Protests over the police killing of George Floyd have exposed a deep divide in the country on race issues. That schism is now playing out within Boston’s law enforcement community.
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, who took office a year and a half ago with a vow that it would not be business as usual, has made good on her pledge. She’s challenged the status quo in lots of ways, tangling with judges who sought to encroach on her control over charging decisions for defendants and even mixing it up with a group that has been broadly supportive of her reform agenda — the state public defenders agency.
But none of it compares with the tensions now laid bare by the subject of race-based police brutality in America.
Rollins is part of a wave of reform-minded DAs who are upending the conventional role of prosecutors by raising basic questions about the fairness of the criminal justice system, in particular when it comes to issues of race. At the top of a pyramid that stacked up those concerns would be street level interactions where the hand of law enforcement is first felt and where fatal encounters like the killing of Floyd have unfolded with grim frequency in recent years.
Over the weekend, Rollins, the first black woman to serve as Suffolk DA, tweeted “we are being murdered at will by the police & their proxy.” At a Monday press briefing with city leaders, she said protests, including the Sunday demonstrations that ended in violence in downtown Boston with injuries to police, came after years of seeing officers, whose positions blacks pay taxes to fund, “shoot us in the streets as if we are animals.”
Yesterday came the blowback.
“We write to condemn your reckless statements labelling all police officers ‘murderers,’ and the corresponding tweets that undoubtedly incited violence against the proud men and women of the Boston Police Department.” That was just the start of a letter to Rollins from leaders of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association ripping her for “slandering our officers.”
Rollins, in a statement issued last night, sought to defuse things by making clear she did not mean to paint all police officers with a broad brush. But her olive branch came complete with thorns that made clear her willingness to stand firm on the issue of police misconduct.
“I state unequivocally, my discontent is not with the overwhelming majority of police officers who serve our communities with dignity and pride, who are culturally competent and bring honor to the badge they wear,” she said. “No, my outrage is laser focused on the rogue few who believe that they can kill with impunity. And they have been empowered to do so by Mayors across the country that will not fire them and District Attorneys across the country that will not prosecute them. That stops now.”
Earlier on Tuesday, when the police union tweeted out its letter about the DA’s “incendiary and anti-Police remarks,” Rollins challenged the union to speak out on Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“You mean Anti-Police BRUTALITY,” she tweeted in response to the union message. “And did I somehow miss BPPA’s letter denouncing the murder of George Floyd and calling for the immediate termination and prosecution of the 4 police that murdered him and/or watched and did nothing while he died? White fragility is real people.”
When Rollins appeared on the Codcast earlier this year to take stock of her first year in office, she said she speaks often to the police union president, despite their differences on issues, and has had long meetings with union leaders. (A new president has since taken the reins of the BPPA.)
“None of this is personal,” she said. “Whether we agree or disagree I will show up any time they ask me to speak.”
A beer summit may be in order..
The House advances a restaurant relief bill. (State House News)
Thousands of people marched through Franklin Park in Boston and rallied to protest police brutality against blacks. (Boston Globe) Around 1,000 protesters march against police brutality in Holyoke, offering a list of demands, including the creation of a citizens’ review board to review complaints against the police. (MassLive) In Brockton, an evening of peaceful protests ended with a night of violent clashes between police and demonstrators, followed by incidents of arson and vandalism. (The Enterprise) The mayor and police chief in Easthampton invite residents to kneel with them for eight and a half minutes. (Daily Hampshire Gazette) The police chief in Northampton takes a knee and protesters then disperse. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Local officials are preparing requests for reimbursement from the federal CARES Act for their COVID-19 costs. (Eagle-Tribune)
Boston adds another $5 million to the $3 million the city already allotted for rental assistance for low-income tenants struggling amidst the coronavirus pandemic. (Boston Globe)
With diligence and luck, a group of nursing homes across the state have managed to limit the impact of COVID-19 in their facilities. (Boston Globe)
Hospitals are urging patients to return after many delayed their care. (Gloucester Daily Times)
New England Episcopal bishops are among those signing a statement calling President Trump’s church visit disgraceful and “morally repugnant.” (MassLive)
Joe Biden vows to address institutional racism in his first 100 days in office if elected president. (Associated Press)
Massachusetts Republicans lose races for two open seats in special elections. Danillio Sena defeated Catherine Clark for the seat vacated by Democrat Jennifer Benson and Carol Doherty defeats Kelly Dooner for the seat previously held by Republican Shaunna O’Connell, who is now the mayor of Taunton. (Nashoba Valley Voice/Taunton Gazette)
Joan Vennochi says Joe Kennedy’s campaign is basically trading on his youth and famous name, with an argument that nearly 50 years in Congress is OK for a Kennedy (his late great-uncle Ted) but not a Markey. (Boston Globe)
Millions of Americans are skipping payments as a tidal wave of defaults and evictions looms. (NPR)
Cape Cod restaurant owners are relieved over Gov. Charlie Baker’s order, which lets them bypass state authority in pursuit of liquor licenses as they reopen. (Cape Cod Times)
Fall River businesses complain about the state’s ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco products. (Herald News)
Clark University will no longer hire Worcester police officers for details because university officials are unhappy with how the police handled a protest over the death of George Floyd. The police arrested four Clark students during the protest. (Telegram & Gazette)
Boston school Superintendent Brenda Cassellius says the district is making various contingency plans for the fall, including some mix of classroom and online instruction. (Boston Herald)
St. Jerome School students and parents protest the Boston Archdiocese proposed closing of the Weymouth school. (Patriot Ledger)
A Salem police captain is suspended for a tweet criticizing Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for allowing large protests while she can’t go to a restaurant. (Salem News)