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: