By Gordon Davis
Disparate Impact is when a so called neutral policy has a more severe negative impact on one protected class than on other protected classes.
A local columnist wrote about Charlie Baker’s support for a change in the law that would change the penalties for assault and battery on a police officer to mandatory jail time.
This policy disparately impacts poor communities and communities of people with dark skin.
Poor people have more interactions with the police because we walk, take the bus and drive early model cars. Each interaction such as fitting the description, broken tail lights, and stop and frisk increases the likelihood of a bad outcome.
I have personal experience with these pretexts. In the 1970s I was walking home on Austin Street and a police officer, James Reardon, arrested me for walking without an ID. He charged me with being disorderly and rudeness.
The judge dismissed the case.
Another time at a demonstration a person pushed a woman protester and I got between them. The person then attacked me. I was struck in the back of the head by a police officer whom I never saw. He then charged me with assault and battery on a police officer. The police officer chose to protect the bully and cover up his battery on me with a pretext.
Again, when I told my story in court the judge dismissed the case.
The worst experience of pretext was when I was arrested at another demonstration. The police officer was out of shape. I heard the order from the sergeant to arrest “anyone.” The big cop arrested me for no apparent reason other than I was nearby. When in the police station the cops threw me on the floor and used a choke stick until I nearly blacked out. I was relieved when someone yelled out: “Stop it! He had enough!”
This case was also dismissed.
The city government of Worcester has used pretext to enforce a racist disparately negative policy. For years, and even today, the gang unit has a policy of stop and frisk without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion. Sometimes “fitting the description” is the pretext. Most of the time no explanation is given.
An example of this was when the Worcester Youth Center was located in Federal Square.
The alcove in front of the store-front was private property. The Youth Center kids would gather in the alcove and smoke and talk. The police did not have authority over smoking on private property. Authority or not, the police continually ordered the kids to go inside. When the Youth Center director complained, the police arrested him for assault and battery on a police officer. This case was like the other pretexts.
Governor Charlie Baker’s proposal will do harm to the poor and people of color communities.
It will contribute to racist mass incarceration.
The drug abuse laws have been written with a disparately negative impact on the poor and communities of color.
These laws creating mandatory prison sentences for assault and battery on police officers will be unfairly enforced and have an unfair impact.
Worcester Police Chief Sargent has stated that his policy for policing is the “Broken Windows.” This policy needs to be explained to our communities. Will it increase the negative interactions between the residents of Worcester and the police?
There is need in Worcester for a real discussion about race and police policy. City Council, city manager and our WPD should be transparent with the residents of Worcester.