acknowledged that the mission statement needed a second look.

"I don't know the context of how that mission statement came to be," said Paul Tucker, who was then police chief in Salem, Mass. "I will look into it, speak with board members and ask that we have a mission statement that accurately reflects today's mission."

Spokesmen for the agency could not be reached yesterday to determine why it took down its web site, which now displays only a single page reading, "UNDER CONSTRUCTION."

The ACLU cites NEMLEC web pages seven times in the 15-page complaint it filed in June seeking to force the agency to give up the records involving its SWAT team. The ACLU attached printouts of the pages to its suits as exhibits, so their disappearance from the web is unlikely to hinder the suit.

Copyright 2014 The Eagle-Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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