Worcester Coalition Calls for City Manager Ed Augustus to Create Civilian Review Board with Subpoena Power

SO MANY IN OUR CITY WANT TO SEE REFORMS IN THE WORCESTER POLICE DEPARTMENT.

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There are some great Worcester cops out there, but the abusive ones must be held accountable! InCity Times/CECELIA file photo: Ron O’Clair

A letter to Worcester’s mayor, city council and city manager from groups calling for MORE RACIAL JUSTICE๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ IN WORCESTER!
– Rose T.

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Dear City Manager Augustus, Mayor Petty, and Worcester City Council,

CC: Rep. Mahoney, Rep. Oโ€™Day, Rep. Keefe, Rep. Donahue, Rep. LeBoeuf, Rep. Ferguson, Senator Chandler, Senator Moore, Rep McGovern, Senator Warren, and Senator Markey,

We are community groups in Worcester who recognize that there is distance between policing and communities of color and allies. We are writing to address that disconnect.

Two months ago, many of us in the Worcester Community queued up to applaud and support your Executive Order to address systemic racism in the city and the Worcester Police Department. As you clearly stated in your recommendations, โ€œIt is undeniable that structural and institutional racism permeate our entire society, at all levels of government, and in all institutions. To dismantle it, we must do more than give lip service, we must reimagine our ideals and take the necessary steps to achieve them. That means real reform that gives voice to those who have too often felt left out of the conversation.โ€

While we continue to support these limited reforms, we must resume our call for immediate change to policing in Worcester. As we work to address unanswered concerns about use of force, civil service, the militarization of policing, and the Worcester Police budget, we have come together united in our belief that a Civilian Review Board with full subpoena powers is an absolute necessity in any successful path forward.

Through the years, and over the past six months specifically, we have watched and suffered with the Cityโ€™s inability to respond to complaints from diverse community groups, faith leaders, and even elected officials struggling to find resolution to incidents of systemic racism and police excessive force.

In July 2020 Officer Ryan Joyal was video recorded slapping and choking a Worcester resident suffering from a mental health breakdown. Despite significant public outcry, our community was never informed about the details of any investigation. Because of local reporting, not government transparency, the community was told that the victim of the police abuse โ€œcould not be found to be interviewedโ€ even though he was apparently โ€œknown to policeโ€. Limited disclosures also revealed that the โ€œinvestigationโ€ had exonerated Officer Joyal of excessive force because the Worcester Police Department instructs officers that striking someone in the head having a mental breakdown is a good โ€œdistraction technique.โ€

Because of reporting by local media on August 4, 2020, the community became aware of the lawsuit filed by Christopher Ayala-Melendez calling into question the truthfulness of stories and police reports filed by Officers Shawn Tivnan and Brett J. Kubiak in regards to the night of October 26, 2019 at the Beer Garden. While City leaders became informed of the significant discrepancies between video evidence and each Officersโ€™ stories, again the community was left out, only to become aware of the fabricated stories due to litigation. Despite the evidence of having filed false reports for the purpose of incarcerating an innocent man, Officers Tivnan and Kubak have been allowed to stay on the Police force unpunished other than apparently being reassigned.

Over the past six months, people have repeatedly raised concerns about public statements made by Worcester Police Officials and Officers, employees of the residents of Worcester, for their attacks against leaders of Worcesterโ€™s Black and Latinx communities, degradation of Black leadersโ€™ calls for the elimination of systemic racism, and denial that racism exists within the Worcester Police Department.

In February, after several weeks of community complaints, you announced that you would conduct an investigation of the blue flue sick-out involving what media reported as including 14 Worcester Police Officers apparently angered by a five day suspension being given to Officer Ryan Joyal and exposed by DefundWPD. The results of the investigation have never been made public.

At the December 20, 2020, [Worcester] Human Rights Commission meeting, Captain Kenneth J. Davenport reported to Commission members that the Bureau of Professional Standards Early Intervention Database is tracking a police officer who has had 26 complaints filed against him/her. When asked to disclose the Officerโ€™s name and records, Captain Davenport refused.

In each of these recent incidents, either you and your administration chose to keep the full and true stories internal and out of the public eye. Although there were promises to investigate in response to public concern and criticism, there has never been genuine transparency explaining any of these five incidents.

We therefore do not believe that any real accountability has happened, and justice remains stymied.

Because of our experiences, not only from past years, but also from recent months, we renew our public call to you to immediately begin efforts to work with us on the creation of a Civilian Review Board with subpoena power in Worcester.

We are working together for a safer and more equitable city for all its peoples. We hope that the City, community and police can come together to support that, beginning with establishing a Civilian Review Board.

Sincerely,

Amplify Black Voices Rock of Salvation Church

Belmont AME Zion Church SURJ Worcester

Beth Israel Trinity Lutheran Church

Black Families Together Worcester Black Clergy Alliance

Christian Community Church Worcester Branch NAACP

DefundWPD Worcester Friends Meeting

LEON (Latino Empowerment Organizing Network) Worcester Interfaith

MAWOCC, Central Region Worcester Islamic Center

Queer the Scene YWCA Central Massachusetts

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You may be interested to see that West Hartford recently decided to create a Civilian Review Board:

https://we-ha.com/west-hartford-town-council-appoints-diverse-civilian-police-review-board/?fbclid=IwAR2iw62eeAp2xzg5sfsswalBV2PgL-JTjgQv01GFq0cYG8Mia0kcJ0TIzRc