Cracks in the thin blue line

IT WAS A day of national focus on policing, a moment when people at least began to allow for the possibility that there might be change in a seemingly never-ending story in which law enforcement officers are rarely held accountable for wrongdoing involving black Americans. 

It was more a collective sigh of relief than unbridled celebration or joy that greeted a jury’s conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on all three murder charges he faced in the killing of George Floyd. Despite the horrifying video evidence showing Chavin calmly kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the life drained out of him, it was hard to be certain of the trial outcome after such a long history of police being given the benefit of doubt, and often then some, in cases where they are charged with illegal use of force. 

The May 2020 killing of Floyd unleashed the broadest set of protests in the country on racial justice issues in more than a generation. But they hardly emerged in a vacuum, coming instead after nearly a decade of growing organizing against police brutality under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement. Unlike earlier efforts to secure voting rights, open access to public accommodations, or end deliberate school segregation, this movement — as its name telegraphed — centered on the most primal of concerns. 

“It goes back to the earliest forms of white on black violence,” Byron Rushing, a former Massachusetts state representative and the founding president of Boston’s Museum of African American History, said last spring when the protests were at their peak. “This goes back to lynching, so all of the analogies we make to historical violence make sense in a way that people can’t argue against. You have civil rights victories, you have hiring victories, you have a president,” he said, referring to Barack Obama’s election, “but you still haven’t solved this fundamental structural, cultural racism.” 

Harold Meyerson captured this yesterday in the American Prospect. “That the demands of the movement are so heartbreakingly basic is a measure of how far we have to go just to become a civilized society,” he wrote. Or as Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post, “This shouldn’t feel so much like a victory.” 

Closer to home, the Chauvin conviction overshadowed a case that shows just how elusive the quest for police accountability and transparency can be. 

Boston officials released some records related to the case of former police officer Patrick Rose Sr., who now stands accused of sexual assault on six minors. The records show that then-commissioner Paul Evans was told internal investigators “sustained” the first such complaint against Rose, in the mid 1990s, even though prosecutors were not able to bring charges because the 12-year-old victim recanted. After being consigned to administrative duty during the investigation, Rose was reinstated to full active duty after the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the city’s largest police union, threatened to file a grievance. (Rose would go on years later to serve as president of the union.) 

The documents — and a statement from Acting Mayor Kim Janey — suggest Evans approved Rose’s return to duty while making no effort to fire him. This morning, the Globe reports that it received a nearly 700-word statement from Evans just before midnight Tuesday in which he takes issue with that characterization. He called on Janey to release the full file on Rose, claiming it will show the department did all it could to hold him accountable. 

If that’s the case, it only underscores the scope of the reform challenge facing police departments. While it will take continued sustained effort to hold officers like Chavin accountable — and work to minimize such killings to begin with — the Rose case may point toward the need for more sweeping overhaul of police contracts that often seem to limit the power of those in charge to determine who is truly fit to serve.

MICHAEL JONAS

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Acting Mayor Kim Janey released information from the internal affairs investigation of former police officer Patrick Rose Sr. that paints a damning picture of the conduct of leaders of the Boston Police Department in the mid 1990s, including then-commissioner Paul Evans, who allowed Rose to return to active duty after investigators concluded he had committed sexual assault on a minor. Read more,

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Downing said the Baker administration should abandon any plans to build a new prison for women inmates in Norfolk, saying “investing in incarceration is the exact opposite of what Massachusetts needs.” Read more.

After years of acrimonious battle with residents and some elected officials, Roxbury Preparatory Charter School said it is throwing in the towel on its long effort to build a new high school on Belgrade Avenue in Roslindale. It hopes to announce a new site soon. Read more.

With the pandemic calling renewed attention to the economic importance of childcare, two state panels this week are beginning to dig into the issue. Both experts and legislative leaders say returning to the way things were before is not sufficient. Read more.

UMass Boston recently spent $10,000 for a full-page ad in the Boston Sunday Globe extolling the virtues of ex-Boston mayor Marty Walsh as he was leaving for his new job in Washington as secretary of labor. The Boston Public Library bought a $2,000 ad. Read more.

Opinion:

Christina Bosch, a PhD candidate at UMass Amherst, says it is time to end public funding for the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Lawmakers and gun control advocates propose banning the manufacture of assault weapons in Massachusetts. (State House News Service)

A report from the Pioneer Institute says a so-called “millionaire’s tax” would not only hit high-earner state residents but also as many 13,000 small businesses that are structured as “pass-through entities.” (Boston Herald

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui says giving 120 needy families in Cambridge $500 a month is the “most powerful way to do the most good for the most people during these really uncertain times.” (WGBH)

A name change worth fighting for: A Brockton street may soon be known as Marvin Hagler Drive. (The Enterprise)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary will pay $2.6 million to settle federal allegations that it improperly overbilled Medicare and MassHealth. (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three murder charges he faced in the death of George Floyd, a rare conviction of a US law enforcement officer for a on-duty killing of a civilian. (Washington Post) State officials praise the guilty verdict. (Eagle-Tribune)

ELECTIONS

An aide to former Holyoke mayor Alex Morse jumps into the race to succeed him, joining three other existing candidates. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Home prices in Greater Boston continue to rise. (Boston Globe)

Never mind: You hadn’t really followed the whole European soccer league blowup because, let’s face it, you don’t really follow soccer. It was a story largely driven by the very big bucks at stake. John Henry, the billionaire owner of the Red Sox and Boston Globe, owns one of the teams accused of green-eyed greed. But now it’s not going to happen. (Boston Globe

EDUCATION

The state officially waives the MCAS graduation requirement for the class of 2022. (Salem News)

Many students in Framingham can’t catch the bus to school because a nationwide shortage of drivers has made it difficult to run all of the buses every day. (MetroWest Daily News)

TRANSPORTATION

Massport deletes a tweet promoting driving to Logan Airport after advocates unload a barrage of Twitter incoming at the idea that catching a ride to the airport somehow fits with this week’s observance of Earth Day. (Boston Globe) 

Service stations try to recover the money they lost while the state inspection system was down. (Telegram & Gazette)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Peabody residents are unhappy about a lack of transparency surrounding the approval process for a new gas power plant. (Salem News)

Cities and towns are considering whether to opt out of the state’s mosquito spraying program. (Gloucester Daily Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Jasiel Correia trial is putting a spotlight on the power municipal mayors have over the marijuana industry. (USA Today)