Rethinking cop cameras?
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and his police commissioner may be cool to the idea of outfitting police with cameras, but video from the scene of a police traffic stop gone bad in Roxbury may make them rethink their position.
The situation Friday night had all the ingredients for another divisive debate about the police use of deadly force against black men. Boston police officers were pulling over cars on Humboldt Avenue. Gunfire erupts, leaving a white officer badly injured and a black man dead. The incident could have quickly escalated into a racial firestorm, but surveillance video from the scene dampened tensions considerably by letting black leaders see for themselves what happened.
After the shooting, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans contacted black community leaders and showed them the video, which has not been released to the public. Many of the black leaders said the video exonerated the police officers and praised police for sharing it with them.
“For the first time since I’ve been an activist in the city, there’s at least an openness to letting us see the video. To responding to our questions around what happened. That’s progress,” Michael Curry, president of the Boston NAACP, told the Boston Herald.
Curry, after a community meeting Monday night at which two of the dead man’s relatives were in attendance, also said police should carry cameras. The sister and sister-in-law of Angelo West asked Curry to describe what he saw on the video. Curry said the video shows a shooter firing at a police officer, identified as John Moynihan, at point-blank range and then standing over him after he goes down. Then other police start firing at the shooter, who takes off running and returning fire. The chase then continues off camera, where apparently the shooter was gunned down.
Two other videos from the scene apparently show how police and bystanders interacted in the wake of the shooting. Telegram & Gazette columnist Dianne Williamson reports one video shows bystanders shouting, taunting, and heckling the police. A second video, Williamson says, shows Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross, who is black, walking over to the bystanders to explain what happened. “In response, the protesters swear at him, hurl racial epithets, call him a pig, and declare ‘war’ on law enforcement. Through it all, Gross’ composure was remarkable.”
Both the Globe and the Herald ran editorials praising police handling of the incident, particularly Evans’s decision to show the video to black community leaders. No word yet on whether Walsh and Evans are now rethinking their position on cop body cameras.
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