Worcester police officers in downtown Worcester
By Gordon Davis
Recently the Department of Justice wrote a negative report regarding misconduct and the poor practices of the Cleveland Police Department.
Some of the issues in Cleveland that were found in need of improvement:
The unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons
The unnecessary, excessive or retaliatory use of less lethal force including tasers, chemical spray and fists
Excessive force against persons who are mentally ill or in crisis, including in cases where the officers were called exclusively for a welfare check
and the employment of poor and dangerous tactics that place police officers in situations where avoidable force becomes inevitable and places officers and civilians at unnecessary risk.
The report also described a lack of transparency in the Cleveland Police Department that allowed the misconduct to continue over many years.
In Worcester no one outside of the Worcester Police Department can say with certainty how much police misconduct there is in the Worcester Police Department.
For decades this information has been kept from the public, even when ordered by the courts to make it public.
The ACLU, the daily and others have tried to obtain what should be public records from the Worcester Police Department – a city department funded by the taxpayers. With each attempt, the Worcester Police Department has blocked any significant release of public records.
There is evidence of police misconduct.
The latest being the allegations that a Worcester Police officer beat up a shackled prisoner in the Worcester lock up.
Even here the videotape of the alleged misconduct has not been released.
In light of the many allegations of misconduct by the Worcester Police and the lack of transparency, an investigation by the Department of Justice would be welcomed.
The DOJ investigation might find that:
1. the Worcester police are relatively well managed and the department is doing a good job.
2. the Worcester Police Department is non-compliant to the civil rights of residents – police officers can be abusive.
3. the Worcester Police Department is slightly flawed and in need of only some changes.
This DOJ investigation will confirm or belay any trust issues with the communities of color. The powers that be should not be afraid of such an investigation by the Department of Justice. After all, the city manager asked it to come to Worcester to help with race relations. It makes sense for city officials to now ask the Department of Justice to give its seal of approval – or disapproval – to the Worcester Police Department.
This is troubling: At DOJ meeting #1, held May 18 at the YWCA in Worcester – a black woman was booed by white people when she raised the suggestion of the Department of Justice investigating the Worcester Police Department. It was more troubling when a local newspaper columnist made light of her suggestion.
There still exists a great divide in race relations in Worcester.
There is a need for the additional action of the Department of Justice. The DOJ should investigate the Worcester Police Department – to see the good and what needs to be improved. Local lives hang in the balance.
It seems local activists are writing a letter to the U.S. Attorney office of Carmen Ortiz – making this petition.