Tag Archives: Body Cameras for police

Worcester Police Chief Sargent meets with Worcester NAACP

sargent-at-naacp1
Police Chief Sargent at the Worcester NAACP meeting. Photo by Bill Coleman

By Gordon Davis

In August 2016 Mayor Joseph Petty said there was no need for the Worcester City Council to have public hearings on Worcester Police policies, as Police Chief Steven Sargent was already meeting the public at crime watch meetings and other events.

One of these meetings was held last night, September 26, at the YWCA, when the NAACP hosted Police Chief Sargent. During the NAACP meeting there was some discussion about the crime watch meetings and other police events being hard to find. Even the chief couldn’t say exactly where on line we should look. Another problem with attending the crime watch meetings is that they are not necessarily public meetings.

There was a little dust up at the YWCA. A man claiming to be head of operations called the police when people holding signs for the NAACP meeting were told they could not hold the signs there. Chief Sargent came over and defused the situation.

The first thing we learned from our new police chief is that the Worcester City Council makes the decisions on the type of police policy. Chief Sargent said he could not respond on the issues of “Broken Windows” and “Stop and Frisk.” He said the policy for Worcester is “Community Policing.” There is evidence the so called arrest sweeps and quality of life” that at least a modified form of Broken Windows is a de facto policy.

The issue of body cameras on police officers was also raised. Police Chief Sargent said there were constitutional issues being reviewed by the city’s Legal Department. He gave no timeline on this issue, although the ACLU has established guidelines for the use of body cameras that the Boston police are using.

In regards to transparency, Police Chief Sargent said they are establishing a Civilian Academy where police procedures will be discussed. The Academy is expected to start February 2017.

The city’s Dirt Bike policy was clarified to some extent: A legal dirt bike on the street gets a citation and will likely be confiscated. The Chief said the bikes, if stolen, are returned to their owners and the stolen dirt-bike rider is arrested.

There was no clarification of when legal dirt bikes are confiscated from private property.

Affirmative Action was discussed, too. The Chief said more Latinos are accepting police positions than are African Americans. He said his department is working to ensure 25 percent of applicants are minorities.  
What he did not say was that almost all successful applicants are former military who have preferential treatment over other applicants. 

Some push back came over the issue of the school-to-jail pipeline and the use of uniformed police officers in the Worcester Public Schools. There are nine police officers assigned to the Worcester Public Schools. Seven officers are in our high schools and two officers are assigned to split-duty in our middle schools.

The push back came in the form of four teachers, two of whom are still teaching. One teacher asked about the drug screening that is going on at Burncoat Middle School. Chief Sargent said he was not aware of the program. The program was initiated by Governor Charlie Baker via the recent Opioid Bill passed last January.

Another teacher indicated there was an implicit racism in having uniformed police officers in our schools. The background to this is the inability to have an honest discussion of the police killings in places like Tulsa, Baltimore or Ferguson. 

On the surface there is cordiality, but the real issue of race and power is hidden away.   

I have to say Chief Sargent is personable, knowledgeable and seemingly long-winded. He told us stories of the “old days” when he was mentored by Loman Rutherford, a Black officer. I did not hear much from him that was exceptional.

Events and time will tell if Chief Sargent will make a difference, or will be restricted by the material conditions and facts of his job.

Gordy – always in style! … 21st Century Lynching …

Demo at City Hall 7-7-16
Worcester protest – July 7, 2016. Lots of folks participated in this collective call to stop racial killings by police and to create a more equitable Worcester.

… and Racism in Worcester

By Gordon Davis

On July 6, 2016, two Black men were murdered by the police. Alton Sterling was killed in Baton Rouge. Philander Castile was killed in Minneapolis. As of this date 509 people have been killed by the police in 2016.

The majority of the people killed by the police are white people, people with dark skin are killed disproportionately more often. This is evidence of racial profiling. The inference is that stopping racial profiling will help everyone including white people.

In the late 19th Century and earlier 20th Century the Jim Crow laws of the racist Southern USA were enforced by the means of lynching Black people from a tree. Today the so called New Jim Crow, such as mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline, is being enforced via the 21st Century’s new form of lynching, police killings.

On July 7, 2016, about 100 Worcester residents protested the racist killings of the day before. The protest was organized by Massachusetts Human Rights Committee, and the Progressive Labor Party organized the event. Other groups and individuals participated.

The protest in Worcester was one of several protests nationwide. There will be at one more protest in Springfield at its City Hall on Monday, July 11, 2016 starting at 3 PM.

One young man, apparently from Clark University, led the chant “No Justice, No Peace.” A lady protestor shouted out several times “‘racist cops’ means ‘fight back.’ ” Another speaker made the connection between income disparity and racism. This speaker sought economic equality as a means to abolish racism and other forms of discrimination.

Worcester’s problems with race relations were also raised in the speeches: the racist incident in which a City official used racially offensive language during a road rage incident, the malicious prosecution of the Black Lives Matter protesters and Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney’s attack on the Mosaic Complex were mentioned.

A lady came up to me and congratulated me for my opposition to City Coucilor Gaffney. She said he was arrogant, privileged and a frat boy. I told her I agreed.

The protesters made plans to meet again. Some wanted to discuss body cameras for the Worcester Police and the details of WPD Chief Sargent’s “Broken Windows” policing policy.

As the protest was winding down, a group of mostly young people started to walk to the Worcester police station as a means of venting the anger at the police. I would not be surprised should they demand and got a meeting with Chief Sargent. Sometimes the militancy of the young is quite amazing.

As I am writing this column I heard on the news that two police officers were killed in Texas. I personally condemn this type of individual “lone wolf” activity. Political action is done by the people in a mass way: demonstrations, rallies, petitions, meetings, etc.

The struggle for justice is a class struggle usually lasting decades. The same can be said for the struggle for racial and gender justice.