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Should Worcester Police Be Subject to Civilian Review Board?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


At Tuesday's City Council meeting, City Councilor Konnie Lukes will be requesting City Manager Ed Augustus to report on the feasibility of establishing an independent Civilian Police Review Board. 

Specifically, Councilor Lukes is looking for information towards a proposed budget, staffing needs, and subpoena and investigatory powers of the Board.

The more interesting part of Lukes proposal is her stance on the Worcester Police Department. In early January, Lukes proposed to the City Council a resolution that supported the Worcester Police Department's professionalism, leadership and dedication in Worcester.

However, following the arrest of Worcester Police officer Michael Motyka, Lukes has seemingly shifted her focus on the WPD.

Jennifer Gaskin, President of the Worcester Caribbean American Carnival Association (WCACA), an organization dedicated to community empowerment and cultural diversity, said "I am glad to see that she (Lukes) is taking a broader view of the issues with respect to the WPD. I think it is important that we as a city and community support our police department but we should also make a unified effort to remove anyone from the department that doesn't reflect the mission of the department as a whole."

"That effort should come from within the department, our city leaders (council, mayor, city manager), and the community. I think we have an overall good police department. There maybe some bad apples but I think that happens everywhere. We just need to make sure that when issues do arise they are dealt with swiftly. The message needs to be that this behavior will not be tolerated here in the City of Worcester," Gaskin added.

Mayor Joe Petty

On April 16, Mayor Joe Petty released a statement adamantly against any police review board - calling it "unneeded" and praised Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme for always acting "swiftly." Petty went so far as to say that if a civilian review board existed, in contrast, it would take too long to make tough decisions.

In the statement Mayor Petty said, "Any such board of any substance or with any jurisdiction would require reorganization by the City Manager, would require the approval of the appropriate unions, and would most likely put the City in a difficult position due to privacy rights as well as double-jeopardy implications."

"I think they are a good tool in building trust and confidence with the communities that the police serve," said Gaskin, "but they would need a broader scope of power than what we have seen, in Boston for example, to truly have an impact."

In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh is attempting to reform the city's civilian review board - called the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel - to give it more power than it currently has.

Gaskin said, "The selection and training process would need to be robust enough to make the folks chosen for the panel effective. The panel should also reflect the community being served and the selection process should be transparent to the community."


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