Don’t shoot

Things that don’t happen usually don’t make for big news. And just because they haven’t happened doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t.

With all that conditional couching, Kevin Cullen nonetheless offered a helpful reminder in yesterday’s Globe of how fortunate (so far) Boston is not to be Chicago.

The Windy City has garnered a lot of attention lately, and none of it has been good. In October 2014, Laquan McDonald, a black 17 year old, was shot and killed by a white Chicago police officer while walking away from officers on a tough South Side street. Then McDonald was shot again. And again. Officer Jason Van Dyke emptied 16 rounds into the teen, most of them after he was splayed out on the pavement.

What happened that night is coming into focus thanks to a dash-cam video recording from one of the police cars on the scene. Van Dyke now faces first-degree murder charges.

The fact that it took 13 months for the city to release the video has Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, facing calls to resign. More than half the city’s voters think he should. Critics say Emanuel suppressed the video’s release and would not have been reelected last spring if it had been seen before the election. The US Department of Justice has launched an investigation of a department that has long been considered rife with unchecked misconduct. The Chicago Tribune said the probe promises “to be long and costly” to the city.

When it comes to policing in Boston compared with Chicago, Cullen suggests it’s a tale of two very different cities.

Cullen says Boston’s police commissioner, William Evans, told him of a recent encounter he had with a woman at a Mattapan community meeting who thanked him because his officers did not shoot her 21-year-old son last summer when he had a gun trained on gang unit officers responding to gunshots in the area. Cullen recounts several other recent incidents where Boston police encountered individuals armed with knives and were able to deescalate the situation without using lethal force.

Evans insists it’s no accident and that the pattern reflects a deliberate focus of police training in recent years. “Don’t take it up a notch,” he said. “If you need to retreat, do it. The important thing we learned is you don’t have to shoot even when you have the right to shoot. And I know our officers are doing that,” Evans says. “We’re guardians, not warriors.”

Cullen says complaints against Boston police for excessive force are down 62 percent over the five years that the department has been emphasizing the deescalation approach.

Skepticism over whether police shootings get fairly scrutinized seems well founded. A 2014 CommonWealth story reported that every one of the 73 instances of police in Massachusetts shooting and killing someone in the previous 12 years had been deemed justified.

But police shootings — along with lots of criminal activity — are increasingly being recorded, bringing a level of detail and a factual base to investigations that was never before available. The two fatal shootings by Boston officers this year were both captured on surveillance video that was released soon after the incidents and appeared to show the lethal force to be justified.

“I dread a shooting that’s not on video,” Evans says.

That implies a high degree of confidence that a recording would never capture his officers involved in something as chilling as what’s seen in the video of their Chicago counterparts. And it’s fair to wonder whether police and prosecutors here would have been as quick to release the recordings of the two fatal shootings this year had they not appeared to clear the officers.

Still, in a time of incredible tension over police interactions with black residents in many cities, that kind of talk from Boston’s top cop at least sends the right signal.

MICHAEL JONAS

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A gun buyback program in Worcester nets 271 firearms and 54 pellet guns. (Telegram & Gazette)

Tired of being ignored, Salem’s Bicycling Advisory Committee resigns en masse. (Salem News)

New Bedford Police Chief David Provencher died unexpectedly Sunday night from respiratory failure. He was 59. (Standard-Times)

CASINOS/GAMBLING

Adrian Walker has a tough takedown of Mayor Marty Walsh and his poorly played hand in battling casino mogul Steve Wynn. “The mayor needs better advice, fast,” writes Walker, who says Walsh has “never looked weaker.”

The Mohegan-Mashantucket Pequot company attempting to build a third Connecticut casino delays site selection. (Masslive)

Two faith-based anti-casino coalitions that have been trying to sidetrack a casino in Brockton have come out in support of the Mashpee Wampanoag plan to build a casino in Taunton, a position the groups deny is contradictory. (The Enterprise)

An Iraqi businessman won a $6.4 million jackpot in an Oregon lottery game with a ticket he purchased through an Internet company, an emerging business that is raising questions of legality with state lotteries. (New York Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Nearly 200 nations adopt a climate agreement in Paris. (NPR) The real work begins now. (Time)

For the first time in decades, military officials have made temporary accommodations for a religious exemption, allowing a soldier who is a Sikh to grow a beard and wear a turban. (New York Times)

US military strategy suffers from a “tyranny of consensus” at the Pentagon, not a lack of strategic thinking from the White House, according to a Christian Science Monitor analysis.

ELECTIONS

Jeb Bush calls Donald Trump “unserious” and discusses other aspects of his own serious campaign. (Keller@Large) Some think Ted Cruz is emerging as the strongest alternative to Trump — and things could therefore get testy between the Texan and the demagogic Donald in tomorrow night’s GOP debate. (Boston Herald) Meanwhile, Trump explains his appeal. (Associated Press)

GOP presidential candidate Lindsey Graham speaks to a Jewish group in Worcester and says “there’s never been a bigger evil since World War II than radical Islam.” (Telegram & Gazette)

Remember Martin O’Malley? He’s running for the Democratic nomination for president, will be fundraising in Boston later this week, and has a core of committed Bay State backers who say don’t give up on the former Maryland governor just yet. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Massachusetts Broadband Institute and Wired West, the company that would build and operate a high speed Internet service for small towns in the Berkshires, tussle over who controls what. (MassLive)

The Boston Public Market offers locally produced food in a smart way, says Amy Dain. (CommonWealth)

Massachusetts poultry farms are on high-alert for the avian flu. (Boston Globe)

A new survey finds one in five Americans believe they’ll go to their grave with debt. (U.S. News & World Report)

EDUCATION

The Barnstable School Committee voted 3-2 to offer the superintendent position to Fall River Superintendent Meg Mayo-Brown, whose contract is expiring and whose future in the city was uncertain with a new mayor. (Cape Cod Times)

The University of Maine is lowering tuition costs for students from six other states in the Northeast in a bid to shore up flagging enrollment and revenue. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A new treatment clinic is opening in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood, which has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic. (Boston Globe)

Lots of prestigious medical centers are failing to report, as required by federal law, the results of all research trials. (STAT)

Former Democratic candidate for governor Don Berwick, the newest member of the state Health Policy Commission, talks to the Boston Business Journal.

TRANSPORTATION

The Herald reports on the MBTA subway lines’ on-time performance during the fall, and the system did not exactly hit the mark. Speaking of being somewhat off-key, they do not pose an imminent threat to the Kingston Trio in the pantheon of musical Boston transit tributes, but the WGBH News team deserves major props for warbling for posterity this ode to last week’s Red Line “ghost train.”

Former MassDOT official Peter O’Connor says the Green Line extension is not just about transportation; it’s also about economic development and quality of life. (CommonWealth)

Nicole Gelinas sees another Big Dig disaster looming in the Green Line effort. She says huge public projects like this invariably get low-balled at the start because officials know they won’t get out of the starting gate otherwise. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Many landowners are denying Kinder Morgan access to their properties for survey work on the company’s proposed natural gas pipeline. (Gloucester Times)

MEDIA

The Washington Post explores why the news media appear to have lost interest in what it calls the “missing white women” story.