Local police departments adopting 8 Can’t Wait

Backers say measures could reduce police violence

AROUND THE COUNTRY, and now in Massachusetts, police departments are adopting a set of policies that could potentially decrease violence inflicted by law enforcement.

The “8 Can’t Wait” project seeks to have law enforcement adopt quick and definitive changes to their policies on use of force, which have been questioned in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

The eight policy changes are: banning chokeholds, requiring de-escalation, requiring a verbal warning before shooting at someone, exhausting all non-force and non-lethal alternatives, requiring other officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers, banning shooting at moving vehicles, restricting extreme use of force to extreme situations, and requiring officers to report when they use or threaten force against a civilian (including pointing a firearm at someone).

The campaign was created following the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, and has been promoted by former President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey.

In Boston, the police department announced Thursday it was integrating the campaign into its policies. “Our current rules and procedures include most of the suggestions in the 8 Can’t Wait campaign,” Sergeant Detective John Boyle told the Boston Globe. “Upon review of our policies, the department has clarified its rules and implemented several reforms as a result of this review.”

It’s unclear if the department will adjust its use-of-deadly-force policies, which include some of the actions banned by the 8 Can’t Wait campaign. Those policies hasn’t been changed since 2008.

On Monday, the Cambridge Police Department issued an order requiring officers to intervene when a fellow member uses excessive force or does something unethical, one of the eight policy changes recommended as part of the 8 Can’t Wait project.

Police Commissioner Branville Bard Jr. said the intervention can be physical or verbal, and that failure to intervene could subject the officer to criminal prosecution, civil liability, or disciplinary action.

On Thursday, Arlington Police Chief Julie Flaherty announced a similar move, explicitly updating her department’s use of force policies to reflect 8 Can’t Wait. She said the department has had zero complaints about use of force so far in 2020.

The moves by local police departments come as many groups are moving to cut police funding and state lawmakers are considering legislation certification of law enforcement personnel and decertification if they fail to live up to the standards.

DeRay Mckesson, cofounder of Campaign Zero, the group that created the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, checked out Boston Police Department policies and said the department now meets seven of the policy recommendations, up from four.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

“They did not update the policies to require comprehensive reporting, notably when an officer points a gun at someone or threatens to point a gun at someone,” he told the Globe. “The current policy only requires reporting when an officer discharges a weapon.”

City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who has wanted changes to the department’s use-of-force policy, lauded the move, and tweeted that now the city needs to go further by “reallocating money from our police budget,” implementing a “real civilian review board,” banning the use of military weapons, and getting law enforcement out of schools. At-large Council member Michelle Wu said online that the 8 Can’t Wait policies don’t address “root causes of police brutality and systemic racism.”

Vox points out that the campaign is well-structured for speedy implementation. If all of the reforms are implemented, according to a correlation study, there could be a decrease in police violence of 72 percent, a claim that may get a chance to be tested.