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    In suit vs. Boston police, the issue is to ensure both safety and due process

    Our organizations, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, filed a lawsuit seeking public records about the Boston Police Department’s so-called gang database.

    We believe Bostonians share the same fundamental goals, which include keeping communities safe and respecting democratic principles such as transparency, due process, and equal treatment.

    We do not suggest that it is easy to ensure safety and protect democratic values. But the Constitution is not just paper, and the 15 groups, including ours, who requested Police Department records are not just “paper warriors.”

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    We are accountable to, and represent as clients, young people who are affected by police practices. These youth have been stopped and frisked repeatedly, and had their personal information entered into a database and disseminated without their knowledge — often without any unlawful conduct. They have had incorrect information shared with immigration authorities that has led to their deportation, without an opportunity to state their case.

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    We all have a stake in both safety and due process. That’s why the Boston Police Department’s failure to provide public records is dismaying, as is the police commissioner’s attack on groups seeking transparency. We’d much rather work collaboratively with Commissioner William Gross to ensure openness and public participation in advancing policies that keep all communities safe.

    Claire Valentin

    Staff attorney

    Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts

    Lynn

    Nancy J. Kelly

    Managing attorney, immigration unit

    Greater Boston Legal Services

    Boston

    This letter was cosigned by representatives from the Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts, the Muslim Justice League, the Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, and the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project.