By Gordon Davis
What does the police policy of Broken Windows mean for Worcester?
We will certainly soon find out.
Recently the new Worcester Chief of Police, Steven Sargent, and Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus were interviewed by a local paper. During the interview, Chief Sargent revealed that he will police Worcester based on the Broken Window Theory. This was somewhat of a surprise.
The Chief had not, to my knowledge, revealed to the public his thinking on criminology, race or body cameras on police officers.
The Broken Window Theory has several parts: one component is the cleaning up of the physical environment, which lets people see that an area is cared for and surveilled. Another part of the Broken Windows Theory has been called Zero Tolerance. A third part has been the removal of “undesirables.”
The removing of “undesirables” has been in effect in Worcester for more than a decade. The so called “aggressive” panhandling ordinances of the City of Worcester are examples of this. The Supreme Court of the United States recently ruled that Worcester’s ordinances on panhandlers are unconstitutional. In some instances, this practice has been the intentional precursor of gentrification.
One can only wonder what Chief Sargent and his boss, City Manager Ed Augustus have planned for these people. Whatever it is, the public should know.
City Manager Augustus, after being ruled against by the Supreme Court, spoke from his bully pulpit demanding that the residents of Worcester give money to charity and not to panhandlers.
Zero Tolerance is the practice of arresting people for minor or non-existent violations such as “disorderly.” Many statutes regarding “disorderly” or disturbing the peace are vague and give the police arbitrary and discretionary powers. This practice eventually evolved into New York City’s infamous Stop, Question and Frisk policy.
There is evidence that the Stop, Question and Frisk practices of the New York Police Department were racial profiling and violated the Fourth Amendment. The police stopped hundreds of thousands of law abiding New Yorkers annually – the vast majority Black and Latino.
I would like Chief Sargent to say there will be no Stop, Question and Frisk policy in Worcester.
I actually agree with the first part of the Broken Windows Theory. Property owners should be made to maintain their properties. In a 2005 Harvard University Study conducted in the “hot spots” of Lowell, Mass, it was determined that improving the physical environment, such as the better enforcement of building codes, is the most effective part of the Broken Windows Theory. It was also the least unlawful.
Almost all of what the Worcester Police Department does in the city is secretive: statistics, reports and records of police misconduct are impossible to get. Police Chief Sargent and City Manager Augustus have a duty to meet with the residents of this city to explain what is in their Broken Windows Policy. A discussion of how Broken Windows will affect the Black and Latino communities and other residents of Worcester is needed.
This should be a REAL discussion: It would be helpful (but unlikely) if the gang of three Worcester City Councilors – Michael Gaffney, Konnie Lukes and Gary Rosen – were excluded.