Tag Archives: Worcester Police Department

Election fall out: New Worcester School Committee takes a turn for the worse

By Gordon Davis
 
The two liberal or progressive members of the Worcester School Committee, Hilda Ramirez and Tracy A. O’Connell Novick, lost the election and will be replaced by what some consider to be a right wing challenger, Donna M. Colorio, and a relatively unknown Molly McCullough. I say that Ms. Ramirez and Ms. O’Connell Novick are progressive because from my experience they understood the changes that the Worcester Public School system is going through as it becomes more of a majority minority school system. They did more than just maintain a “color blind” system of public education but instead tried to accommodate each child’s level of educational ability.

It is clear what the newly elected Worcester School Committee members will do: It has been my experience that Ms. Coloria does not understand the school system’s changes and is resistant to them.  There are some who say that she is connected to the right wing Tea Party which has consistently displayed bias toward newcomers, especially Hispanic people. I suppose we can expect what, on the surface, will be called “color blind” decisions by Ms. Colorio to prove to have a disparately adverse impact on many poor Worcester kids – kids without adequate educational resources outside of our schools, especially Black and Latino students.

I only know Ms. McCullough from her literature, and I do not have any strong opinions about her. Most of her election statements seem to be the usual campaign cliches that do not say much nor offend anyone. I suppose we will soon find out about her real thinking and character in the near term.

It is unfortunate to have lost both Ms. O’Connell Novick and Ms. Ramirez. The City’s failure to re-elect Ms. Ramirez is especially a blow, as there are now no so called minorities on the Worcester School Committee. There are no Asians, no Blacks, no Latinos.

I know and like school committee members Messrs Brian O’Connell, Jack Foley and John Monfredo – incumbents who the voters re-elected. They are decent people and well qualified such that it is likely their decisions will be based on a pedagogy that will do no harm to Worcester’s students and their families.

School committee member Briancharia has not shown to me that she has the capacity or the compassion to be on the Worcester school committee. Her almost irrational demands about police in our schools are particularly worrisome. Sometimes I feel her lack of a college degree and any experience in education makes her less capable than some of the others who ran for school committee.

Now that Ms. Colorio has won, it appears that interim Worcester Public Schools superintendent Mr. Rodrigues’ (who worked under departing WPS superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone) chances of becoming the contractual School Superintendent are greatly reduced. From all accounts Ms. Maureen Binienda, principal of South High School, is well qualified to be a superintendent of schools. However, I wonder if her backers in the Worcester School Committee have taken into account our schools’ demographic changes aforementioned. Sometimes a color blind policy is not what is needed to address the particulars of a situation.

The police in the Worcester Public Schools was rammed down the throat of the school system so quickly that there is no policy nor protocol for the arrest of kids at school, the use of police force at school, nor the interactions of school administration and police.

The police powers are authorized under a different state statute than are found in the Department of Education regulations.  

There will be a city-wide meeting Nov, 18, 6 PM at Centro, 11 Sycamore St., to discuss this lack of policy issue.

I hope that the inconsistencies between Worcester police authority and Department of Education authority can be resolved in such a way as not to be harmful to our students.

I also hope that a Worcester school committee that is now all-white can make compassionate, intelligent decisions for a school system that is now majority minority. 

Congrats, Ronny! We “salute” our proud graduate of the WPD Worcester Police Clergy Academy!!!!

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November 5, 2015 – ICT contributing writer Ron O’Clair in WPD Squad Room B just before the graduation ceremony! Go, Ronny, go!!!

Here’s Ron’s story on the Academy:

The Worcester Police Department has expanded its Clergy Academy to accommodate citizens as well as members of the clergy. It is an 8-week course designed to familiarize the participants with the various tasks associated with police work here in the City of Worcester and to perhaps help ease tensions between the police and the community at large.
  
It is open to citizens who are interested and pass the required records check to determine suitability for the program.
  
The first of the three hour weekly sessions deals with Administrative Details, Chief’s Greeting, Department Organization, Participant Introductions, Bureau of Professional Standards, the second deals with Constitutional Law, Criminal Law. The third deals with WPD Court Liaison Office, Use of Force. The fourth deals with District Attorney’s Office, Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault. The fifth deals with Youth Violence: Gang Unit, and Vice Squad. The sixth deals with Community Impact & School Liaison. The seventh deals with Stress Unit, Cultural Training, & Cell Room /Booking Procedures. The eighth and final class is when they hold the Graduation Ceremony for those who have successfully completed the course and issue a Certificate of Completion.
  
Somewhere during the intervening weeks participants are allowed to schedule a Ride-Along with an officer on duty on the shift of their choosing to get a sense of what an officer faces on a daily, or nightly basis.
  
As I am well aware of the level of activity that transpires overnights here in and on the City of Worcester streets, I chose to do the Ride-Along during the 11-7 shift, and was surprised to see that many of the other participants also chose that time slot.
  
The subject matter of discussion as I write this was on Constitutional and Criminal Law, and the class was taught by Lieutenant John Towns, who informed the class that actual Police Academy participants spend 186 hours of study on these subjects which he had only three hours to teach the participants of the Clergy/Civilian Academy on. I found the course informative and interesting, as was the discussions generated by the course materials between the Lt.. and the participants in the Academy.
  
I believe that this is a good program that will help to raise awareness of policy and procedures of the police here in Worcester and that it can only help the participants understand our department better as well as hopefully bring about more participation from the public in assisting the police in maintaining order in our community.
  
As many of you readers know, I have been an outspoken advocate of Law Enforcement, while at the same time not afraid to call attention to individual officers deserving of recognition, be it for doing good deeds or bad, I call it like I see it.

In the final analysis, we the people must support our local Law Enforcement, and not be afraid to bring attention to those deserving of reprimand for actions detrimental to the public interests.

The Bureau of Professional Standards of the Worcester Police Department is there for all to have an opportunity to address grievances they may have with any individual officer and is required to investigate any allegation of misconduct on the part of any of its officers.

They can even be reached online through the WorcesterMa.Gov website, and you can access that in seven different languages by scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking on the flag icon of the language you are most familiar with.

– Ron O’Clair

My Impromptu meeting with Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus

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Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus. photo: Bill Coleman

By Gordon Davis

I met Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus for the first time Saturday, October 24, 2015. I was standing outside of the Belmont AME Zion Church in Worcester. Mr. Augustus walked by on his way to the NAACP forum on education. As most people know by now I am legally blind, with only reduced sight in one eye. For that reason I did not recognize the city manager. I said to him: “I think I know you.”

Mr. Augustus identified himself, and then to my surprise he said, “You are Gordon Davis and you write hateful things about me.”

I thought politicians have thicker skins and do not get upset about things written about them.

I responded that I never wrote any thing hateful about him.

I challenged him to cite one example of any hate speech or even anything personal about him.

Mr. Augustus said he could not at the moment think of anything hateful that I had said about him.

I said I thought he was maliciously prosecuting the four BlackLives Matter protesters.

He said the courts would decide the issue. Then he went into this monologue about how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail and that protesters should go to jail. 

My wife reminded me as we stood talking to Mr. Augustus not to lose my temper. So Mr. Augustus and I started a back and forth on the issue.

Mr. Augustus said the Black Lives Matter protesters disturbed the peace at Kelley Square because the truck driver was “inching into the protester.”

I told Mr. Augustus that the truck driver’s “inching” was a form of assault.

Mr. Augustus said the driver was provoked by the presence of the Black Lives Matter protester.

I told Mr. Augustus that provocation was not a defense for assault. 

You can not hit or threaten someone because he calls you a name. You can not claim that there is a disturbance of the peace because people hold a sign saying “BlackLives Matters.”

The issue of the lack of prosecution of the dog owners in Worcester’s Boynton Park was brought up by my wife.

She said the City of Worcester knows the name of the violators at Boynton Park and that they provoked the City of Worcester worker.

At Boynton Park, the City brought charges against a City of Worcester worker driving a truck in Boynton Park – but not against the truck driver at Kelly Square.

Mr. August said that was different, but he did not give an explanation as to how it was different.

Mr. Augustus offered three different rationales for the City of Worcester seeking charges against the Kelley Square protesters:

The first was that the City of Worcester offered the protesters a deal that amounted to extortion; don’t protest again and the City will not seek charges.

The second is the Worcester Police saying it saw a video.

The third is Mr. Augustus’ comment that protesters should go to jail like Dr. King.

My first impression of Mr. Augustus is that he is thin-skinned and he holds grudges.

He is not above using state power to get his way – even if that use of power is marginally legitimate and possible unlawful.

I think that the defense attorneys for the Bkack Lives Matter protesters at Kelley Square should call on Mr. Augustus and Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme to testify under oath on November 9, 2015, to get evidence on how they formed the decision to seek charges against the protesters.

This information should be made public.

I think a jury might see the malicious prosecution by City Manger Augustus and Police Chief Gemme. Evidence of this possible malicious prosecution could be dispositive and help a jury understand the case better.

Confusion re: City of Worcester policy of arresting students/kids at school

NAACP Forum 10-24-15
The NAACP education forum

By Gordon Davis

The NAACP hosted a forum on education, October 24, at the AME Zion Church on Illinois Street. One of the topics for discussion was called Public Safety which was led by two police officers and the Public Safety Liaison Officer for the Worcester Public Schools. 

Groups opposing the police arresting kids at schools were told that they could not collect signatures for their petition to
City Council nor address the forum.

At one point the organizer of the event came out to the sidewalk and told these groups to stop talking to people. The minister of the Church also told the groups to stop their petition collection while they were on the sidewalk in front of the Church.  After some dialog the NAACP and AME Zion Church allowed the group to come into the event’s workshop.

The workshop on Public Safety was run by Public Safety Liaison Officer Rob Pezzella, Sergeant Lopez, and Officer Diaz.  Sergeant Lopez and Officer Diaz are full time police assigned to Worcester Public High Schools.

Each of Worcester’s five public high schools has a full time police officer assigned to it. There is a single police officer assigned to all of the middle schools. For elementary school Mr. Perzella explained they are covered by route cases. 

Mr. Pezzella stated there is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Worcester Public Schools and the Worcester Police that was outdated and needed revision. He said that he had no timetable for its revision and it was not entirely clear what would go into the revised MOU.  When asked whether the public could have input in the writing of the revised MOU, Mr. Pezzella said that would have to defer to Superintendant of Schools, the Manager, and the Mayor.  Sergeant Lopez said that the Chapter 222 of the Act of 2012 required that there some sort of public hearings.

The two police officers told the workshop attendees what they did at school. They said that they did a myriad of duties, including directing traffic, visiting parents, and counseling. Officer Diaz said that she would conduct random drug searches with a drug dog.  However, she said that she does not as a rule intervene in a discipline issues unless she is asked to do so by the school administration.  Officer Lopez and Diaz both said once she is involved, the principal could not tell them to stand down. Sergeant Lopez asserted that only the District Attorney could order him to stand down.

The assertions and opinions of the police officers are not found in the MOU or in Chapter 222. It is not clear what is the City of Worcester’s policy on the interaction of the police and the school administration and the students. 

It would make sense for the City to clarify this policy as soon as possible in order for the parents and students to understand what is expected.

A counselor from the Worcester School Department spoke of how she interacts with the students and parents when there are issues including children requiring assistance (CRA). This counselor is familiar with the regulations and guides the parents and children through the procedures. However when asked, she said that she was not an advocate, but a neutral officer of the court. She had no privilege and the parent and child should not have an expectation of confidentiality. 

It was not clear from her presentation whether the parents and children were informed of this before speaking with her.  

The groups collecting the petition signatures outside the Church said that the arrest of children at school was traumatizing to all concerned and harmful to the child. The groups went on to say that arresting kids at school has a racist element and was a part of the school to jail pipeline.

PLP and the Massachusetts Human Rights Committee are hosting a discussion on the interaction of the police and school and City Policy. The discussion is planned for November 18, 6 PM, at CENTRO, 11 Sycamore St. 01608.

The City policy on arrests of children at school should be clarified by the School Department, the police, the Manager, and the Mayor. There should at least some minimum age that the police would not arrest a child, but seek instead a CRA. Right now there is no official policy; policy is set by the individual police officers without official guidance. This creation of an official policy should be transparent with the input of the public.

Go, Ronny, go!!!!!

MAIN SOUTH: The PIP is gone, but the crime remains the same

By Ron O’Clair

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Hit and run …

Early Wednesday morning the 7th of October as I was still at my post watching the nefarious goings on in my area of concern here on Main Street in the 700 block, I heard a terrific crash right outside my window.

I was able to look out in time to see the same Dodge Ram pick up that had been terrorizing the neighborhood all night long previously running up and down Main Street at a high rate of speed making U-turns and coming back to interact with the street denizens who habituate my area.

I had almost called in a complaint on the truck for that behavior earlier, but the response times from the Worcester Police Department often are such that I figured they would be gone by the time the police arrived.

The guy in the black truck had been burning rubber during those U-turns which tended to be at Main & Hermon, and Main & Sycamore.

Several times during the course of the night, the offending vehicle would park outside of my building on the Charlton Street side and make transactions with the street dealers that perpetuate this particular spot in our beautiful City of Worcester.

I have tried to get the WPD to investigate the street level dealings that take place all night long outside my windows that are readily apparent to anyone that cares to look, but so far have not had much success.

Apparently, hanging around all night long outside of residential and commercial property that is clearly posted with No Trespass with no legitimate purpose is allowed in this section of the City of Worcester. At times there are as many as 20 people congregating outside of this building. You can travel the length of Main Street and not find that anywhere but here at ground zero at 2, 3, 4, or 5 in the morning.

It is the same people, doing the same things, day after day, night after night, and nothing is being done in the way of rectifying an intolerable situation, outside of my own objections, actions, and vigilance. I am ready to throw in the towel and give it up as a lost cause.

I thank the 580 Worcester voters outside of myself who cast a ballot in my favor in the preliminary election for City Councilor At-Large, I am grateful that there are still some people who can see the truth of the situation that exists here in the 700 block of Main Street.  

Once in a while, someone is caught in the act of criminal behavior and actually has to face the consequences.

It just so happens that the driver of the black Dodge Ram truck was caught this morning. The woman whose car was destroyed may be able to get compensated for the damages, none of which would have happened had I not been witness and willing to do what is required of a citizen when he or she witnesses a crime.

It is your civic duty to assist the police in maintaining order in your community. Many people fail to do that duty for various reasons, and the result is that the police are hamstrung by lenient laws designed to protect the innocent from false charges which many times allow the criminals to continue their crimes without consequence.

So, after striking the vehicle, the guy revved the engine and pushed the car ahead a full car length, before finally backing up and fleeing the scene, only going as far as Wellington Street where he quickly parked the vehicle. This gave me ample opportunity to witness the incident, and telephone the police.

While waiting for the police to arrive, the woman who owned the damaged vehicle came out of 718 Main Street with a friend, saw me in the window and asked if I had seen who did it.

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I pointed out the black truck now parked on Wellington Street, at which point the passenger that was riding in the vehicle at the time of the crash saw me doing my duty as a citizen.

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There was some panic at that point among the perpetrators, and I believe an attempt was made by them to forestall summoning the police because the passenger whistled after the two women who were now heading back to the building I assume to  summon the police.

The driver, with his shaven head plainly visible had exited the vehicle and was staggering all over the place on Wellington Street in what I surmise was a drug/alcohol induced state of intoxication. 
It bordered on the bizarre, this whole scene, but really it was just another day in the hood. When the police finally got here, the operator was inside the drivers seat clapping his hands. The two women were taking cell phone pictures of the license plate of the truck which I had already reported to the call taker for the Worcester Police Department having read it with my telephoto lens as it sat parked on Wellington Street.

The black Dodge Ram got towed away by the police, which probably means that it was unregistered and that the plate did not belong to it which will no doubt cause problems for the woman who had her vehicle damaged. The operator was taken away in the Paddy Wagon, and the damaged car remained parked outside my building for several hours.
I am quite certain that had I not done my duty, the occupants of the black Dodge Ram had no intention of owning up to the fact that they had caused the damage to the woman’s vehicle.

Certainly I am not winning any friends among the criminal element by my taking the moral high road and doing the right thing in these situations, but my faith in the system demands that I do it. If we fail to do our part, it is only a matter of time until there would be total chaos and anarchy on the streets.

People need to do their part, the police alone can’t control the situation. If we all do what is required of us as citizens as laid out by our forefathers, we could restore out inner cities to order in no time. It is a sad state of affairs that I have to call the police to report people sitting right on my front steps smoking crack cocaine out in the open on Main Street, only to have them come too late to catch the offender in action. Same goes for my witnessing trespassers doing drugs on the private property or when vehicles come to make drug buys, by the time the police arrive to investigate the suspicious vehicle report, the transaction has taken place and the next one occurs. It is a never ending cycle of lawlessness that is not being halted.

Perhaps getting this out there in print will help change that.
I urge other concerned citizens who reside in my location to start phoning the police with complaints about the activities that go on outside their windows on a 24/7 basis. When enough complaints are made, things will start to happen.

Worcester Police Department’s Camera Collaborative helps keep Worcester safe!

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The photo is of the warning sticker the Worcester Police give to Worcester residents or biz owners who participate in the program.     pic – Ron O’Clair

By Ron O’Clair

There is a new tool in use in Worcester in the ongoing efforts to deal with the seemingly ever increasing crime rate that is predominantly due to the rising percentage of the citizenry who participate in criminal activity that is focused on maintaining illegal drug habits.

The tool I mention is the Worcester Police Department’s Camera Collaborative that allows property owners to allow the Worcester Police access to the feeds from any surveillance camera’s that are installed in efforts to curtail or decrease the likelihood of criminal activity in certain areas.

While the police will not monitor the feeds continuously, they will be able to use the images stored on the systems memory to help prosecute the guilty when crime occurs in range of the camera’s that are registered with the collaborative by being able to go into the memory of the systems to retrieve data recorded that may show investigators crucial evidence that will help prosecute the criminals.

As I author this story, there are four Worcester Police officers in my rear parking area as a result of a call I made based upon seeing another two in a long line of trespassing drug addicts who continually come onto the posted private property located adjacent to the old location of the P.I.P Shelter and shoot Heroin or smoke Crack Cocaine behind either my dumpster, or the vehicles parked there along the rearmost portion of the property where they indulge in the drug of their choice and leave behind the evidence of their having been there with used needles and other drug paraphernalia associated with drug use.

In most previous calls, the police responding would most generally allow the trespassing individuals to leave the property without taking any legal action against them, which resulted in their coming back again after the police went on about their duties protecting the lives and property of the citizens of our fair City of Worcester.

I took it upon myself to go out and speak with the Sergeant on the scene which produced a total of 4 marked patrol cars, one supervisor’s Explorer, the Paddy Wagon, and an Ambulance, to let him know that this problem has been ongoing and continuous lately with numerous instances of my having called to take legal action on the law breakers only to result in repeated instances of the same activity because the police take no legal action against those who continually trespass, though I am perfectly willing to prosecute if I have too, in order that others will get the message that they can’t just trespass at will on private property.

For as many times as the police have let these people go with a warning, I have given numerous warnings myself by informing these people in person that they are not allowed, or welcome to come do their drugs on the private property. It is a frustrating situation. I have sometimes been assaulted verbally or physically when I attempt to control the situation without the involvement of the police as I know they have more important duties to attend too and dislike having to take them away from those duties to deal with these trespassing drug users, and due to response times being what they are, many times the trespassers leave before the police can arrive.

This problem seems to have grown lately with regards to the property I manage due to the criminals getting over their camera shyness which I attribute to lack of prosecution for those caught in the act of illegal activity, as well as the fact that I have not posted many new videos made off the camera feeds directly to You Tube like I did with the case of the stabbing on Main Street, and the car break on Charlton Street where a customer of the Spanish Grille had items stolen from her vehicle when she inadvertently left her window open allowing a thief to take advantage of her own carelessness in a crime of opportunity.

For a time there after I installed the system, the area had become a ghost town at night compared to before, and lately they are coming back out there at night, all night long along the side and front of the property engaged in the criminal conspiracy to traffic narcotics in the 700 block of Main Street. They are being helped by certain of the tenants to have access to the interior of the building, and are causing disturbances and inconveniences for the people not involved in illegal activity.

The Camera Collaborative of the Worcester Police Department can help identify those individuals committing crimes in our City of Worcester, and I urge property owners or managers who have installed systems to participate in it.

The contact person I have is: Sergeant Anthony Petrone of the Real Time Crime Center of the Worcester Police Department at (508) 799-8658 who you can contact for more information about this program.

The result of the call I made today about the trespasser’s resulted in the female going away in the ambulance, and the male suspect being taken away in the Paddy Wagon. I believe that this had nothing to do with my speaking to the Sergeant as I had noticed they were detaining these individuals prior to my going out to speak with them. I believe they are getting tired as I am of the same people doing the same things over and over again. I am a huge proponent of treatment and recovery from drug and alcohol addictions and have hopes that those people will see the light and get the help they need to overcome the addiction that drives them to break the law.

Sad to say, Wanda Luz-Diaz, one of those whom  I had helped get into recovery through involvement with the judicial system has relapsed and is back out there among those that hang around the outside of my building up to no good in her quest for another fix, or hit, whatever she can manage to obtain.

There are many who hate me for what I do, not understanding that I believe that leaving addicts in the misery of their individual addiction is playing Russian Roulette with their lives. Intervention and treatment is a far better option than waiting for them to take the hit, or inject the tainted dose that kills them. There is that old saying about if you can’t help an addict, don’t hurt them. What they fail to see is that by doing nothing, and not intervening or trying to get them the help they need to overcome their addiction is hurting them, and those that love them. Getting them into recovery whether they want it or not, is not hurting them, it is helping them resume a better way of life, just like the girl from the “zombie walk” video I posted, who because of the video is still clean and in the life of her little girl after having been addicted and on the streets around my area of concern the 700 block of Main Street. Samantha made the decision to seek treatment and do what it takes to remain drug free, which is the only way it will work. My video was responsible for her making up her mind to get the treatment that saved her life.
For that, many in the drug culture hate me, but I know that Samantha and her little girl are grateful, and that is worth my efforts and the scorn I get from those who fail to understand that recovery works if you work at it. I believe this program will help, rather than hurt those out there lost in the throes of addiction and the crime that supports those addictions.

Smart move! (For now) Worcester police officers in our schools

Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty announced today that Superintendent of Schools Melinda Boone, City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Chief of Police Gary Gemme and he have come to an agreement to develop and implement the school resource officer model in the Worcester Public Schools.

In addition to the four liaisons currently servicing the schools, three additional Worcester Police Department officers will enhance support and coverage to all eleven [City of Worcester] secondary schools for the upcoming school year.

“We have always been proactive about the safety of our students and that is why, working with Dr. Boone and Manager Augustus, we will be increasing the number of school resource officers,” said Mayor Petty.  “These highly trained officers will foster relationships with students and faculty, continuing to ensure an environment where teachers can teach and students can learn.”

One WPD School Resource Officer will continue to be assigned full-time to each of the city’s five comprehensive high schools – Burncoat High, Doherty High, North High, South High, and Worcester Technical High School.

Two additional full-time police officers will be assigned to the remaining two grades 7- through 12 schools and the city’s four middle schools.

“The safety and well being of WPS students has always been my number one priority every day, and this year is no exception.  These resource officers will be extremely well trained to provide collaboration and support to our school administrative teams so our students can focus on learning,” said Superintendent Melinda Boone.  “We welcome continued partnership with the Worcester Police Department to use a school-based safety model that is used by many districts throughout the country.”

The Worcester Public Schools will continue to reimburse the City of Worcester for the shared cost of four school resource officers.

The WPD will shift resources to place the additional police officers in the schools, ensuring no additional dollars are taken out of the classroom.

“The safety of our schools is paramount, and the city is happy to step up to do our part to ensure it,” said City Manager Augustus. “By providing additional officers, we will not only benefit from a day-to-day security presence in our schools, but will help the police build relationships with kids that will be beneficial in a number of ways.”

The officers will be strategically selected by Worcester Police Chief Gemme for the School Resource Officer role to ensure the right temperament, training and personality. The officers will go through specialized training as part of the school resource officer role.

“The Worcester police department enthusiastically endorses the decision to expand our community policing partnership with the Worcester Public Schools.  The school liaison officers are committed to building relationships based upon trust and respect with the school administrators, teachers, students, and parents.  We look forward to helping to provide a safe and secure environment for members of the public school community,” said Chief Gemme.

Lincoln Square 6/20 – Some thoughts on our police force after participating in the First Responders’ Lives Matter rally

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Balloons at Lincoln Square …

By Ron O’Clair

I was honored to have attended and participated in the “First Responders’ Lives Matter Rally” held at the World War I monument at Lincoln Square, Saturday, June 20, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

I stayed nearly an hour holding signs and supporting our men and women here in Worcester and the surrounding communities who go out of their way to help people – often at the risk of their own safety and well being.

I believe it is important to support our local police, fire and emergency medical services personnel.

I believe strongly that Worcester is more fortunate than many other communities throughout our country where there have been many cases of misconduct. Sure, we have a certain degree of problems with official misconduct being ignored and actually having been covered up by a corrupt system that long held sway here, in the second largest City in New England. Worcester was once a hotbed of political cronyism, outrageous nepotism and flagrant disregard for the rights of the accused to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. But I believe Worcester has been making progress …

The recent events, such as the arrest and conviction of one former Worcester police officer for rape and indecent assault, and the arrest of another Worcester police officer for mistreating a prisoner and using racial epithets can only serve to make our Worcester Police Department more aware of the consequences of using the authority vested in each officer improperly and that this can lead to consequences.

I have personally been mistreated by the police in the past myself, but I cling to the belief that as imperfect as it can be, our system is the only thing preventing us from becoming another battleground like Ferguson or Baltimore.

It is important that we support the police, the fire, and the emergency medical services people, and if we have grievances, we need to address them through the proper channels.

To this end, I believe that there should be more effective means for aggrieved citizens to have their concerns addressed fairly and impartially.

The current process leaves a lot to be desired, such as the case in which I reported a police officer for an unprovoked physical attack upon my person to the Bureau of Professional Standards of the Worcester Police, only to have the complaint dismissed as “unfounded” or “not sustained” – even though in that case another police officer witnessed the offending officer assaulting me.

The “Blue Wall” of silence needs to be reviewed.

I would have been sufficiently content with a simple apology on behalf of the officer who transgressed upon me as I understand the stress they operate under.

When and if you find yourself in the position of having your rights violated, or taken for granted, the best course of action would be to endure the mistreatment and make a complaint later.

It is not wise to antagonize, or argue with an officer, which will just lead to more, and worse mistreatment.

On the whole, I am optimistic that Worcester has come a long way to address these issues, and to ensure that the trend continues so that all citizens are treated equally under the law, providing that they are law-abiding citizens and not criminals engaged in criminal activity who resist arrest when apprehended.

In those cases, if you get hurt by failure to obey the lawful commands of an officer of the law, what results is your own damned fault, and I have no sympathy for you.

Why the Department of Justice needs to investigate the Worcester Police Department

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Worcester police officers in downtown Worcester

By Gordon Davis

Recently the Department of Justice wrote a negative report regarding misconduct and the poor practices of the Cleveland Police Department.

Some of the issues in Cleveland that were found in need of improvement:

The unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons

The unnecessary, excessive or retaliatory use of less lethal force including tasers, chemical spray and fists

Excessive force against persons who are mentally ill or in crisis, including in cases where the officers were called exclusively for a welfare check

and the employment of poor and dangerous tactics that place police officers in situations where avoidable force becomes inevitable and places officers and civilians at unnecessary risk.

The report also described a lack of transparency in the Cleveland Police Department that allowed the misconduct to continue over many years.

In Worcester no one outside of the Worcester Police Department can say with certainty how much police misconduct there is in the Worcester Police Department.

For decades this information has been kept from the public, even when ordered by the courts to make it public.
The ACLU, the daily and others have tried to obtain what should be public records from the Worcester Police Department – a city department funded by the taxpayers. With each attempt, the Worcester Police Department has blocked any significant release of public records.

There is evidence of police misconduct.

The latest being the allegations that a Worcester Police officer beat up a shackled prisoner in the Worcester lock up.

Even here the videotape of the alleged misconduct has not been released.

In light of the many allegations of misconduct by the Worcester Police and the lack of transparency, an investigation by the Department of Justice would be welcomed.

The DOJ investigation might find that:

1. the Worcester police are relatively well managed and the department is doing a good job.

2. the Worcester Police Department is non-compliant to the civil rights of residents – police officers can be abusive.

3. the Worcester Police Department is slightly flawed and in need of only some changes.

This DOJ investigation will confirm or belay any trust issues with the communities of color. The powers that be should not be afraid of such an investigation by the Department of Justice. After all, the city manager asked it to come to Worcester to help with race relations. It makes sense for city officials to now ask the Department of Justice to give its seal of approval – or disapproval – to the Worcester Police Department.

This is troubling: At DOJ meeting #1, held May 18 at the YWCA in Worcester  – a black woman was booed by white people when she raised the suggestion of the Department of Justice investigating the Worcester Police Department. It was more troubling when a local newspaper columnist made light of her suggestion.

There still exists a great divide in race relations in Worcester.

There is a need for the additional action of the Department of Justice. The DOJ should investigate the Worcester Police Department – to see the good and what needs to be improved. Local lives hang in the balance.

It seems local activists are writing a letter to the U.S. Attorney office of Carmen Ortiz – making this petition.

Worcester and the Department of Justice – meeting #1, May 18, 2015

By Gordon Davis

The first of several race relations discussions initiated by Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus began last night at the YWCA, Worcester. The discussions, so far, seemed poorly designed and did not reach the people who needed to be at the table.

Young men of color were conspicuously absent.

In the meeting room, which was filled to capacity, young men of color and those who interact with them could be counted on one hand.

Muhammad Ali-Salaam of the Community Relations Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) explained as best he could what the discussions were about. He had with him a team of facilitators who sat at each table.

Mr. Ali-Salaam said that the DOJ came at the request of the City Manager. The discussions on race relations were intended to vet Augustus’ plan for more diversity in Worcester government/public life and to get input from the community. Augustus said he is hopeful that these discussions would be more fruitful than the other discussions on race held previously in Worcester.

In response to a question about the DOJ investigating the Worcester Police Department for misconduct and Worcester City government for malicious prosecution, Mr. Ali-Salaam said the petition for such investigations should go to Ms. Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for this district. She has a field office in Worcester.

Mr. Culin Owyang, Deputy Attorney General for Massachusetts, said he and the Attorney General hoped to have a positive impact on Worcester’s discussions on race and to give them some structure.

On the subject of Worcester District Attorney (DA) Joseph Early Jr. recusing his office from the prosecution of a Worcester police officer accused of beating a shackled prisoner and transferring the prosecution to Attorney General Maura Healy’s office, Mr. Owyang had no comment.

He said DA Early should be asked those questions. He had no comment on why DA Early did not erect a legal wall around the prosecution or appoint a special prosecutor.

Several people in attendance said the racial tension in Worcester has been centered around Black Lives Matter demonstrations and Worcester Police misconduct and alleged public safety issues at North High School.

There were few, if any protesters, from Black Lives Matter and no high school students from North High School.

Why???

The outreach could be better for the city’s upcoming discussions on public safety and education.

Two young men of color who were at the meeting expressed disappointment with the low turnout of young men of color.

Born Taylor, a young Black man, said he felt that some good could come from the discussions, but he also felt that the division of attendees by table could have been better. He thought discussions would not attain some of their goals if more young men of color did not attend.

Caleb Encarnacion-Rivera, a young Hispanic man, said he came in order to help the improvement of the city. He was especially motivated because now he had a child in the Worcester Public Schools.

Like Mr. Taylor, Mr. Encarnacion-Rivera hoped that more young men of color would attend the future discussions.

Two Worcester city councillors, Gary Rosen and Sarai Rivera, said they were there to learn more.

City Manager Augustus said we should not be held captive by the past, where similar discussions started out enthusiastically but nothing significant came about.

One white woman said there is no racial problem in Worcester. She said that there were only agitators stirring things up, causing the problems. While she was speaking, my thoughts went to the old civil rights movement where Bull Connors said something similar about happy Negroes and outside agitators.

Another white woman said some in the room were unaware that the term “color blindness” in terms of race had shifted from a relatively progressive phrase to a code word for institutional racism. Although honest and a plea for discourse, such comments will make the discussions difficult for some people of color.

A black woman who said that the DOJ should investigate the Worcester Police was booed by some white people, even though the facilitators told the participants that they should be respectful of everyone’s ideas and opinions.

Instead of reducing racial tensions in Worcester, the discussions might be the source of increased racial tensions.

One person noticeably absent was Brenda Jenkins of the YMCA and the Mosaic Cultural Complex. She is an important Black leader in the City of Worcester. Several people came to me and asked me where Brenda was. They speculated that she might not have come because the populations she works with did not go.

There are also rumors that the City of Worcester is pressuring Brenda’s program – the Mosaic Cultural Complex-  by reviewing the funds the City of Worcester awards her group. Is Augustus going to pull Brenda’s funding to pressure Brenda to “shut up”? Or has that already happened? Or has Brenda, like other Black leaders in Worcester before her, people of color on the city payroll, people of color with ties to Worcester city government/jobs/funds self-censoring herself??? To save her city money?

I suppose the politics of Worcester might suddenly change, and the city will take more substantial and positive actions towards race relations.

Unfortunately it looks a lot like business as usual – or worse.