Tag Archives: minority hiring

Worcester Police Chief Sargent meets with Worcester NAACP

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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.

Go, Gordon Davis, go! … The road most taken

By Gordon Davis

The Boston Red Sox has agreed to sign right-handed pitcher David Price to a $217 million contract. I would like to wish both Mr. Price and the Red Sox well.

There is a price for this deal that is not only in terms of dollar and cents. Although Mr. Price is very talented and probably worth the money in our society that skews wealth and human value, he is also an unintentional symbol of success for many in the Black community. If asked, Mr. Price might say the same thing as did Sir Charles Barkley, “I am not a role model for your kids.”

For many in the Black community basket ball, football and baseball are seen as a way out of the adverse conditions that our children find themselves in. To some extent this gives them hope and encouragement to go to school and perform. For others making a lot of money through some business scheme is their hope. These hopes are not bad things by themselves. However, all of these things are misleading.

Historically, the way out of poverty and into the middle class for Black people have been unionized jobs and education. The migration of many Black people from the southern United States to the North during the Twentieth Century was facilitated by union jobs in the auto industry, steel industry and education. It was also facilitated by government jobs such as the military and the U.S. post office. My relatives and those of my wife were career soldiers or postal workers or city employees. This has been the experience of most Black people in the United States, not sports nor businesses.

Recognizing this, many in our communities have fought for Affirmative Action. It is the program that ensures companies consider us when making hiring decisions.

Unfortunately, one of the people I knew as an undergraduate at Holy Cross college, Clarence Thomas, used affirmative action to get to the Supreme Court and then started to burn the bridges behind him. I suppose he wanted to make sure no one else from our community could follow in his footsteps.

I remember growing up reading Jet and Ebony magazines which were widely read in the Black communities. The owners of the magazine became deservedly relatively wealthy. The same can be said for the cosmetics industry intended for Black women.

The Black businesses succeeded because many in the Black community had entered the middle class through unionized service and industrial jobs. The reality for us is that as a community Black, White, Hispanic and all people will make a living in the workplaces owned by the so called one percent. We as a community will not succeed on the playing fields or in small business. As many of us know, the time of the Mom and Pop stores is long over.

I see that there are unionization drives going on in the Worcester in the areas of domestic care workers, food workers and hospital workers. All areas with a relatively high people of color workforce.  I know that this is the way out of the adverse conditions of poverty for most of them.

So I might go to a Red Sox game to see David Price pitch a no hitter and carry the Red Sox to a World Championship. I know, however, that the road he has taken is not possible for everyone.