Police group blasts Warren over Ferguson comments

Tweet at odds with Justice Department report on Michael Brown death

ELIZABETH WARREN IS IN HOT WATER over a comment marking the fifth anniversary of the Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting of Michael Brown.  

Warren tweeted that Officer Darren Wilson “murdered” the 18-year-old black man in 2014. The state’s largest police association quickly voiced its displeasure, the second time in just over a year that the organization has ripped the state’s senior US senator over a comment related to the criminal justice system.  

“5 years ago Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri,” Warren tweeted. “Michael was unarmed yet he was shot 6 times. I stand with activists and organizers who continue the fight for justice for Michael. We must confront systemic racism and police violence head on.”  

The Massachusetts Coalition of Police posted a copy of a letter sent to Warren from its president, Scott Hovsepian, defending police officers and slamming her characterization of the Wilson’s shooting of Brown as murder.   

A grand jury declined to indict Wilson, and the Obama Department of Justice issued an 86-page report that concluded there was no criminal intent in Wilson’s shooting of Brown during their altercation. 

“You should stop referring to him as a murderer,” Hovsepian wrote, adding in all capitals that Warren’s “political pandering for presidential votes is getting police officers and citizens hurt and killed. 

The 2015 Department of Justice report found that the shooting of Brown was legally justified, even though it issued a separate report the same day identifying serious issues with racial bias in the Ferguson Police Department. 

Warren’s office did not return request for comment on the letter from MassCOP, which represents over 4,300 law enforcement members in the state.  

The August 2014 shooting of Brown triggered protests and riots in Ferguson over racially biased policing. The initial story from an eyewitness was that Brown raised his hands up before Wilson shot him six times. But the Justice Department report debunked many initial accounts about the shooting, finding that Wilson likely had a reason to fear for his life and committed no crime in fatally shooting Brown.  

A year ago, MassCOP also took issue with Warren when she said the country’s criminal justice system is racist “front to back” during a question and answer session at Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans. The police group wrote Warren a letter similar to the missive sent this week, chastising her for comments that disparage law enforcement officers 

So far, Hovsepian says Warren’s office has not reached out to the organization.  

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, 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 bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, 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.

MassCOP has taken strong exception to efforts to link policing to racism. The organization supported the National Association of Police Organization’s call last year to boycott Nike over its choice of Colin Kaepernick for its “Just Do It” ad campaign 

A statement by the national organization said that Kaepernick is known not as a successful athlete, but as a shallow dilettante seeking to gain notoriety by disrespecting the flag for which so many Americans have fought and died.”