Thursday, July 26, 2007

AVP Launches Inquiry into Controversial Provincetown Arrest

The Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project today sent a Public Records Act request to Acting Chief Warren Tobias of the Provincetown Police Department. On Monday, the Town of Provincetown rejected the group’s call for an investigation into the use of force in connection with the July 14th arrest of Boston Disc Jockey Barry Scott. Mr. Scott was injured in the course of the violent arrest, which was prompted by allegations that he was playing his famous “Lost 45’s” too loudly at a back yard birthday party. Provincetown also rejected pleas that charges against Mr. Scott be dropped given the significant civil liberties concerns surrounding the episode, particularly the warrantless entry onto private property to effect the arrest and the disregard of Mr. Scott’s First Amendment free speech rights.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions raised by this very troubling arrest, and the Town of Provincetown is unwilling even to look into them,” said Don Gorton, the group’s Chairperson. “Accordingly, we have launched our own inquiry into serious concerns relating to police practice and procedures that this episode has brought to light,” Gorton continued.

Among the causes for concern are questions about poor training and inadequate screening and supervision of college-age “seasonal officers” employed for the summer, and the heavy-handed police response to complaints about non-criminal noise violations. Other questions relate to police sensitivity to cultural diversity—the party broken up was attended by gay men, while the arresting officers, Bova and Barone, are reportedly heterosexual; the detention of individuals in “protective custody”—Mr. Scott’s partner was placed in a jail cell without medical care for the night though accused of no crime; Provincetown’s ability to respond optimally to sexual orientation-based hate crimes; and Provincetown’s administrative remedies for instances of police misconduct.

Given the Acting Chief’s refusal to turn over information about the arrest to the press voluntarily, the Anti-Violence Project is seeking all relevant documents within the scope of the Massachusetts Public Records Law. If agency heads fail to provide requested public documents, the law allows for an appeal to be taken to the Secretary of State’s Office. The orders of that office are judicially enforceable. The Anti-Violence Project has established a Legal Defense Fund to assist Mr. Scott in fighting the charges.

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