Tag Archives: arresting students

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.

Arresting kids in the Worcester Public Schools

By Gordon Davis
 
At least 19 students have been arrested in the Worcester Public Schools between September 2015 and November 23, 2015. Of that number, at least two children were arrested at the middle school level.
 
The two arrests at the middle school level are especially concerning, due to the young age of the children. I find it hard to believe the children had to be arrested at school. With all of the doctors of education in the Worcester Public Schools, there must be an alternative to arresting young children in the middle or elementary schools. There should be a City of Worcester policy against arrest children at middle or elementary schools.
 
Because of the political hysteria, based to some extent on racism, some people on the Worcester City Council and the Worcester School Committee of Worcester ordered police into our school without a Memorandum of Understanding and appropriate knowledge of the police officers’ duties or restrictions.

This action was not well thought out and now the City of Worcester is out of compliance with the statutes. Being out of compliance might mean that all of the Worcester Public Schools students arrested might have been unlawfully arrested at school with right of causal action.
 
M.G.L. Chapter 71 Section 37 P requires that a School System have in place a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Police Department:
 
“The superintendent and the chief of police shall enter into a written memorandum of understanding to clearly define the role and duties of the school resource officer which shall be placed on file in the office of the school superintendent.”
 
Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme has stated to the local press that he feels that the vast majority of people/parents supports police in our schools.  Unfortunately for us, Chief Gemme is spinning as he offers no evidence. The Massachusetts Human Rights group is collecting signatures of a petition on the issue with more than 100 signatures at last count.
 
Chief Gemme has made another presumption in that he says the cops in the schools are doing good. Without a MOU it is not clear what the they are doing. There is no evidence that the police are improving safety and education.

There are several reports, including an ACLU report, that shows police in the schools are a source of students leaving school and then going into the “school to prison pipeline.” Many of these students are from poor and minority neighborhoods.
 
On the issue of the MOU Chief Gemme asserts that he does not want the police to become school disciplinarians. The facts show that the police officers are already the school disciplinarians. According to Public Safety Liaison Officer for the Worcester Public Schools, Robert Pezella, most of the arrests of students was for disruption and disorderly.

Disruption is not a crime anywhere and should have been handled administratively per Chapter 222. Disorderly is vaguely defined and subjective. The actions of the students should likely have also been adjudicated under Chapter 222.
 
The cat was let out of the bag when Mr. Pezzella stated to the local press that the MOU would likely not be approved until after a safety audit was completed. 

The question Mr. Pezella has unintentionally pointed to is why cops were put into the schools BEFORE the Safety Audit was completed!!!
 
I believe Mr. Pezella is a good man who has been asked by the City to clean up a mess created by Worcester School Committee woman Dianna Briancharia and Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney. Mr. Pezella several years ago helped my wife with an issue at UMass Hospital – he was excellent.
 
This fiasco of putting police into our public schools possibly is being covered up. Mr. Pezzella has not mentioned how parents, students, teachers, principals and advocates will have input into the so called Safety Audit or the MOU. 
 
This statement from Mr. Pezzella is troubling:
 
“There’s a fine line between disciplinary and public safety and, in some cases, student unrest could lead to a possible arrest of a student.”
 
Like his misstatement about disruptions, student unrest is not a crime either.

For teenagers it is normalcy.

The question arises about a possible bias on the part of Mr. Pezella’s thinking about students. The use of the phrase “fine line” is curious on the part of Mr. Pezella, as the statute makes it clear that cops are not authorized to enforce school policy, only law enforcement and security. Everything else should be administratively adjudicated.
 
”School resource officer”, a duly sworn municipal police officer with all necessary training, up-to-date certificates or a special officer appointed by the chief of police charged with providing law enforcement and security services to elementary and secondary public schools.
 
The losers in all of this are the children in the Worcester Public Schools who are compelled to go into a learning environment in which they can be arrested on the most frivolous or subjective of reasons without recourse to their rights found in Chapter 222. The environment is filled with police officers who do not know for certain what they can or cannot do because there is no MOU. An environment created by the racist rants of some Worcester city officials.