The Boston Police department has been robbing citizens of their cash — many of whom were never accused of a crime — to buy surveillance technology off the books, to spy on citizens.
As their report points out, an August investigation by WBUR and ProPublica found that even if no criminal charges are brought, law enforcement almost always keeps the money and has few limitations on how it’s spent. Some departments benefit from both state and federal civil asset forfeiture. The police chiefs in Massachusetts have discretion over the money, and the public has virtually no way of knowing how the funds are used.
Boston cops have stolen so much money that they are secretly buying more expensive gear to seemingly get better at stealing money. According to the report:
[I]n 2019 the Boston Police Department bought the device known as a cell site simulator — and tapped a hidden pot of money that kept the purchase out of the public eye.
A WBUR investigation with ProPublica found elected officials and the public were largely kept in the dark when Boston police spent $627,000 on this equipment by dipping into money seized in connection with alleged crimes.
Because this spy equipment was bought with funds stolen from citizens, not even the Boston city council knew police had it.
Boston city councilors interviewed by WBUR said they weren’t aware that the police had bought a cell site simulator. Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who represents Mattapan, Hyde Park and Roslindale, said, “I couldn’t even tell you, and I don’t think anybody on the council can necessarily tell you … how these individual purchases are made.”
Only because ProPublica obtained the documents, does anyone know the department is using stingray devices to spy on citizens. So much for transparency.