Sorry Chief Gemme, but transparency and public records law apply to the internets too

I penned this open letter to Chief Gemme and the community after finding that the Worcester Police Department (WPD) removed from the WPD Facebook page an earlier letter I wrote raising concerns about Worcester shifting away from Community Policing towards Predictive Policing . Community members have also now documented that other posts and comments raising issues or making critical comments have also been removed.

February 17th, 2012

Dear Chief Gemme,

Yesterday I publicly shared my concerns with you regarding the Worcester Police Department’s (WPD) training on Predictive Policing and the inherent conflict, danger and disruptive nature of pursuing such a new course while also attempting to implement Community Policing.

This is a crucial conversation for our community as we struggle to effectively prioritize limited policing resources and funding, and so I had directed my elected officials and local media to also read and respond.

Unfortunately, the letter Iposted to the Worcester Police Department’s Facebook page has been either blocked, hidden or deleted which raises immediate concerns vis a vis transparency, constituent communication with elected officials and data retention. I have since been told that communications from other Worcester residents have also been removed. Why is the Worcester Police Department opposed to people asking questions and raising issues? Is that not the definition of Social Media?

Please do not dismiss this as a Myspace food fight, you had seemed to understand the new primacy of digital communication. With the launch of the WPD’s foray into social media you wrote, “Social media is not only the future, but the present. Communicating directly with the public and providing current information through innovative platforms is critical to maintaining trust. “

While exasperated teens and dueling friends are free to simply delete unwanted comments and criticisms posted to their Facebook pages you are not. As you have been frequently reminded, the Worcester Police Department is no different than most public bodies in the Commonwealth and as such is bound to adhere to Massachusetts Public Records law and data retention guidelines.

I ask that you immediately restore my letter to you and Worcester City Councilors to the WPD Facebook page, that other posts made by community residents be immediately restored as well, and that the community be reassured that future disregard for open community discourse, transparency and public records management will not reoccur.

Thank you,
Kevin Ksen

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