The Boston Police Department has opened investigations and put a sergeant on leave after “difficult to watch” body-cam videos surfaced from the department’s response to the protests earlier this year.
The videos, acquired by the liberal criminal-justice publication The Appeal through records requests and published Friday, included a clip of one sergeant recounting a story to an officer whose body camera was on. The sergeant said he’d been “hitting people with the car.” After the man whose body cam was on told him it had been activated, the sergeant said that hadn’t really happened, and that the car had been pelted with thrown items.
Other videos showed clashes between cops and protesters, with clips showing officers pushing or pepper-spraying civilians, who in the video clips aren’t shown as being violent. The videos from officers’ body cameras are from May 31, when protests over racial issues devolved into riots.
Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said in a statement late Friday night, “As soon as these videos were brought to my attention, I immediately ordered my Bureau of Professional Standards to open and conduct a thorough and fair investigation into this matter, and the totality of circumstances involved.”
He said he placed the sergeant on leave.
Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins’ office said the videos “present troubling scenes that merit further examination, which is what the office is doing.”
Mayor Martin Walsh said, “This footage is difficult to watch, and begs answers to many questions that I expect to be answered through an Internal Affairs investigation.”
“We never want to see police officers using more force than necessary, even when tensions are high,” the mayor said. “These types of situations are also exactly why we are implementing body worn cameras for all police officers, and why we convened a police reform task force committed to bringing necessary reforms and accountability to the police department.”
The city council this week passed several bills involving the police department, including one that would create panels to oversee internal and external complaints and another that would heavily limit the use of pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets. Walsh’s office said he continues to review the proposals.
Councilor Andrea Campbell, the city council’s public safety chair — and a mayoral challenger to Walsh — said called on Walsh to “sign them today.”
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“As a Black woman and someone who has listened to constituents detail their traumatic interactions with police, I didn’t need to see George Floyd’s murder or this footage to realize that our police department needed to create stronger systems of accountability and transparency,” Campbell said.
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