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Menino says no to police patrols with M-16s

Menino says no to police patrols with M-16s

The Boston Police Department wants to arm neighborhood patrol officers with high-powered military assault weapons, but the mayor doesn’t think it’s such a good idea.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said last Friday he will not approve a police department plan to put semiautomatic M-16 rifles in the hands of regular patrol officers. But Menino says he’s open to giving them to “specialized units.”

The police recently obtained 200 M-16s free of charge from the U.S. military and had planned to give them to dozens of officers for their patrols after training them to use the rifles.

However, some community leaders criticized the lack of public notice and questioned the reasoning behind arming district officers with M-16s when the city’s SWAT team already has such weapons.

Mass. weighs bills making changes to election laws

Beacon Hill lawmakers this week weighed a raft of bills designed to make changes to the state’s election laws.

One bill would allow candidates to test computer programs used in voting machines before elections. Another would ban cities and towns from using school buildings as polling locations unless there are no other options available.

Other bills would bar the use of paid signature gatherers for groups seeking to place questions on the ballot and prohibit individuals from collecting signatures for more than one initiative at a time.

The hearing was scheduled for Wednesday at the State House before the Joint Committee on Election Laws.

New Bedford factory, site of ’07 immigration raid, closes down

NEW BEDFORD — A New Bedford leather-goods factory raided in 2007 by immigration agents will close its doors by July 31, the company that owns the plant announced last Friday.

Alliant Techsystems, a Minneapolis-based military contractor, said in a statement that the factory was operating well below capacity and the closure is part of a consolidation plan of its wholly owned subsidiary, Eagle Industries, Inc.

ATK spokesman Amanda Covington said the factory’s 350 employees were notified of the closure last Friday.

In 2007, federal immigration agents raided the plant and arrested 361 undocumented workers.

Immigrant advocates criticized the raid for separating families and leaving children without proper care. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the raid was properly handled.

Francesco Insolia, who owned the Michael Bianco Inc. factory at the time of the raid, was later sentenced to 12 months in prison and ordered to pay a $1 million fine after pleading guilty to knowingly hiring and concealing illegal workers.

Insolia sold the business to Eagle Industries soon after the raid.

Eagle Industries, based in Fenton, Mo., was acquired by ATK in March.

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank called the closure “absolute corporate savagery” and said it made ATK “unfit” to continue as a U.S. contractor.

“To buy a company sole for the purpose of closing it down, presumably to eliminate a competitor, is irresponsibility of the worst sort,” Frank said. “In my view, this makes ATK unfit as a supplier to the U.S. government, and I will make this clear to the appropriate federal agencies.”

But Covington said when ATK purchased Eagle Industries, the company was entering into a new market of producing products for the military and law enforcement agencies.

She said the move to close the New Bedford factory was a business decision.

“ATK plans to invest in and grow Eagle and make it a strong business,” Covington said.

Harvard study finds LAPD changed for the better

LOS ANGELES — A Harvard University study of the Los Angeles Police Department found the department has greatly improved since corruption scandals forced it under a federal consent decree in 2002.

The Kennedy School of Government released the study last Friday, finding that LAPD has reduced crime in the last eight years. Surveys also found that some Hispanic and black residents were not satisfied with the department and felt officers did not treat them respectfully.

The study included observation of officers and surveys of officers, residents and people who had been arrested by the LAPD.

Police Chief William Bratton commissioned the study last year.

The department entered the consent decree after the Department of Justice threatened to sue over repeated police misconduct, including the beating of Rodney King.

(Associated Press)