Activists call for US review of Boston police

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Activists call for US review of Boston police

photo by: Stephanie Johnson
photo by: Stephanie Johnson

By Meghan E. Irons GLOBE STAFF MAY 05, 2015

Some Roxbury activists and their supporters are appealing to the Justice Department to conduct a top-to-bottom review of Boston’s police force, a move coming amid national unrest between officers and the black community.

“What we have here is a long history’’ of police misconduct, Jamarhl Crawford, editor of the blog Blackstonian.com, said at a news conference near the post office in Dudley Square.

The letter states that Boston experienced “several alarming cases involving allegations of racial profiling, police brutality, excessive/deadly force, and corruption by members of the Boston Police Department.”

The document urges a full review of the department’s practices, policies, and procedures. Crawford said the letter was signed by nearly 400 people, including former lawmakers, citizens, and family members of people killed by police. Current lawmakers and organizations such as the local NAACP did not sign the letter.

A spokesman for the department, which stresses its record of community partnerships, would not comment on the letter, saying the agency had not seen a final draft.

In the past decade, there have been nine fatal shootings by police, authorities said. All the suspects were armed, authorities said.

In six cases, the suspects fired at police or shot a pursuing officer.

In one incident, a man charged police in an apartment with a knife in both hands, authorities said.

In another case, a despondent man was killed as he brandished a realistic replica of a gun, stole a police cruiser, crashed it, and then tried to run down officers.

In the most recent incident, 40-year-old Angelo West was fatally wounded by police after he shot an officer point-blank in the face. The officer survived the March shooting in Roxbury, and community leaders said a video showed the shooting by police appeared justified.

In recent months, Boston law enforcement authorities held community forums to tackle difficult issues, as the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo.; New York; and elsewhere highlighted long-simmering concerns about excessive use of force by police.

At one such meeting, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley joined former police superintendent Robert Merner and the Rev. Jeffrey Brown to explain the investigation process after a police shooting.

Conley’s office is required by law to investigate all deaths, and has a practice of releasing investigative files to the media.

Crawford, who has expressed his concerns in meetings with Police Commissioner William Evans and other police officials, has been a critic of the department, asserting that officers have engaged in acts of brutality.

At the news conference, he read a Jan. 15 letter to the Justice Department that listed several offenses, shootings, and scandals involving police.

“The City of Boston needs the Department of Justice to not only conduct an investigatory review,” the letter said, “but also [to provide] assistance in shaping policies for the future to ensure justice and hold law enforcement agencies accountable to the laws they uphold.”

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com.

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