US attorney establishes new civil rights task force 

Federal, state and local law enforcement pledge to prosecute civil rights violations 

US ATTORNEY ANDREW LELLING said Friday that he is establishing a new Civil Rights Task Force to help local and state law enforcement prevent, investigate, and prosecute civil rights violations in Massachusetts. 

The announcement comes after the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis sparked a nationwide reckoning over police violence against blacksLelling said the last several years have seen an uptick in hate crimes against various groups based on race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation, coupled with a rise in white supremacist organizations and domestic terrorism.  

“Civil rights issues have become urgent law enforcement issues over the last few months,” Lelling said at a press conference announcing the task force. 

The task force is modeled after a response that the US Department of Justice crafted to combat violent street crime. It involves partnerships between federal, state and local agencies – so for example, federal resources could be used to support intelligence gathered by the local police. The task force will meet quarterly and will work with a network of civil rights officers at each municipal police force, a position established through a 2018 initiative of the Baker administration. 

Lelling said law enforcement needs to take visible steps to protect civil rights, in light of recent public criticism of the police. “We’re living in a time of eroding faith in public institutions,” Lelling said. “People need to see law enforcement officials at all levels of government are responsive, understand our obligations to protect the rights and safety of all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity etc., and we’re amenable to being held accountable for our success in this area.” 

Lelling announced the task force alongside Terrence Reidy, undersecretary for law enforcement at the state Executive Office of Public Safety and SecurityGina Kwon of the Massachusetts attorney general’s office, Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, and the president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, Jeff Farnsworth. 

 

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Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Ready said the more law enforcement can do visibly to demonstrate that “racist, bigoted, and biased behavior isn’t welcome here” will make Massachusetts a better state. 

Farnsworth said the collaboration between agencies is important because often “an issue in one community is an issue in another community.”