Boston officials must step up for justice in this tragedy

When I learned of the police shooting death of Terrence Coleman, an African-American man from Boston’s South End who was described in the police report as “emotionally disturbed,” I was saddened, but not entirely shocked. This tragic incident confirms what black communities and their allies have known all along: that Boston is not immune.

Police Commissioner William Evans has said that Ferguson is not Boston. How he, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley, and Mayor Marty Walsh proceed in handling this case will determine whether this is true. I call upon them to take these four steps:

Acknowledge Coleman’s mother’s claim that he was unarmed when shot. Even if the facts are in dispute, it is critical that she and the community know that she has been heard and that her statement will be considered in the investigation.

Conduct a thorough investigation that sets a new standard for transparency. Ensure that all evidence is presented to the public, recognizing that the community will be doubly harmed if trust in both the justice system and in law enforcement is further eroded.


Work with community groups, in a spirit of humble cooperation, to proactively address the impact on police-community relations. When future police transparency and accountability measures are proposed, do not assert categorically that Boston does not need them.

Call for investment in accessible, affordable, culturally competent mental health services. Coleman became one of the many people with mental health issues who are killed in confrontation with police. Demonstrate that this is unacceptable.

Boston can do better.

Sylvia Ferrell-Jones
President and CEO
YW Boston