Focusing in on police actions

Since last summer, when the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York at the hands of police triggered a national debate on the use of deadly force, there seems to be an increase in high-profile encounters with law enforcement.

But is it an increase in incidents or has the ubiquitous use of cameras – cellphones, dashboard cameras, and body cameras – put the spotlight on actions that have long been ignored because they were a matter of he said/she said, and who are you going to believe, the men who protect society or people caught breaking the law?

The deaths this year of Sandra Bland in Texas, Samuel Dubose in Cincinnati, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and Walter Scott in South Carolina, have triggered fierce blowback against police because part or all of the encounters have been caught on camera. Earlier this summer, a video captured a suburban Dallas cop chasing black teens from a neighborhood pool party, throwing one bathing-suit clad girl to the ground and pulling his gun on her friends when they came to assist.

Now we have a local incident to focus on. It occurred over the weekend in Medford when a clearly agitated off-duty Medford police detective pulled over a driver who initially went the wrong way in a rotary. When the young man began to pull away, the dashboard camera in the man’s car captures the detective threatening to “put a hole right in your f—— head” if he didn’t stop.

The unidentified motorist, who was clearly shaken, posted the video on YouTube and the reaction was swift. The Medford police chief placed Det. Stephen LeBert on administrative leave and Mayor Michael McGlynn said his actions “go far beyond the acceptable standards of behavior of a police officer.”

“I was fully shocked and saddened by the detective’s statements and his demeanor directed towards the driver,” McGlynn said in a statement.

The Medford video shows what many have been saying in recent years – there are some police officers who are emboldened by a gun and a badge, who abuse their power whether on- or off-duty. LeBert, after being informed that a dash cam is recording the entire episode, threatens to “seize the camera.” LeBert has had other encounters with the camera-wielding public, according to the Boston Globe. In 2012, LeBert tried to block a man from recording police arresting his brother and then was heard saying on the video that the man being arrested should lie down in front of a train to end his substance abuse problems.

Police had, for years, been able to go about their work without the prying eye of the video camera, ordering bystanders turn off their cameras or face seizure and arrest. But a 2011 ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said citizens can legally record police as long as it is done openly. The driver in Medford informed LeBert of the camera, revealing his knowledge of the law when he said he was required to do so.

There are movements around the country to equip more police cars with dashboard cameras and put body cams on officers. But both were in play in the case of Bland in Texas and Dubose in Cincinnati, but that did nothing to stem the aggressiveness of the cops. In fact, the dash cam in the Bland incident clearly contradicts the narrative of State Trooper Brian Encinia.

With the spotlight on police actions, one would think they’d be more circumspect in these potentially violent encounters. What does it say that, even armed with the knowledge that the camera is rolling, the incidents continue to occur?

JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

The House approves a two-day sales tax holiday in August at an estimated cost to state coffers of $25 million. (Associated Press) Gov. Charlie Baker and state lawmakers are at odds over earmarks. (Gloucester Times) Lawmakers begin overriding some of Baker vetoes, with plans of restoring nearly $100 million in spending. (Associated Press)

An Eagle-Tribune editorial says lawmakers talk a good game on public records reform, but the decision to put off action speaks volumes.

The attorney general’s office rules that the Wayland school and finance committee both violated the state’s Open Meeting Law. (Metrowest Daily News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The horrific killing of a Boston mother of three by an errant bullet on Tuesday night has the city again taking stock of the toll of gun violence. Area clergy and Mayor Marty Walsh react. (Boston Globe)

A Quincy city councilor wants conservation officials to put a halt to Boston’s rebuilding of the Long Island Bridge, claiming Hub officials have not revealed their plans for the passage to the harbor island that they own but which can only be accessed through Quincy. (Patriot Ledger)

WBUR analyzes the building boom in Boston, which is arguably one of the biggest in the city’s history.

The Supreme Judicial Court has tossed a suit against Quincy officials by the manager of a trust fund started by John Adams claiming the city signed an illegal lease with the Quincy Historical Society. (Patriot Ledger)

Former Lowell city councilor George Ramirez says the city is definitely on the right track. (The Sun)

OLYMPICS

The president of the International Olympic Committee takes some shots at Boston; Mayor Marty Walsh hits back. (Boston Globe)

Yvonne Abraham calls out Walsh for saying he was standing firm against any demands on taxpayer money — after having signed the original Olympic bid document last October that suggested he would, in fact, have the city backstop any cost overruns. Until Monday’s face-saving press conference, she says, Walsh displayed some of the same “self-defeating arrogance of organizers and supporters who characterized critics as NIMBYs and naysayers who simply refused to think big.” (Boston Globe)

CASINOS

Steve Wynn tells financial analysts he’s having a hard time finding the welcome mat in Massachusetts. He also says his company looked at a site for his casino near the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. (CommonWealth)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A campus cop at the University of Cincinnati is indicted for killing an unarmed black man. (Time)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Herald‘s Jessica Van Sack gives Microsoft’s new Windows 10 operating system a 10. The Globe‘s Hiawatha Bray likes it too.

A top executive at tech startup HubSpot is fired, another resigns, and a third is sanctioned in connection with efforts to obtain a pre-publication copy of a book on the company that seems likely not to be flattering. (Boston Globe)

The Federal Reserve has once again held off on raising interest rates despite earlier signals that members were leaning toward an increase. (U.S. News & World Report)

EDUCATION

Democrats for Education Reform slams Gov. Charlie Baker’s early education cuts. (CommonWealth)

HEALTH CARE

Attorney General Maura Healey clears Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts of any possible wrongdoing involving the sale of fetal tissue from abortions because the state chapter does not have a fetal tissue program to begin with. (Boston Herald)

The Drug Enforcement Administration has reached a settlement agreement with CVS over its Carver pharmacy failing to report the theft of prescription drugs immediately as required by law and for discrepancies in sales and inventory. (The Enterprise)

TRANSPORTATION

An Uber problem for the taxi industry, as ride-sharing services ride circles around more heavily regulated cabs. (CommonWealth)

Is the five-member MBTA fiscal control board the answer to the transit agency’s woes? (Governing)

Salem is considering selling reserved parking spaces at two garages downtown for $1,500 a year. A regular yearly parking pass, with no reserved spot, costs $750. (Salem News)

The $4 billion makeover of New York’s LaGuardia Airport could mean a name change for the city’s iconic gateway. (New York Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Disgraced ex-FBI agent John Connolly isn’t getting out of prison any time soon, after all. A Florida appeals court reinstated his murder conviction, which had been overturned last year. (Boston Globe)

Former Dartmouth selectman John George was sentenced to nearly six years in prison and ordered to pay back more than $688,000 for his conviction on federal conspiracy and embezzlement charges stemming from his management of the public Southeast Regional Transit Authority. (Standard-Times)

A Swampscott man accused of killing two puppies and running a squalid kennel was almost hired by Danvers as its animal control officer three years ago. (Salem News) A Lynn Item editorial wonders what kind of person kills puppies when they don’t measure up for breeders, or pays $50,000 to shoot a lion in Africa.

Taunton officials are trying to track down the creators of a since-deleted Facebook page that ran nude pictures of teenaged girls from the city without their knowledge or consent. (Taunton Gazette)

MEDIA

Will Dana, the managing editor of Rolling Stone, is stepping down in the wake of the magazine’s retraction of the University of Virginia gang rape story. (New York Times)

SPORTS
People are very worked up about something having to do with footballs, air pressure, and cellphones. (Boston Globe, Boston Herald)