Derek Chauvin knelt nonchalantly on the neck of George Floyd for minutes as he begged for air, and for minutes more after he lost consciousness.
As ugly as the murder was, what is ultimately heart-breaking is that Chauvin and the bullies with him were all police officers carrying state-issued weapons and acting with the authority of law. From those to whom we give great responsibility we expect so much more.
Every psychopath hurts people without remorse. A psychopath in a uniform undermines the whole edifice of social credibility upon which the rule of law is founded. Cities are burning across the nation as a result.
Just as striking as the murderer’s unblinking cruelty, was his apparent expectation of impunity. He seemed to presume that even though there were people watching, because they were people of color, their complaint would be ignored.
The incident once-again evokes the long, ugly, and still present history of violence against African Americans in our country. We are all once-again compelled to check in with ourselves and ask what more we can do to build a better society.
At a personal level, we all have the chance to make a difference every day by treating each other with sensitivity and respect and going out of our way to reach across boundaries and make connections with people. Peace and justice are interpersonal as well as being aspects of social structure.
At a political level, the most directly relevant issue is leadership in law enforcement. I believe that right now in our state and in Boston especially, we have leaders who are building a culture of police respect for the community, while at the same time appreciating the sacrifices that police officers make and their fundamental role in protecting us all.
Our Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey quickly spoke out urging that the officers be charged. Law enforcement in Suffolk County is led by a trio of strong African American professionals, District Attorney Rachel Rollins, Police Commissioner William Gross, and Sheriff Steve Tompkins.
We can also make a difference in police culture through screening and training. The broad criminal justice package that we passed in 2018 included a mandate to develop a curriculum for implicit bias training and de-escalation.
We are now in the process of reviewing the range of additional legislative measures that we could take to assure that all men and women sworn as police officers understand and honor their obligations to serve and protect.
While a lot has been done by every level of government and the private sector to address racial inequality in access to justice, housing, education, jobs, and economic development, the grim statistics tell us we have a lot more to do.
We need national leadership that deplores violence, offers solace, commits to progress for all. We need national leadership that channels understandable outrage into constructive change. In the absence of that leadership, it is all the more important that we help each other hold tight to our calm and our resolve and that we rededicate ourselves every day to working together to build a state that works for everyone.
Dear Senator Brownsberger, Thank you for your thoughtful and thought provoking words. You have consistently shown a dedication to your constituents and neighbors to leading in a clear, honorable fashion. We very much need local leaders such as you to help us work our way through this morass I feel very fortunate to be in Boston were thought and analysis is valued over reaction and brute force.
Brighton , MA
Thank you Senator for your crystal clear and compassionate words and deeds. As a leader, you embody what we seek nationally. May we all be part of creating a justice system, so essential!
Hello, I saw the Police Use of Force Project (useofforceproject.org) that tracks 8 policies that apparently have a significant impact on police violence. It says that Boston implements 4/8 of the policies. I was wondering, who should I get in contact with to voice my support for changes like that? Thank you for your time.
Same question. Apparently having all 8 policies in place is a huge predictor for less-violent policing.
We’ll look into those policies and how to give feedback on them.
We need citizens to over see investigations and hearings involving state officials, elected officials, judges and police officers. Each hearing should have a citizen jury ( no bench trials no administrative decisions)
We need to tackle the root cause of all these problems. Lack of accountability. And we need to do it with specific structural changes to the law that go right to the heart of the problem.
What we don’t need is another Fortune 500 company tweeting at white people to feel guilty while avoid any mention of catastrophic inequality, police brutality, or poor people.
Agreed. Violence by state agents is too easily excused by the legal immunity standard for police which is now in place. In practice it has obviously allowed unacceptable behavior, including murder. Who created that standard? Who maintains it? Who appointed or elected them? What would Mitch McConnell do if he wanted to see that standard changed?
Police are certainly liable criminally for actions like what happened in MN. They are not immune from prosecution. We are going to look into the civil side of this.
Thank you Will. So glad to hear a concise and clear articulation of what so many of us feel.
I would rephrase part of your statement. “We need” local and state “leadership that deplores violence, offers solace, commits to progress for all. We need” local and regional “leadership that channels understandable outrage into constructive change.” It’s not going to come from Washington and we should not wait thinking (and hoping) November will make a difference. How much longer should people of color wait? It should have been yesterday. Let us start by bringing together those committed to changing this horrendous situation. Now!
Thank you for your leadership.
Agreed. We will continue to address these issues from the state local level. But the tone from the top is actually contributing a lot to the problems we are having.
Watertown police wear and are required to activate body cameras when they respond to calls?
Transparency and accountability re all complaints? Training doesn’t help if real transparency and accountability does not start at top.
I am asking an honest question. My experiences with Watertown police have been very good. Is this an accurate perception or just an outlier? Of the former, what do you think they are doing right?
I have a high opinion of our local police forces. Belmont, Watertown and Boston PD are all organizations that care about their community and that reflects good leadership.
Take a look at the Chief of Police’s letter from Belmont to the Belmont Community.
Calling those policemen psychopaths is outrageous. You are not a licensed therapist!
I agree with Will. I am happy to live in Watertown.
Unfortunately, what we are seeing is the result of the polarization of our country, which is the result of many problems. The main issue is that the people don’t think to be well represented by the federal government and that they feel the threat of austerity that pushes them to be tribal. The anarchist movement is about power and control, not social justice. A lot of people afraid to express their opinion of a fear of being stigmatized. The core of our foundation, of who we are, is a dialogue, a conversation. I get the anger, and I get that young people want responses they deserve. We have to find the foundation to open an honest discussion to resolve conflicts on the federal and local levels. That what it should be about, not the power of anarchy. Right now, the crisis is mishandled.
Well said. But in 2020 we learned that waiting for national leadership costs lives. Glad we have good leaders in MA but lots more to do on criminal justice reform and social inequality in Boston and beyond.
It is with the utmost disgust that I read your opinion. In this country, which I went to war for every person is innocent until proven guilty yet you and so many more are willing to throw away this right like was forced on citizens in fascist europe in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
I watched the video where the cop knelt on the victime neck and it made me sick to see it and I do assume that he did wrong but I will not call him a murderer until a jury determines that he was guilty of such a crime.
I have disagreed with you on prior mailings you have sent but I always respected your well thought our writings, but I do not any have any respect for you now.
Let us respect this ex- police officers constitutional rights until there is a trail and then call him what you want after a verdict is rendered.
I think the combination of videos at the scene tells a clear enough story as to the actions of Derek Chauvin. I’m prepared to refer to him as a murderer. No apology for reaching that conclusion. It’s less clear as to the other officers, but they are likely to also face charges.
Thank you, Will, for being forthright and calling this evil act what it is. Yes, the presumption of innocence must be the standard as this man enters the courtroom. But until more people in positions of authority call it what it is, then more of these bad apples will escape courtrooms entirely.
I support courts in place of review panels or internal affairs for every case where a loss of life occurs. And I believe police union reform must be part of future legislative remedies. Unions should help the police badge be a badge of honor among the people they serve, not a shield protecting injustice directed at those people.
I am sorry to hear thay you allow your emotions to rule your decision making and therefore you have lost my vote and respect as our constitutional rights are far too important to throw away.
Again it does look like he is guilty of a crime but we cannot rush to judgement because of our feelings.
Please remove me from your distrubution list as I no longer wish to hear from you.
John, how do you reconcile your statements with the fact that police who are implicated in the deaths of unarmed suspects all too often escape being prosecuted or are found not guilty? At some point, the system fails the victims of their brutality, and it’s happened enough times that in this instance, it seems foolish to wait for a jury to do their job, because all too often, it doesn’t happen. The convictions are the exception, not the rule. Until we remedy that part of the equation, calling a murderer a murderer seems entirely appropriate.
I think that we all have a right to be represented in court, because not every crime deserves “community service” or “a life time in prison.” However, after watching a video of a crime, listening to it, reading what the observers said, hmm, it’s clear that George Floyd was murdered by a policeman. That this perpetrator is guilty of murder need not be suspended until he/she is adjudicated guilty in court (sometimes it isn’t clear, thank goodness evidence is brought to court), but his sentence for having committed murder is a court matter. The penalty for murder is not as clear cut, for example, I don’t believe in capital punishment. Deciding on the penalty is not our job. I believe that we do need to use our eyes, ears, and brains to think. It’s impossible not to conclude that George Floyd was murdered. What is done about it, that’s another matter.
Thanks for being Judge and Jury in this case. I saw the video, as well, but he is Innocent until proven guilty. This takes a little time and investigation. Things are not always as they appear. I’ll wait before offering my “feelings”.
> “I’m prepared to refer to him as a murderer. No apology for reaching that conclusion.”
And if he’s acquitted…perhaps by being over-charged…and jurors agree that Floyd did NOT die of asphyxiation (coroner reports now conflict)…and riots ensue a la Rodney King, you will similarly refuse to apologize?
Thank you Will
Where was George Floyd’s right to be considered innocent until proven guilty? He died for the lack of it.
So two wrongs make a right? Fine. You just justified what Chauvin did.
Derek Chauvin will get a trial. Those on the jury will make the ultimate decision. It doesn’t mean we don’t take action until then. Like any other apparent murderer, he is being held until trial.
Yes, innocent till proven guilty.
But, can there be a fair trial?
The public videos are evidence enough that the action was a first degree murder by an armed officer. The officer was trained to protect himself and others. In the video there is no indication that Floyd was a danger to him or anyone else. There may have been some background animosities between George Floyd and officer Chauvin, but he went too far and as an trained officer he represented the State. Thus it was the State against an unarmed helpless individual. This is a first degree murder, let the higher wisdom of society as a whole judge the punishment.
You just gave Chauvin his “get out of jail” card.
First-degree implies intent to murder. The accused had his knee on Floyd’s neck, NOT trachea: no death by asphyxiation.
Also, the City coroner’s report said Mr.
George had underlying medical conditions…and perhaps drugs in his system.
So… no intent. No premeditation. Ergo, Chauvin walks.
Watch “12 Angry Men”, “The Ox-bow Incident”, “Rush to Judgment”, and “The Crucible.” Learn about the folly of judging without evidence.
Lynch mobs are always “certain” of guilt, too.
Thanks for your attention. Yes, that was a first degree murder, by an officer of the law. There must be a background that we do not know but will come out. Officer Chauvin was waiting for a trapping opportunity for the vengeful execution. Yes, “cops” have a tough job, but they are trained for it, and a higher level of emotional restraint is demanded of them than from “robbers”. This time he went too far.
calling the 4 policemen psychopaths is wrong,
did they have a psychiatrist diagnosis them with this? as horrible as this is, law and order is important and we need to protect our police as well,
at NECC a police officer in training died!
lets look at the numbers of police that die every day doing their jobs. Yes police need training, and medical training, who would possibly want to be a police officer today? give them $200,000 a year and more. they deserve it. The Chief of Police in Belmont sent a wonderful letter to all citizens in Belmont, did you read it ? about all their training?
take a look, We love our Police in Belmont!!
I did see Jamie MacIsaac’s letter and I feel the same way about our police in Belmont — great group. They are completely heartbroken to see the conduct of this officer in MN, as I am sure so many other police officers are.
Psychopath is a broad term that has a common as well as a technical use. I know a psychiatrist might or might not use it based on a full interview, but I feel it is appropriate based on what we saw at least as to Derek Chauvin.
Please don’t use the word psychopath,
1 percent of men have that diagnosis,
women, 0.3 to 0.7.
21 traits, it is a spectrum disorder
not a broad term, you are labeling all 4 of those police officers without a trial.
Where is the horror when police officers get killed, stabbed, shot? You are judge and jury. You write well but be more careful please
I care 100% for all victims of crime, including those in uniform.
I do feel especially pained and betrayed when people in uniform are the perpetrators crimes because they are sworn to uphold the law and empowered by the state.
For what it’s worth: Torturing and/or killing people without remorse is one of the symptoms of psychopathy. If you feel uncomfortable calling them psychopathic, you can just say they displayed a clear symptom of psychopathy. This is how we would put it in a medical record.
Being a police officer is not even in the top 10 most dangerous jobs. You have 2x more likelihood of dying as a garbage collector. Garbage collectors should be paid $200,000 and more, they deserve it.
Innocent until proven guilty is a legal standard for inside the courtroom. It means that you don’t have to prove your innocence, the prosecution has to prove your guilt. It doesn’t mean Will, and I, aren’t allowed to state our opinions about the case, just as the cop and his defenders get to state theirs.
Innocent until proven guilty should also mean no pretrial punishment. That is violated every day, in Massachusetts and almost every other state, by the requirement for cash bail.
So what do you propose, Senator, to protect innocent citizens, business people, as well as law enforcement people who are trying to do their jobs, and who are the victims of arson, violence, rioting and looting? Why are you and your fellow elected officials not condemning the dastardly out-of-control domestic terrorists whose destructive behavior is threatening the safety and economic viability of American cities?
If the politicians continue to turn a blind eye to criminal behaviors because right now it is not politically correct to be tough on crime, this country, and large cities in particular, will pay a terrible price. The middle class will start leaving the cities again, and things will go to hell very quickly. We should be focusing on preventing an economic collapse, which requires discipline and collaboration — and what we get is the very opposite of that, while our leaders in this state and elsewhere have no guts to insist that social norms, civility and safety be upheld.
Thanks, Eva. I am all about law and order and disappointed with protesters who cross the line. We need de-escalation and calming leadership. I agree that law enforcement is also essential.
We did arrest people.
We do need to know who these people are. Right now everyone has a pet theory, but facts are needed. The organization that called the only protest where violence occurred seems suspect to me. A new organization that existed only on twitter and Instagram, pretended to be endorsed by the NAACP and BLM but was not, and asked attendees to wear black. I don’t believe all the rioters were agitators but something is going on.
We need to reform the family and probate court legislation to bring dads back into kids lives. We need to pass the Child Centered Family Law Bill. As far as police reform. We must give Civilian review boards the teeth needed to remove officers who abuse their powers.
thoughtful and well said
Thanks! This is important.
Will, I always appreciate what you have to say but occasionally you rise to a level of eloquence that truly moves me. Few leaders ever rise to that level, at least for me. Thank you.
A friend, whose opinion I trust, reports that recent protest in Boston was peaceful, till the police escalated. It did not help that the T was shut down, leaving fewer options for “disperse” when that was ordered.
He notes that there are particular police officers who repeatedly seem to escalate; he’s that careful an observer.
Another (friend of a good friend) reports similar:
That is, we have a problem, no matter what actions we’ve taken thus far to address it.
Less specific to Boston, I’ve also been following this work, which I think is thoughtful and attempts to be very data-driven and productive, if we’re not learning from them already, we should:
This is not what occurred. The videos are all over the Internet. The police did not force people to steal jewelry and much of it occurred in places where there were few police.
David – you wrote “A friend, whose opinion I trust, reports that recent protest in Boston was peaceful, till the police escalated. It did not help that the T was shut down, leaving fewer options for “disperse” when that was ordered.”
This is a total distortion.I watched live coverage on Sunday night for hours. The cops were nowhere to be found. The criminals were looting without anyone interrupting them. When they were emerging with armfuls of stolen goods, friends were picking them up in get-away cars — you could see it. Others walked. Boston is a walkable city, you know.
I have been to similar protests where “participants” not only taunted police, but refused to disperse when ordered to. Many masked people feel free to be violent because they’re, well, well-masked. Antifa also uses tactics like putting women in frontlines (hoping they’ll not be arrested) while masked men hit police from behind. And/or guys throw objects/hit others, then run into the crowd.
Riots in Boston rarely happen or get out of control. Police make that happen.
Finally, cops are human, too. They have limits. Even the best-trained won’t accept any and all abuse. Nor should they have to.
David, Thanks for turning me on to this great website to learn much more about this issue nationally!
Same here. Discovering this movement. Thanks David.
Another report from friend of a good friend, again suggesting police escalation: https://www.facebook.com/curtiscomposer/posts/10158312324795688
Actually, we did bring in retired FBI agents to audit the Belmont Police Department on a set of conduct issues. There can be meaningful civilian oversight.
I met with you in regards to my disabled child victimized by educators -you couldn’t get me out of your office fast enough. She continues to hurt. Where is your compassion for human suffering? Educator abuse is at an all time high in Massachusetts. DCF is again being investigated (after already being found in violation)of discrimination of the disabled. Juvenile Court ordered my child from a therapeutic school to private at my personal cost; violating federal law. Judge Tan readily admitted she does not accommodate disabled children. You stated “court administration is very good” “no need for the laws to change.” Child Advocate was complicit -was Honorable Judith Fabricant?
One thing that has come out about Chauvin is that h had a history of bad behavior.
What are we doing in Massachusetts, and what more can we do, to root out any such officers from our forces? It’s not enough to move them to different departments; they need to not be police officers.
The expression goes that a bad apple spoils the bunch. We need to remove those bad apples, or we can’t be surprised when these things happen.
I have several thoughts. At the micro level. we should adopt a federal policy based on Community Policing with police on bikes perhaps or using multiple methods of truly knowing the community that they serve. Ideally, they should live in that community or nearby and reflect the racial, ethnic & cultural composition of that community. It should also be easier to get rid of police who abuse their power as I have read an article that said many precinct captains know they have cops who are abusing their authority but can’t get them removed from the force. Protect and serve shouldn’t be a motto but a creed and we need to abandon the militarization of the police. On a macro level, I have been thinking about the opportunity that the Covid 19 Virus has given us in terms of exposing the hidden and not so hidden inequities and wholes in our social safety net. We can’t go back to the way things used to be so we have an opportunity to correct things and create a better society and economic system. I have been reading a bit about the Wellbeing Economy that is being implemented in New Zealand, Scotland and Iceland which at present are being governed by women. The Wellbeing Economy is based on the dignity of the citizen and defines a successful economy that provides decent health care, housing and education to their citizens. It provides meaningful work , decent wages fosters buying locally with its sights leaving behind fossil fuels and moving towards 100% sustainable energy. It abandons neoliberal capitalism which is based on greed, growth, GDP and profits for investors. If we had a more just, equitable society and citizens were respected for their inherent worth as fellow human beings, we would most likely have a more civilized society with less violence and more mutual respect. I know it sounds a bit idealistic. To me it sounds a lot like some of Bernie Sanders’s platform for America. There are people from many disciplines such as health care, education, climate scientists, etc. who are contributing their ideas to expand what a Wellbeing Economy could look like. The countries that have adopted the Wellbeing Economy will say that there is no blueprint, no one size fits all formula. Of course there would be different priorities and approaches needed for third world countries as opposed to first world countries. There are several Ted Talks on the subject and I think these are worthy goals for a post Covid19 USA and world. That said, I fear that we lack the leadership and political will in this country to ever bring this type of economy about because those in power will have too much to loose.
New Zealand, Scotland, and Iceland are all small, relatively homogenous countries.
As for being “run by women,” look Sweden where feminists made it the rape capital of Europe while ruining snowplowing!
As for feminism itself, what has it done to help men for the past 50 years “in the name of equality”?
thanks for your bold and courageous comments, always.
Will, thanks for walking the walk in addition to talking the talk.
At the risk of stating the obvious the racial injustice we have witnessed for the last several decades is a hard problem to solve. Think of it. More the 150 years since the end of the civil war and we are still struggling as a society to accept each of regardless of color. Why is that? Each generation may have made some progress but it’s hard to feel satisfied with the level of change when we have experiences such as the ones we have seen these last few years. The Rodney King episode, for one, was nearly 30 years ago.
We have had Democratic and Republican administrations. We have seen countless headlines of leaders and government officials condemning the actions of a few. But why haven’t we seen the change required? What will it take to see that change?
Actions will be necessary at all levels- starting with each individual. An overall framework would be helpful but there will be time for this. Waiting for the cavalry seems naive. What’s necessary now – leadership and action. And leadership doesn’t happen just front the top. We all need to lead. I ask myself what will I do differently today to help drive the change ?
as a resident of boston, i understand and support the protestors and their goals. but i am also very concerned about the safety of my neighborhood and its residents. people, black or brown or white, need to feel safe in their homes in order to participate in civil society. without adequate public safety for everyone, that society is in danger of unraveling.
I understand and agree, Sue. We need calming leadership.
What specific bills are you proposing or supporting on criminal justice and police reform? Are you setting up an independent body to investigate allegations of misconduct?
I have given much of my life to criminal justice reform, culminating in the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2018 which is really making a difference in Massachusetts.
I have also worked to increase funding for police training which I agree is very necessary.
The biggest thing that directly speaks to the police brutality that we can do is elect progressive District Attorneys who are willing to investigate this kind of incident and prosecute. That is why I was such a strong and early supporter of Rachel Rollins in Suffolk County and Marian Ryan in Middlesex County.
Feel free to reach out to me on my cell or post your own ideas here.
Will, Rachel Rollins brings her own severe prejudices to her job, and DAs should be impartial and cool-headed, and color-blind. She is none of those things. Also, she cannot work productively with the police. I’m disappointed that you supported her.
There is a hashtag I saw circulating on social media. I honestly don’t know where it comes from but incorporates several proposals. Best as I can remember it: #J.U.D.D.
JURY review of use of lethal force
UNION REFORM, removing the power of unions to obstruct justice
DE-ESCALATION (Guardian) training of all police
DEMILITARIZATION, removing all equipment and practices that encourages viewing citizens as enemies.
This wave of protests is suffering badly from a lack of coherent demands, more so than other attempts. What do they want? When does it end?
Oh, and one thing the legislature needs to do is end civil forfeiture. Last I read MA had the worst civil forfeiture laws in the nation from the perspective of civil liberties. It’s a terrible incentive for police to act corruptly.
I have been following Keith Ellison, Minnesota AG, whose brother lives here in Boston and so I have a social media connection. It was just announced that he will lead the trial, which I think is good news. He is cautious not to jump to conclusions, since he wants the trial to be fair and transparent, but is clearly on the side of making sure justice is done.
>”He is cautious not to jump to conclusions…wants the trial to be fair and transparent, but is clearly on the side of making sure justice is done.?”
“But”? That word negates all that precedes it.
What if Chauvin responds did when accused of domestic violence?
Ellison (aka Keith E. Hakim) is supported by Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, a group and is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Should he recuse himself?
Thanks for saying this. I hope we can also work on the role of prison policies (excessive sentencing, selective targeting of young black men, lack of educational opportunities) in keeping black communities poor and powerless, and in building the attitude within the police force that black men must be guilty of something. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many of them in jail, right? Not all violence is physical. Rollins has taken some good steps but there is much more to do.
Thank you so much for articulating so clearly the distress so many of us share. While I think that our local police have generally done a very good job, I think that training re appropriate use
of force and techniques for de-escalating conflict should be ongoing. Police who violate guidelines
should be not only retrained but disciplined rather than excused for errors made in the heat of
the moment. I do not know if Mr Chauvin is
a psychopath, but he is certainly an irresponsible
bully and bullies should not be police officers.
But we must also be concerned about (and address) the underlying attitudes in many sectors of white America which allows this case (and others like it) as well as less well publicized cases such as the recent Central park case, to continue. Lee Peyton, the President of Emerson, has recently written a letter describing some of the types of actions black men are subjected to. How might schools and other institutions address this underlying problem ?
it is Lee Pelton, my autocorrect keeps
changing the spelling.
Thanks for your comments and nice to see everyone supporting your ideas. There are some community building, equity issues and action steps we have been taking in the past and much more that we need to do. I am invovled in 2 comminity based programs which support the lives of children and families. These are Smart from the Start, Boston and Higher Ground. Both are family support and education programs to address the toxic stress homelessness, of racial and financial injustice. I hope that our State will look at these programs as models, and expand statewide funding for such programs that integrate family and children together to include housing, jobs, food access, health access, psychosocial support, positive parenting and community building. These are the infrastructures of our communities.
The Floyd incident makes it harder to trust government officials. Mr. Floyd’s family commissioned two distinguished forensic pathologists to do a second autopsy on his body, and their report differs markedly from that of the Hennepin country medical examiner. They found that two other policemen had exerted pressure on Mr. Floyd’s back to an extent that it cut off air to his lungs and blood to his brain. They also reported that Mr. Floyd was a relatively healthy man and had no underlying heart disease. None of these findings were in the official report. The conclusion is that we can’t always trust doctors, especially when they are employed by the state.
This mistrust, which is shared by many, extends to many other statements put out by the government, large corporations, the media. Is there any authority we can trust–or do we have to rely on our own limited experience, on our own eyes and ears?
Government’s number one job is be honest and build trust as best it can. It has to be earned and re-earned. And it doesn’t take many mistakes or bad acts to lose it.
Thank you, Will, for articulating concisely your position and reassuring us that the Local Police Departments are sensitive to the social problems of the profession. Police training assumes that the policeman has to first protect himself so he can protect others, so, he shoots even at a false indication that the offender is searching for a gun. The officer has no to time to think, he must engage. Other countries do not have the same problem of engagement because there are no guns in their society. What is our State doing to help the Police with this serious American societal problem?
Ottavio – thank you for pointing this out. The police in this country have an extremely difficult and dangerous job. They keep us safe, and yet, there is no appreciation expressed for that in the main stream media. The focus is only on the bad apples, which are a small minority — and then that constant negative publicity is turned against all cops, even those who don’t deserve condemnation.
Eva, I’m not sure what culture you live in, but police are worshipped in American culture. Tune into primetime television for hourly examples.
To hopefully clarify Ottavio’s point, the flood of guns in our country mean that everyone an officer encounters is potentially carrying a weapon designed to kill, so how can we make their lives easier by drastically reducing the number of guns to a sane level?
We’re at a point where there’s a myriad of reasons to not trust our own government. The murder of George Floyd (and Eric Garner, Philando Castile) is an absolute travesty, but it goes further. We’ve had many people harmed and killed in no knock warrants (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jose_Guerena_shooting , https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/ex-georgia-deputy-acquitted-after-flash-bang-grenade-hurts-toddler-n479361). Then, in our own state, the Holyoke Soldier’s Home shows that our own state government is far, far from perfect.
Both parties benefit from gerrymandering, both parties in Congress have investment portfolios that show obvious benefit from insider trading. As bad as Trump is (and he’s horrible) the best the Democrats could do was Biden?
I’m not one to conflate many issues into one. Victims of our government, like George Floyd, are the most abject examples but the problems are far broader and far deeper. Even in the rioting, as bad as the looting was, there’s been plenty more examples of police brutality against those who weren’t looting.
This isn’t directed at you personally Will, but I dare say most people in the US don’t trust their own government. I can’t say I blame them.
Paul, you wrote: “Even in the rioting, as bad as the looting was, there’s been plenty more examples of police brutality against those who weren’t looting.”
How is the police supposed to know which members of a mob will refrain from looting and setting things on fire, and which won’t, when they are all intermingled, scream and shout, throw objects, and otherwise behave in a hostile manner?
Eva, several members of the Australian press were beaten by police live on television during their morning equivalent of the “TODAY” show. The prime minster of Australia has demanded an investigation. If foreigners are showing more inquisitiveness than Americans into American police brutality, there’s the problem right there.
Eva, your use of the word “refrain” is troubling. If the police have no evidence the person has committed a crime and/or catches them in the act, they can’t arrest the person. That’s pretty basic from a Constitutional perspective and we don’t punish precrime. People also have a right to peacefully protest.
Will thank you for your thoughtful commentary on the “Murder in Minneapolis” You mention the critical need for effective screening and training of police officers. In addition are there required programs for veteran officers that deal with the racism that has been a dominating if unacknowledged factor in American life? Culture of any organization is difficult to change, particularly one such as a police department.
Culture comes from the top. Civilians always have a role in choosing police leadership and that is one of the most important decisions they make.
I think you’re right about culture coming from the top – unfortunately we are in a place where the top is actually not citizen leadership – it is police unions dedicated to protecting officers from accountability.
I’m appalled at the people who are demanding rights for the rogue policeman who murdered. That man had a record of several disciplinary complaints against him. Too many, abet a small group of police officers, have such problems and should be purged from the force, probably after their second offense. If there is a criticism to be made of the police force, it is too many of them cover for such malfeasance.
>”I’m appalled at the people who are demanding rights for the rogue policeman who murdered.”
His rights are implicit. There is not need to demand them. He is automatically innocent until proven guilty by a jury of his peers.
He does have the right to a fair trial, just as anyone else should in this country.
Will, Thank you for your thoughts and, as always, letting us know where your stand on the issues. Even more so, thank you for standing up against racism and discrimination of all kinds.
I do not think we will make any progress towards reconciling or even respecting very different points of view and pursuing durable change for the better if we do not make and agree on a clear distinction between legitimate protests – an American right and tradition – and actions which knowingly may or in the event do lead to theft, destruction of property and even worse harm to human beings and hence must be condemned and hopefully stamped out. We also have to recognize that what for the fortunate among us has for the most part been a system of law and order that treats us with respect, from which we expect and generally receive fair treatment, there are other groups or communities, notably but not only African Americans, who have experienced decades or even centuries of a very different “law and order” in which their actions and behavior although lawful for others were deemed illegal for them, so they were punished for any infractions often very severely up to and including execution. Moreover the “order” they “enjoyed” was designed to keep them down, not safe.
Today we seem to be going backwards in efforts to establish a “law and order” which is in practice color blind and treats all of us in accordance with our behavior and actions, and not in profoundly different and discriminatory ways based upon distinctions of our skin color, or the shape of our eyes, or our accents or the languages we speak. We have a President, and his acolytes, including (perhaps most outrageously the Attorney General, head of the increasingly incongruously named Department of Justice), who delight in using their pulpits to utter malignant words and threats, and to obscure, misrepresent or ignore distinctions between legitimate protesters and alleged “domestic terrorists” with the predictable effect of further inflaming festering resentments between groups already inclined to think the worst of each other and act accordingly. They are doing all this as far as I can see solely in the belief that it will increase the chances of their reelection and continuation in their positions of power, regardless of the harm they inflict upon our society and body politic.
We have hate-driven groups in several flavors in the US, with counterparts and support from abroad in some instances, who delight in whipping up our worst emotions and initiating and encouraging hostile actions against those we do not like or are different from us. While these groups have in principle antithetical aims (e.g. Antifa and neo-Nazis) their tactics are the same, to disrupt and destroy in the hope that as a result their extreme views of how society should be structured (or ripped apart) will eventually prevail. In contrast the anger of protesters is both understandable and justified. I am often in awe that for the most part they remain peaceful, in stark contrast to the actions of bigoted and/or opportunistic rioters and looters, or sadly to the actions that today are being encouraged and threatened by the President.
Thank you, Martin. You are right on the money on all these points. I would only add that it is easy for people who enjoy the myriad embedded privileges that go with being white to condemn this violence when I, personally, wonder why the violence has not been far worse. That the pent-up anger over constant and condoned injustice has spilled out in ugliness should come as no surprise, and to express disgust at it avoids the obligation to confront and eliminate the insidious cause of its eruption.
Thank you, too, Senator, for reflecting the endangered concepts of principle and honesty and integrity in public office.
>”The incident once-again evokes the long, ugly, and still present history of violence against African Americans in our country”
Will, you omitted the “people-of-the-absence-of-color” violence committed against European Americans (“people-of-all-colors”).
You failed to mention the black man who murdered an elderly white couple visiting their son’s grave. Why?
Note, though, that after nearly ALL black-on-white killings, whites do not riot and loot.
So who has the problem with “law and order”?
You wrote: “Law enforcement in Suffolk County is led by a trio of strong African American professionals, District Attorney Rachel Rollins, Police Commissioner William Gross, and Sheriff Steve Tompkins.”
So? Are they more moral than European Americans?
FACT: most violence-looting-rioting is occurring in black/Democrat-run cities/states.
Also for “implicit bias training”— does that include black racist attitudes towards whites?
Does “de-escalation” include teaching blacks to comply with lawful police orders?
Does it also include efforts to teach blacks to be less violent?
Willy Sutton famously said he robbed banks because that’s where the money was. Might not blacks fill prisons more because they commit crimes more?
Chauvin was a beast, no doubt. As were the Asian and other officers who did nothing for 8 minutes, too. However, dueling coroner’s reports mean the actual cause of death has not been established. So let’s all wait for the jury’s verdict before determining if/any guilt.
Floyd was no saint. He’d previously entered a woman’s home, pointed a gun at her stomach, and searched for drugs/money. He was sentenced to 10 months in jail for possessing cocaine in 2005, too. He did 8 months for the same offense in 2002. Finally, he served 30 days for criminal trespass…and yet another stint for theft in August 1998.
Black-white strife will not end until blacks are held equally responsible instead of eternal victims/children.
FACT: each year, in just one part of one city (Chicago), blacks kill more of each other than the KKK hanged in the entire country over 20 years.
FACT: no one fears the approach of yeshiva students or Amish farm boys. They DO dread groups of black “youths.”
FACT: just 1.5% of America…criminal black males aged 14-34…commit 54% of all violent crimes.
FACT: some 77% of black children are raised in fatherless families, leading to life-long welfare dependency, poverty, low academic achievement, and gang-affiliations…and thus often prison, not college.
Whites are not the problem. Post-1965 fatherless-family black culture is.
Instead of listening to race-baiters like Jackson and Sharpton, blacks would do well to heed the wisdom of Williams, Sowell, McWhorter, Elder, Loury, and others.
They would also do well to read Paul Kersey and Colin Flaherty, plus watch YouTubers like The Amazing Lucas and Anthony Brian Logan.
Blacks burning down their own cities only worsens things for themselves. Sane businesses and citizens don’t stay in…or move to…areas lacking stores, services, and safety.
Antifa is another HUGE problem. It must also be held accountable, not lauded by MSM. Antifa droogs look and act like European Nazi brownshirts/Fascist blackshirts. Calling themselves “anti” fascism is like North Korea calling itself a “democratic” republic.
Words don’t matter as much as deeds.
Until blacks decide to act responsibly instead of blaming others, things will worsen.
Whites, remember, were historically THE major source of slaves. The world “slaves” itself comes from “Slavs”— a white people. Plus whites were indentured-slaves in the USA, most not surviving their 7-year contracts. They also did work deemed too dangerous for “long-term-investment” blacks…like draining swamps.
The world is complicated. Every human group has had slaves, including both Indians and blacks in the USA. Whites, on the other hand, alone ENDED slavery in the West.
FACT: some 12 years after the first blacks arrived in Britain’s North American colonies, whites in Baltimore, Ireland were enslaved en masse by Moroccan-Algerian-Turkish-Dutch pirates.
Continuing to “blame whites” will just lead to a race war…one blacks would lose in one week.
There is nothing, save blacks themselves, stopping their progress. They were “moving’ on up” post-WWII. Then they accepted LBJ’s welfare Faustian offer.
Today, they hold the knowledge of all nations/times in their smartphone hands. Nothing stops them from improving instead of devolving.
Current black culture (blaming whites; mocking education; lauding thuggery; accepting welfare; shunning fatherhood; promoting irresponsibility; demanding endless affirmative-actions) keeps blacks down.
Hispanics, even those here illegally, have more cohesive families and are starting to stress education more. They are also not innately pro-black…as was shown in places like Compton, CA. So I’d not count on black-brown alliances. In fact, Hispanic families tend to become conservative as they progress.
Sympathetic whites, for the most part, can do little. Gates, Zuckerberg, Soros, etc. have much money…but little interest in actually improving black lives. On the other hand, Cantabrigian “church ladies” mouth being “allies,” but do little to change anything. The only real hope/change for black lies in mirrors.
If black lives mattered, blacks themselves would act differently. Their signs seem designed to convince themselves. They’re like adults wearing soiled Huggies yelling, “Clean diapers matter!” Who do they expect will change their diapers?
Who do blacks expect will make them “matter”?
I strongly suspect blacks who hold BLM signs were raised in families that didn’t affirm them. Fathers, for example, traditionally prepare children for the outside world, mothers protecting them in-home. Together, by word and deed, parents convince kids that they’re the “best in the world.” Children then carry that self-confidence into the outside world.
If children do not get a sense of self-worth from their own fathers and mothers, no amount of “empowerment” from others later will ever be enough.
The real tragedy here is not the death of one man…black, white, or other. It’s the constant divisiveness. The Left says nothing good about whites or America. It also sees no flies on itself. That leads to war.
The Proud Boys are not the problem, either. Antifa is. It ALWAYS starts fights. And, as in Charlottesville, are aided by cops in liberal cities: https://tinyurl.com/ybvbpeut
Liberals who call for “conversation and dialogue” often dictate to muted others. The Left SAYS it supports free speech, then deems anything it disagrees with “hateful” and “dangerous”…and thus worthy of censoring.
Refusing to listen to others doesn’t make concerns disappear. They just go underground. Open debate gets replaced by samizdat. Audiences’ silence then gets mistaken for agreement.
Will says “We need national leadership that deplores violence, offers solace, commits to progress for all.” Trump already does all that. But since he’s not Hillary, he’s demonized. Fine. Just don’t complain when Democrat leaders get demonized in turn.
It’s like Harvard braying about “diversity” while making sure 95% of students and faculty are liberals. It’s a “rainbow coalition” of like-minded drones wearing identical political jackboots!
For the past 3.5 years, groups like antifa, Black Bloc, and other masked thugs attacked unarmed others (with whom they disagree with politically) with impunity. The attacked rarely fought back. When they did, like Proud Boys in NYC, the latter were jailed. In places like Manhattan, Sacramento, Berkeley, Seattle, Portland, and Charlottesville…police let the Left run amok. Many of those cites are now aflame.
This will not long endure. The center cannot hold.
Viewing whites as saints and blacks as saints is not just silly; it’s wrong and dangerous. Whites will not be patient and passive forever. One-sided scapegoating in tolerated only so long. Then all hell breaks loose.
Just ask Saxons: https://tinyurl.com/737eo7u
The choice is both obvious, urgent, and stark: frank-open-robust discussions or war.
You don’t need to be a coroner to see that this was murder.
And you don’t need to be a weatherman to see the way the wind is blowing.
Let’s be honest here, Will. You and I both know that the Public Safety Committee on Beacon Hill has let racist police unions like the FOP and the BPPA exercise veto power over what reforms get passed. Naughton’s only effort on police accountability this session was to cosponsor a BPPA/FOP bill that would make police personnel files confidential, hindering accountability.
You say that Boston PD “cares about the community and exercises good leadership”, but they arrest Black people vastly out of proportion with the population, vastly over-police black-majority areas of the city, and publish a newsletter (Pax Centurion) brimming with Trumpian rants against undocumented people, antifa and students. Nothing, it appears, sparks police fury more than protests at police brutality, peaceful or not.
Legally speaking, if you’re a victim of police abuse, qualified immunity makes it nearly impossible to get justice. And in the unlikely event of even a settlement out of court for police abuses, the cost falls on the taxpayer, not on the individual officer or out of the police budget, so there’s no incentive for them to stop. Civil asset forfeiture laws allow officers to steal cash and assets from the public. Police chiefs acquire and deploy military and surveillance equipment without telling elected officials about it, much less asking whether it’s OK. Boston PD inform on Boston residents to ICE, and don’t even bother to hear public comments when there are hearings on police abuses at Boston City Hall. And when police kill someone, as with Denis Reynoso in Lynn, the whole structure of the state cooperates to exculpate, and even give medals to, the officers involved.
So no, all is not well with our police departments. Elected officials at all levels have allowed police endlessly increasing budgets, endlessly broader authority, and endlessly less accountability. It’s no wonder that the profession attracts homicidal thugs like Derek Chauvin.
Black people have every right to demand equal treatment before the law, and to expect that elected officials will take meaningful action to deter police violence, instead of hashtagging #BLM while quietly killing real reforms and musing, like Joe Biden just did, that maybe reform means better training so that police shoot protesters against police brutality in the legs rather than the head.
People like Mr. Sides above blame Black people themselves for the murderous acts of the police – and fundamentally, the police do too. Time for the police to take some personal responsibility, instead of acting like tantrum-throwing toddlers every time someone tells the truth about what they’re doing; and it’s long past time for elected officials to step up and act to rein them in.
>”Viewing whites as saints and blacks as saints is not just silly; it’s wrong and dangerous. Whites will not be patient and passive forever. One-sided scapegoating in tolerated only so long. Then all hell breaks loose.”
My bad. It should read: “Viewing whites as SINNERS and blacks as saints is not just silly; it’s wrong and dangerous. Whites will not be patient and passive forever. One-sided scapegoating IS tolerated only so long. Then all hell breaks loose.”
All LIVES MATTER IS WHAT WE SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT! I feel like I’m being discriminated against just for the color of my skin, don’t white,Indian, Asian or any other race matter !
Looking for information here: which (if any) Massachusetts police departments require their officers to wear bodycams and/or have dashcams, and what happens if those cameras are turned off?
It’s a mishmash of varying practices right now. We are trying to get a handle on it.
Police culture must change. That is not an easy thing to do because it isn’t simply the police but rather a culture embedded in society. We all have a part to play in changing that culture and removing the chains that have burdened people of color for too long.
Will can you do something about these large crowds ? It’s putting all the work we have done for the last 3 months down the drain ! If we can have thousands protesting why not open the restaurants, ball parks and concerts back up ! It’s not right ! This virus hits everyone and they are putting the public at risk big time !
It’s a special tragedy that this is all happening at the time of COVID-19.
It is time for Massachusetts to end the use of solitary in it’s prisons and jails and to reform the use of excessive force and neglect. The justice system here is broken. Our tax dollars are being wasted by not bringing about real change and allowing injustice to happen.
It would be comforting to see the voice of the rank and file police and officers — their union leaders — speak up for the standards of decency that most police support. They should drop their opposition to tighter civilian review of officers’ actions as they perform their duties.
I note that Watertown’s percent increase for its police force budget was nearly twice that of the percent increase for its education fund (2020). Shouldn’t education be at least as high a priority as policing? How about a provision that police funding increases can not exceed education funding increases?
All of the training in the world means nothing if they know there are no real consequences for their actions.
The Suffolk county police are moving in a positive direction. How can we move the Massachusetts State Police in the same direction.? I’m a white male and every encounter I have with a state trooper sends shivers down my spine. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to be black in Massachusetts and being stopped by a state trooper.
Can the state legislature at least look into this?
“It’s not realistic to expect cities suddenly to become tougher in contract negotiations. The solution is for states like Massachusetts to simply take the temptation off the table, by preventing cities from bargaining away discipline in the first place and restricting union negotiations to matters like general working conditions, salaries, and benefits.”
Will, wondering about your opinion re what the state legislature can do re police union contract reform. As called for in the Globe’s editorial, Don’t let police labor unions thwart accountability – https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/06/04/opinion/dont-let-labor-agreements-thwart-police-accountability/
Others in this discussion have brought up union contract issues as well (and very educational, thank you all).
“State legislators must get serious, at the next possible opportunity, about fixing prior legislative deals that overly protect police officers from appropriate oversight.”
As someone who was born in Minneapolis before it was multi-racial, I am deeply saddened to hear about what happened to such a beautiful city. My father who was Jewish and had a black best man at his wedding in Illinois, had moved there to take a job in city planning. My mother’s memory was that there were mostly Swedes there in the late 50s, early 60s and that it was freezing cold. Sometimes I think the protest throughout the world are a bit much — the police were wrong no doubt, but George Floyd was just one man. Racial injustice affects many –and we should all pitch in to end it in ourselves and in our law makers and providers.
Senator Brownsberger, I am wondering whether you are planning to support an effort to ban the use of tear gas (some information here: https://www.repmikeconnolly.org/next_steps_ban_the_use_of_tear_gas_by_law_enforcement_in_massachusetts). I have been very concerned to see the use of tear gas here in Massachusetts during a respiratory pandemic. We don’t fully know how tear gas will interact with COVID-19, but I think it’s safe to say that it could be risky, given that these agents cause respiratory irritation and can induce coughing, potentially increasing COVID-19 spread (https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/riotcontrol/factsheet.asp; https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Jyfn4Wd2i6bRi12ePghMHtX3ys1b7K1A/view).
I’m definitely looking at the issue — our examination could lead to a ban or to some clear and narrow limitations on its use.
Will, why are you so reluctant to comment on police union contract reform? Many of the contract conditions that benefit _only_ police union members (e.g. not being required to wear body cameras, extreme difficulty of being fired for disciplinary reasons), do so to the detriment of every other member of the community. George Floyd would not have been murdered by Derek Chauvin if Chauvin had been appropriately disciplined for the 17 misconduct complaints he received during his 19 years of service.
“Real police reform takes more than platitudes and good intentions. It takes a willingness to change state civil service laws that currently govern labor disputes.”
“Just ask Mayor Joe Curtatone of Somerville. For five years, Curtatone has been trying to get his city’s police to wear body cameras. But the Somerville Police Employees Association doesn’t want them. Union representatives bargained to an impasse, which allowed them to take their case to a state board that oversees such contract disputes. In arguing its case, the union said that body-worn cameras are a “new and controversial subject” and are not “an accepted working condition for police officers.””
“Is what’s being talked about on Beacon Hill real change? “No,” said Curtatone. His criticism extends beyond the Republican governor to lawmakers, most of whom are fellow Democrats. “It is frustrating when I hear so-called progressives on Beacon Hill say they are there for change,” said Curtatone. Even as they say it, he said, “dealing with public safety unions is sacrilegious in their minds.””
I agree that the disciplinary process and more broadly the change process has been held back by unions in some jurisdictions. I’m very prepared to vote for change over union objection. That’s not a problem. We do want to work with all parties, including unions, to fashion effective legislation. We are in the process of pushing hard to get legislation done over the next few weeks that is responsive.
Thanks, happy to hear that.
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