The Boston Police Department (hereinafter, the “Department”) has taken a large, and very laudable, step forward . They are realizing that if they want to be a trusted, and effective, member of the community, they have to communicate with said community.
As you know, there have been various complaints regarding the use of undue force in various cases. In fact, a You Tube video emerged last fall that showed several officers forcefully subduing a 16-year-old boy,
The video, recorded on a student’s cellphone, showed at least six officers at Roxbury Community College surrounding and then “taking down” the teenager who they said was resisting arrest. The Department claims that the juvenile, who had been wanted on a warrant, had swung at the officers, police have said.
Many were outraged and made claims of excessive force. The Department, however, said that the procedure was consistent with what officers’ training in cases where a suspect refuses to be handcuffed.
The Suffolk district attorney’s office has been investigating the incident. In the meantime, the Department is reaching out to officials, media and the public to demonstrate that police officers receive proper training which includes strict guidelines regarding the use of force.
“I think it’s time we remove the mystery around police use of force,” Commissioner Edward F. Davis said Thursday night at the Boston Police Academy in Hyde Park, where officials invited several reporters, religious figures, and leaders of the Boston branch of the NAACP to meet with police instructors.
On Tuesday, for nearly four hours, officers lectured, showed footage of arrests, and traded blows in mock confrontations to show how they respond in violent arrests. This presentation was the second within a week and is said to have given unusual insight at an aspect of police training that officials said they hope to show to more people, including high school students and those in their late teens and 20s.
Reactions to the demonstration were mixed. Some were upset by what they saw. Some were relieved. Some simply did not “buy it”..
In the 1980″s, I was a prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York. Since then, I have had the experience of being a Boston criminal defense attorney for over 20 years. I have had a fair amount of experience with police officers.
What amounts to a “Blue Wall” of secrecy seems to have become the norm for police departments. To some degree, it is necessary. However, I believe it is over-done and often presents more problems for the police…not to mention the rest of us…than it is worth.
It does not take a criminal justice expert to tell you that police work is dangerous work. Every day, police officers risk their lives. They often deal with dangerous people in dangerous situations and when they arrive on a scene, they often do not know what to expect.
It is the stuff that paranoia…righteous paranoia….is made of.
It would make officers’ work much easier, not to mention safer, if there were increased trust bestowed them on the street. No, that will not work with everyone, but the more the better. However, when police deal with the general public in a secretive and arrogant manner, even when there is no criminal activity afoot, it maintains an “us vs. them” atmosphere.
“Sam, you are a criminal defense attorney. Isn’t it “us vs. them” out there?”
Sometimes perhaps. But that does not seem to work that well, does it? True, it keeps business good for people like me, but we all have to exist, with some order, in this world. Let’s face it, love them or hate them, we rely on the police and when we do, they usually come a-running.
I will also tell you that the mutual distrust on the street carries a bad combination to the stand when it comes time to testify. Here is a sad truth – sometimes officers do not tell the truth while on that stand. Not because they are looking to “fry” an innocent defendant, but because they feel that the realities on the street are not felt in the courtroom where they are still trying to get the “bad guy”.
“So what? That’s their problem, right?”
Nope. Prosecutors, juries and judges give great deference to police testimony. So as long as they “testily” (a New York term), defendants, factually innocent and guilty, pay the price.
The more the “us vs. them” mentality is in force, the more we all lose. Steps like the demonstration given by the Department, to, in a way, open the door a bit to shine some light on what they encounter and what we should expect, is a big step forward.
at the very least, it may mean the difference between resisting arrest and disorderly conduct chages.
Don’t misunderstand me…some people will criticize what they see. But, at least the procedures are known. It is no shock…unless procedures are not followed by officers…which cases may become clearer.
Maybe it will even get us to a point where the public will realize that officers have to maintain control of a potential crime scene…and police officers will not have to be as aggressive as they often are about it.
What does this have to do with you?
I don’t know…do you ever encounter police?
If you do, and it has resulted in an investigation or an arrest, feel free to contact for a free initial consultation. I can be reached at t 617-492-3000.
To view the original story, and charming photograph about which parts of this blog were based, please go to : http://mobile.boston.com/art/30/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/01/23/reeling_from_video_boston_police_offer_insight_on_use_of_force/?single=1&p=2