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LETTERS

The thick blue line

Roiling debate over role of police and their heightened presence

Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, including one that was held on Sunday evening near the Lawrence Police headquarters.
Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, including one that was held on Sunday evening near the Lawrence Police headquarters.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

UMass Boston students had a purpose to their rally

I appreciate your coverage of the demonstration against police brutality that occurred on the University of Massachusetts Boston campus on Saturday (“Mass. rallies keep up a call for change,” Metro, June 7). Being there with colleagues, students, and neighbors was quite inspiring. However, your coverage downplayed the main issue that motivated the organizing of the rally: specifically, the training of State Police on our campus to be deployed to demonstrations (a practice that campus leadership has suspended, for now).

I was at the demonstration in Franklin Park last week that drew thousands of people, and what took place after it ended and people were leaving was frightening: Numerous police officers — in cars, on bicycles, on foot, and on motorcycles — suddenly advanced into the peaceful crowd, waving long batons. I was particularly close to them when it happened and caught myself several times inserting myself between my daughter and the alarming police.

The rally ended peacefully, but the police continued training the following day on our campus. This is what sparked the wonderfully moving student-organized rally Saturday at UMass Boston.

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Rachel Rubin

Cambridge

The writer is a professor and department chair in the American studies department at the University of Massachusetts Boston.


Stop in Newton was an example of appropriate police work, not profiling

I read with interest about Tim Duncan’s encounter with the Newton Police (“A walk to the grocery store, interrupted,” Page A1, June 6). I am certain that it was unpleasant for Duncan, but what would one have preferred the police to have done differently under the circumstances?

After all, according to your story, the police were investigating a recent Dorchester homicide, they knew that the prime suspect was a Black man (matching the general description of Duncan, former deputy athletic director at Northeastern), and they had information that the suspect was then in Newton. It is not discriminatory profiling for the police under such circumstances to have stopped Duncan and (by the story’s account) asked him for his identification. The fact that multiple squad cars were involved is not surprising given that a murder had occurred and the manifest risk posed by the apprehension of the suspect.

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The unspeakable circumstances of George Floyd’s death and the other recent high-profile instances of innocent Black men and women being victimized by law enforcement and white vigilantes ought not blind us to the need for evenhanded policing. Under such circumstances, it was the residents of Dorchester who, having endured a murder, had the greatest interest in the perpetrator being brought to swift account.

Lloyd Macdonald

Cambridge

The writer is a retired superior court judge and in the early 1970s was the assistant director of the Harvard Law School Center for Criminal Justice.


Status quo won’t change without police supervisors leading reforms

Edward Davis, the former Boston police commissioner, and Frank Hartmann suggest that police misconduct can be solved by asking police officers, police unions, and legislators to control problem officers (“Police unions must police their members,” Opinion, June 6). Except for a few passing references, they failed to mention police administrators, whose job is to supervise police officers.

In my experience as a lawyer handling police misconduct cases, most police officers try to comply with their supervisors’ expectations. However, I have handled cases in which victims of police brutality were arrested for assault and battery on a police officer, in an apparent attempt to cover up the officer’s abuse. If supervisors fail to question how such injuries occurred, officers could feel free to use excessive force. Police administrators are responsible for disciplining officers to protect civilians from brutality.

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Police unions have a different role, to represent officers. Davis and Hartmann write that unions almost never accept discipline, no matter how outrageous the misconduct. Police accountability requires more than just action by police supervisors. We need to reduce the power of police unions.

Complaints of police misconduct and disciplinary records must be public. Reports and videos of brutality must be made public promptly, to permit community input and prevent rumors or coverups. The press must be free to report on police behavior.

Police administrators, police officers, unions, and legislators all must listen to the demands of the people and groups like Black Lives Matter and recognize that the status quo must change.

Howard Friedman

Boston