Tag Archives: civilian review board

ACLU extends Worcester police documentation initiative

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts today announced an extension of its police documentation initiative in Worcester.

As part of ongoing ACLU work on police practices across the Commonwealth, the Worcester initiative will now include street outreach as well as several listening sessions to be held throughout Worcester, at which residents will be invited to share their experiences of encounters with the Worcester Police Department.

The ACLU will hold the first listening session this Saturday, January 17th, from 12-3pm, at Stone Soup, 4 King Street in Worcester.

The ACLU of Massachusetts documentation project will also allow area residents to describe their experiences trying to report issues to the WPD’s Bureau of Professional Standards.

Submitting documentation takes just a few minutes, and the identities of participants can be kept anonymous.

The ACLU of Massachusetts plans to release aggregate data about complaints against Worcester police later in 2015.

“Though we have been hearing complaints about a serious and ongoing problem with misconduct and abusive police practices in the Worcester Police Department for years, I expect that this additional documentation will tell us some new things,” said Chris Robarge, the Central Massachusetts Field Coordinator operating out of the ACLU of Massachusetts’ Worcester office. “It may also corroborate concerns that the WPD’s self-investigation and citizen complaint processes are woefully inadequate.

“Contrary to assertions by [Worcester Police] Chief Gemme that Worcester residents only began to complain about police misconduct to the ACLU and others after national controversy flared, for over a decade we have received citizen complaints about the Worcester Police Department nearly every day. We want anyone who feels that they cannot go to the Worcester police with a complaint, or that doing so will do no good, to know that they can come to us.”

The ACLU police documentation initiative comes in the context of a variety of complaints of Worcester police misconduct, as well as a lack of transparency and accountability.

Last year, a Worcester jury in federal district court awarded $15,000 to Wakeelah Cocroft, finding that Worcester Police Officer Jeremy Smith violated her Fourth Amendment rights and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act. A number of local media outlets have also fought to obtain copies of public records pertaining to the Worcester Police Department, including many about complaints of WPD misconduct.

For more information about Wakeelah Cocroft, go to:
http://aclum.org/news_3.28.14

Public Review of the Worcester Police

By Gordon T. Davis

The rebellions in Ferguson, MO, regarding the killing of Michael Brown by the police have been the cause of some talk about a civilian review board for the police in Worcester.

A civilian review board is good public policy, as all public agencies need an effective periodic review of their work.  Police misconduct is an indication of the effectiveness of Worcester policing and law enforcement. There is today no real review of the Worcester Police Department’s work, whether that work is useful, ineffectual, or bad failure. There are no meaningful statistics collected or kept, and what information is kept is not available to the public.  Who can say if there is racial profiling or other type of bad policing happening?

The City Manager in theory reviews the work of the police department, but as we know from the past such reviews by the Manager are just rubber stamping of what the police Chief provides to the Manager. The Manager is supposed to be the “civilian review” of the police. He objectively is not.

We in the public are not able to have an objective opinion of the work or failings of the Worcester Police, as we just don’t have enough information or transparency.

I went to a Worcester Human Rights Commission meeting recently, and the good people there were reviewing a quarterly report of complaints brought against the Worcester Police. The report was cryptic, part of it being in code. The code was for the type of complaint. The Commissioners had a hard time with the report. Even if they could have figured it out, the Worcester Human Rights Commission could not release their findings without the permission of the Manager.

To be effective, a review of the police should be independent and free of conflicts of interests. The City Manager is certainly conflicted about anything negative about his administration.

Before going further I need to make full disclosures: I have been arrested four times, I have worked on the Justice for Cristino Hernandez Committee, I have relatives who are police officers, and I know that many cops are good people. I have an open mind on the issues.

In Worcester, public review of the police will take a form that might be different from anything else. Certainly it would be different than the Civilian Review Board found in Cambridge, MA. Worcester once had that type of review board which was a part of the Worcester Human Rights Commission. It had the power to investigate complaints against the City of Worcester. In the 1980s the Police Department rammed through a charter change that prevented the Worcester Human Rights Commission from investigating any complaints against the City. The commission cannot issue ANY report of any type without the approval of the City Manager.

The review of the police in Worcester will likely take the form of a nongovernmental agency that takes complaints against the police, helps complainants with their cases, and issues reports. To some extent these needs were performed by the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, when Ron Madnick was executive director. It still does work in this area, recently winning a case against the City in Federal Court. Chris Robarge and the attorney Beverly Chorbajian were significant protagonists for the plaintiffs, but that is a story for another day.

Hopefully, the talk of a public review of the police precipitated by the rebellions in Ferguson will result in the good public policy of civilian review of the police in Worcester, a rational outcome of the repeating story of Ferguson, MO.

Fourth of July special, courtesy of the Worcester Police Department!

By Rosalie Tirella

How sad this had to happen right before the Fourth of July:

About three or so days ago, a guy and a Worcester cop were infront of a Worcester pharmacy – the guy getting arrested. The guy gives some lip service to one of Worcester’s finest as he’s being arrested, and the Nazi – I mean Worcester Police Officer – would have none of the guy’s sass. So what did the cop do? He pounced on the guy and began whacking him in the balls! Again and again! And after he was finished, he swung his arm around several times – as if to say: Whew! That took a lot outa me! Gotta stretch the ol’ muscles!

“Happy Fourth of July, Worcester! 

– body blows and kisses from the WPD!” Continue reading Fourth of July special, courtesy of the Worcester Police Department!

A civilian review board for WPD

By Ronal C. Madnick

The Public Safety Committee of the Worcester City Council will take up, at a date to be announced, a proposal by the Worcester County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts to establish a civilian review board (CRB) to investigate complaints against Worcester police officers. If not approved there are areas in the proposal which might be adopted by the Worcester Human Rights Commission or by the Worcester Police Department. Continue reading A civilian review board for WPD