Tag Archives: Worcester Police Department

The restraining arm of “Papito”

By Ron O’ Clair

[Recently] I had reason to summon the Worcester Police to come and remove six drug-addicted persons out of one of the individual rooms here in the rooming house I manage on Main Street, at the corner of Charlton and Main streets.

I did so after receiving a complaint from the tenant who is the only person authorized by management to occupy this SRO [Single Room Occupancy] unit.

He is being systematically robbed of his monthly income by these people who he will allow to enter the building, and then when they don’t go away when he tells them to, he calls me to make them leave.

Generally, I will do that myself, and most times the people will all scramble out when I tell them to go.

The only problem is, when I turn my back on them, right back they come either by disabling the front door lock mechanism or the rear security gate, and that requires me to constantly be on guard, to the detriment of the work I have to do to accomplish my mission.

I thought that here is an excellent opportunity to have some of these people brought up on charges for trespassing at the very least.

Well, can you figure what happened when the Worcester Police came in answer to my call for their assistance?

Police officers Chau & McKenna refused to charge any of them … they were just allowed to leave even after the fact that when the police were knocking on the unit door, I was stationed at the kitchen door waiting for the room window to open so they could bail out that way.

And sure enough, while they were stalling on opening the door, they started climbing out the window!

I got the attention of Officer McKenna and he came to make sure they went back in the room. Then they realized they were caught and that Officer Chau had told them to open the door because we have the key anyway, so they did.

There were six known drug addicted persons in the room, a mixture of drug users and prostitutes.

These are the same individuals who I have repeatedly told to stop trespassing and stay off the property. They simply ignore all attempts made by either the previous owner or myself to make that happen.

The Worcester Police always are quick to tell the owner and myself what we need to do to stop this behavior with their suggestions of beefing up security and many other suggestions.

But they are unwilling to do the job required of them by locking up the criminals, so that they will learn not to come back on threat of going back to jail.

I have called at least 10,000 times for police assistance over the 13 year period that I have been the responsible party for this particular piece of Real Estate here in Worcester (That can be verified by public record as statistics kept by the Worcester Police Department.)

The result? Only to have the criminals repeatedly allowed to walk away with no criminal charges, or as in the recent episode, without even having the benefit of a check for wants and warrants on those individuals – some of whom may have had warrants for their arrest on file.

After that incident, I was down in the lobby when I saw a fellow fire off seven rounds out of a semi-automatic hand gun!

Directly opposite where I was with my dangling Fujifilm 18x digital camera around my neck.

As I was attempting to start it up and film the shooter casually walking toward the getaway vehicle that was waiting with the engine running on Wellington Street the street person that was with me prevented me from doing so. Out of his fear that we would be shot as the next target when the suspect looked and saw me there with the camera poised ready to start.

If not for the intervention of “Papito” as this person is called on the street, I would have boldly gone where I have been going for the last 13 years and zoomed in on the license plate of the getaway vehicle as well as the face of the shooter.

Yea though it is very dangerous for me, it is just what I would have done if not for the restraining arm of “Papito” who was concerned for not only my safety, but his own.

I will never not stand up as a man to do the right thing and assist the local police (as inefficient as they can be) to maintain order in my community as is my duty as a citizen.

Nor will I live in fear or on my knees in subjugation to criminal minded drug dealers who think they can control the 700 block of Main Street in Worcester, city of birth.

It is not in my nature to cower in fear of retribution, and I do firmly believe that the God of my understanding has my back anyway.

The City of Worcester’s Misuse of Police  

By Gordon Davis

The order by a city official to arrest community activist Chris Horton at the Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast came as no surprise to me. The City of Worcester has a history of misusing its police force to solve what are social issues.

In the 1990s, then Mayor Raymond Mariano ordered the police to arrest students not in school during school hours, despite the fact that the Worcester Public Schools had truant officers who did the same job. This practice was opposed by a small group, the International Committee Against Racism, which argued police arresting children was a traumatizing event. The City leaders did not listen. The practice of the police arresting children for playing hooky was effectively stopped by a complaint made to the State Department of Labor Relations. The Hearing Officer ruled that arresting children for playing hooky was outside of the police contract.

Recently Mayor Joseph Petty and others passed an ordinance allowing the arrest of panhandlers. The proponents of the use of police force against this social issue used the pretext of “public safety.” In memory there was never anyone injured by a car while panhandling. Hundreds of people were wrongfully arrested under this ordinance. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled the ordinances unconstitutional. The ACLU and a small group of activists, Real Solutions, opposed the unconstitutional ordinances.

Last year the Worcester City Council instructed Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus to put police officers full time in the Worcester Public Schools.  The City Council and Worcester School Committee had assigned full time police officers to each of the high schools. They did this BEFORE the Safety Report was completed. They did this BEFORE the State of Massachusetts required Memorandum of Understanding was completed. It is still not completed.

There is no evidence that the Worcester Public Schools had a serious safety issue. There is no evidence that police in the schools have made any school safer today. 

There is evidence that more students are being arrested at school for non-criminal activities that should be handled by the State mandated disciplinary policies found in M.G.L. Chap 222, Acts of 2012.

There is evidence that these arrests are traumatic experiences for the students and contribute to the school to jail pipeline. 

Two small groups, Mass. Human Rights and the Progressive Labor Party, are opposing the arresting of students at school.

The groups are hosting a “Students’ Rights Forum” on January 30 at 1 PM at the Worcester Public Library, 3 Salem Square.

 
The most obvious misuse of police force was the malicious prosecution of the BlackLives Matter protestors after the Kelly Square demonstration of 2015.

There was not enough evidence for either the police or the DA to file charges. City Manager Augustus then ordered the police department to use an unauthenticated video to take to the Clerk Magistrate.

The Clerk Magistrate ruled that there was some evidence of disturbing the peace.  At the trial the police sergeant said he did not see anyone at the demonstration do anything criminal. The judge has ruled that there were no criminal penalties. At this point: 3 of the 4 have been fined $100 each for disturbing the peace.

Phil Niddrie, co-chair of the MLK Jr. Breakfast, could have talked to Chris Horton BEFORE he called the police.

The so called liberals in our city government are quicker to use police force than to talk about other solutions.

In each of the events above there was an element of direct or disparate racism impact. This is especially true in the Worcester Public Schools, where thousands of students face an increased risk of arrest for non-criminal matters.

Many in the Black Community wonder aloud how did the MLK Jr. Breakfast get hijacked by the political establishment???

The use of police force to solve social problems is a sign of laziness and a lack of creativity among our city officials.

There is certainly a need to consider this when choosing who controls the police in our city.

The Politics of Safe Worcester Public Schools

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There is hope to be found in the little group of people who are demanding that Worcester students be treated in a manner that will lead to their success – not to the criminal justice system.

By Gordon Davis

The Safety Audit for the Worcester Public Schools was discussed at the December 17, 2015, Worcester School Committee Meeting.

The WPS Safety Audit concerns itself mostly with keeping the students and staff at our schools safe from outside threats. It talks about stronger doors, more security at front entrances, comprehensive responses, etc.

The Safety Audit rightly did not concern itself with internal “incidents” such as students yelling, bouncing basketballs, cell phone use, or dress code which are things that students, who are still developing,  act out on.

The WPS Safety Audit did say that if the police were brought in to resolve these “incidents” many staffers and students would not cooperate with the police. This non-cooperation caused by the criminalization of non-criminal incidents could have an adverse effect on safety. The Audit recommended that for these “incidents” there should be a policy of no arrests and deferral to school disciplinary policy and not the criminal justice system.

It did not seem that many on the Worcester School Committee paid attention to this recommendation.

Many people spoke out against police in the schools and the arrests of students at school. Some in the opposition identified themselves as from the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), Mass. Human Rights, the ACLU and a Unitarian Church.

A speaker from PLP said the City of Worcester was not in compliance with state statutes on the use of police in the schools. The required Memorandum of Understanding ((MOU) was out of date and the City of Worcester faced lawsuits for any harm done by the police in schools. 

Ron Madnick, a former teacher at Burncoat High School, said having loaded guns, carried by the police, was troubling in terms of accidents.

The student representative from South High School said he agreed students should not be arrested at school unless there was an emergency. 

Idella Hazard, a former police officer, said police in our schools was racist and part of the school to prison pipeline. Gwen Davis (my wife) said most of the police officers make six-figure salaries and that taxpayer money would be better spent on more teachers in the Worcester Public Schools and better student-to-teacher ratios.

There was one person who spoke in favor of the police arresting students at school. He is the head of the teachers’ union. He said only bad kids get arrested. He then said armed gunmen could have stopped the tragedy in Newtown, where 21 elementary school children and six staffers were massacred. The Minister from the Unitarian Church replied that it was outrageous to bring up Newtown, as there are no plans to station police in Worcester’s elementary schools.

Interim Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Rodrigues was disingenuous when he said a working MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING – MOU – existed.

He said the MOU would be posted on the Worcester Public Schools website December 18, 2015. It was not.  

Dr. Rodrigues had said earlier in the month that the new MOU would not be written until after March 2016.

He is learning quickly how to play the Worcester old boy network political game.

It is encouraging that some thought is going into making our schools safer from outside threats.

It is sad that many people think about school safety in terms of threats from students.

Many in our schools and city seem to be afraid of young Black students and anyone adversely affected by poverty – especially teenagers.

It is clear that leadership on this issue will not come from the Worcester School Committee, which has no person of color or even a progressive on board. The leadership will not come from the Worcester City Council, which refused at a recent city council meeting to discuss the lack of a policy about police in our schools. It is not likely to come from the Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus who made a mess of things earlier this year with the U.S. Department of Justice Race Dialogues held in our city.   

There is hope to be found in the little group of people who are demanding that Worcester students be treated in a manner that will lead to their success – not to the criminal justice system.   

Meeting interim Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Marco Rodrigues

By Gordon Davis

Members of Mass. Human Rights met with Dr. Marco Rodrigues, the interim Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools, December 8. The meeting was intended to clarify the City government’s policy about full time police officers (school resource officers) in the High Schools and the arrests of students at school. Dr. Rodrigues was open and candid.  The clarifications, however, raised new questions:

Regarding the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that is required by statute to be in place before the full time police officers are assigned to the schools, it has yet to be revised. The revisions will be made, according to Dr, Rodriques, after the special training for SRO is specified.

Dr.  Rodrigues has been in contact with the National Organization of School Resource Officers (SRO) located in Alabama, regarding the development of training requirements for SRO. The training would be about 40 hours. The tentative plan is to have a trainer come to Worcester.  It was fairly clear that the details of the training plan did not exist or were in flux. Sometime in March 2016 is the date of the expected training.

Dr. Rodrigues was uncertain about how parents, teachers, students or advocates could have input into the rewriting of the MOU.

He said the MOU would be based on the specifics of the training and was intended to be a document between the Worcester Police Department and School Departments of Worcester.  However, he did not rule out a public review of the finished document. Ms. Davis said Mass. Human Rights planned to reach out to the Parents Advisory Groups regarding the issues.

The Safety Audit for the Worcester Public Schools is now completed, and it should be presented to the Worcester School Committee at its December 17, 2015 meeting.  Dr. Rodriques did not go into detail about the audit. Ms. Davis said her group was planning to attend the December 17, 2015, School Committee meeting to present a petition against arresting students at school. She also said that was interested in the details of the Safety Audit.

When the issue of the arrests of students at school came up, Dr. Rodriques did not seem to have all of the facts at hand.

He said he could not comment on whether or not the number of arrests of students at school was up or down.

He was not able to break down the arrests by race or by type. It was stated by one of the attendees that most of the arrests were for disruptions or disorderly (behavior), which are not crimes but are subjective.

Ms. Rodriguez of Mass. Human Rights said Latino children are more disproportionately and wrongfully arrested than other groups of students. She said she was very concerned.

Dr. Rodriques said that Worcester has one of the highest graduation rates for an urban school district. He said that at 79 percent, it is much higher than Boston, Lowell or Springfield. He also said the dropout rate is continuing to decline. In regards to a recommendation from the State, the Worcester School System has lower suspension numbers than previous years.

My impression of Dr. Rodriques is he has the enthusiasm and the energy of the young with the professional experience and education to have a significantly good impact on the Worcester Schools. In a majority minority school district Dr. Rodrigues has the potential to make a positive difference that others would not be able to accomplish. He is already making that difference and he certainly seems to want to continue to do so.

My Thoughts on the Worcester Police Clergy Academy

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Pastor Esau Vance

By Elder Esau Vance, Senior Pastor of Mt. Olive Church & WBCA President

As I reflected back over the last seven weeks of this [Worcester police] clergy academy class I am convinced more than ever that it is going to take a total commitment on the part of the city’s officials, the police and the community to create a safe and thriving city that we can all be proud to live in.

But in order to achieve this safe and welcoming environment, everyone must step up to the plate and stand for righteousness, justice and equality for every citizen living in our city of Worcester. And we must become one city that sits on a hill and not two fragmented cities which are limping toward destruction. You see, a house that is divided against itself will surely fall.

And we must not continue to blame the police for an increase in drug use and distribution and related crimes; and when there is a drug related death or crime. We keep our lips closed and refuse to share the needed information with the police for them to bring the criminals to justice.

Likewise, we cannot expect the police to do their job of maintaining peace and order if the only thing we can say about them is that they are all ROGUE COPS. And we cannot ask them to protect our families and homes if we refuse to do our part in policing and protecting our own neighborhoods.

And we must do everything we can to help see to it that every officer gets a chance to go home to his or her families at the end of the day.

I paid close attention to the instructions that the officers shared with us during the seven weeks of classes. And I discovered that what we see in a 30 second news flash by the media is not always reality.

I also learned that although an alleged criminal may not have a weapon on his person, that when he comes within a certain distance of a police officer who does have weapons, that he is also no longer consider to be unarmed, according to police procedures.

Therefore, if we allow citizen apathy to cause us to stand idle and leave the safety and security of 180,000 people in our city to 400 police officers alone, I believe that we will live to regret such a decision.

And so every individual must work with city officials and the police in order to create a city where we can all live in peace and harmony.
The task of protecting our city must be a shared responsibility for every concerned citizen.

However, continuous finger pointing and divisiveness will not solve our problems; it going to take prayer, trust, and mutual respect for one another.

And we will never be able to move forward as a city as long as we are bent on living in the past and dwelling on past mistrusts. And Dr. King was right when he said that we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. And as concerned citizens let us encourage our young men and women to comply with the order of the police officer when requested to do so.

And trust me, I am not under any illusion about race relations, gender bias and religious discrimination, but I have hope and faith that in spite of ourselves, that God will help us to find a way to save our city, our union and our country.

And we all have our work cut out for us: the police, city officials, as well as every citizen in the city of Worcester. You see, I heard the call of several officers asking the clergy and the community to join forces with them to make our city a safer and better place for everyone. And I heard them when they said that they cannot do this job alone. I also heard the officers when they said that they too have some house cleaning to do in weeding out a small number of bad apples among their ranks.
Finally, I heard them when they said that, “all lives matter” – black, white, red, brown, yellow!

Yes, all lives do matter, and that includes the policeman who walks or rides his beat, the young black and white men and women who drive and walk the streets of our city. It also includes every other individual who lives within the boundaries of our great city. You see, all lives are precious in God’s sight because we were all made in His image and likeness.

In closing, I want to challenge everyone here tonight and those who took the class to get the word out to the community from the pulpits, the dinner table conversations, and from our social gatherings that we will work together and rise together, as this city’s greatest moments of achievements are yet to come.

The Worcester Police Department’s Clergy/Civilian Academy graduation ceremony

By Ron O’Clair

I applied for and was accepted into the Worcester Police Department’s Clergy/Civilian Academy which is held at the headquarters building located at 9-11 Lincoln Square here in the City of Worcester.

The class is held on Thursday nights from 6 – 9 p.m. and runs for 7 weeks of instruction, and on the 8th week a graduation ceremony is held.

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Lots of families at last week’s WPD Clergy Academy graduation ceremony! photo: R.T.

There were 33 members in my class from various fields and occupations from many different parts of the world. Folks who all have an interest in the City of Worcester and the operations of our police force.

From what I understand, the class was originally restricted to members of the clergy but has been expanded to allow other interested Worcester citizens to be accepted in the hopes that more people can help our police department dispel misconceptions that are held by certain segments of the community that the police are somehow the enemy of the people they serve and protect.

The 21 hours of instruction is jam-packed with elements of police department operations, policy, and procedures that are normally taught to Police Academy recruits 40 hours a week for 8 weeks by some of the same instructors who teach the police recruits.

There was even a class taught by Ms. Jayna Turchek from Worcester’s Human Rights Commission. She was also a member of the class.

I found the academy to be highly educational, informative and interesting. Participants gain an understanding of police actions that many average residents of the City of Worcester are for the most part unaware of. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power.

The graduation ceremony featured a welcome by Deputy Chief Sean J. Fleming followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, which was followed by Chief of Police Remarks given by Police Chief Gary J. Gemme, the Greetings from the City Manager followed with an inspiring speech delivered by City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr., the next one called upon to speak was Reverend Esau Vance of Mount Olive Church who was initially scheduled to speak after the District Attorney. Elder Vance was chosen to give the Class Representative’s Remarks listed in the program. He attended the class like all the rest of us …

The next person to speak was the Greetings from the District Attorney delivered by our District Attorney Joe Early Jr. who stressed the importance of the people working with the police to combat the opiod epidemic and the attendant crime that comes with it to support drug habits.

Then there was the Awarding of Diploma’s where each member of the class was awarded their diploma and went through a receiving line to shake hands with the City Manager, the Police Chief, the District Attorney, Deputy Chief Fleming and a couple of other notables as well.
The Closing Prayer was delivered by Reverend Raymond Austin Jr. another class participant.

In these troubling times in America today, I believe Worcester is uniquely positioned to lead not only the Commonwealth of Massachusetts but the nation itself by example and strive to solve the problems that erupt in other parts of the country that pit the people against the police with open hostilities including looting and burning. I believe that if we can pull together as a community that cares for all of its residents equally, we can prevent the chaos and anarchy that has engulfed other areas.

I believe we can stop the tyranny of today that is ripping our country apart that comes with the destruction brought about by the illegal drugs and the attendant crime that comes with maintaining drug addictions.

Many people believe there is an answer to these problems. Let us continue working together to find the answer so that our fair City of Worcester can lead by example.

Our City of Worcester forefathers chiseled and inscription on the old courthouse to remind the future generations that: “Obedience to Law is Liberty” I think that many people have forgotten that lesson down through the ages since the time it was chiseled into the  granite.

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.