Power of the badge

The tensions between police and those they are charged with protecting continue to rise and it seems every encounter between those in blue uniforms and those in black skin has the potential to be a tinderbox. More and more of it is caught on camera and the latest brush with the law in Cambridge is sure to stoke the fires hotter.

The Boston Globe has a story about Cleon Hodge, a 21-year-old black man, being detained on the street by Thomas Ahern, a plainclothes Cambridge police detective. That is the only agreed upon fact. The Globe has video taken by two women onlookers of the encounter and it doesn’t support much of what Ahern wrote in a report following the encounter.

Hodge and Ahern apparently brushed into each other as they were walking down the street and each accused the other of intentionally initiating the contact. But only Ahern has the badge and he used it to grab Hodge by the shirt and push him up against the wall and attempt to frisk him.

One unidentified woman and then another began recording the encounter, which shows Hodge with his hands in the air but trying to move away from Ahern’s attempts to frisk him. While one of the witnesses demands Ahern’s identification, he profanely slaps the phone out of her hand while continually holding onto Hodge.

The four-minute video shows many things occurring that those concerned about police abuse of power fear often happen outside the range of a camera lens. Ahern is demanding identification from all involved, even the women, despite no law requiring US citizens to prove their identities without cause. And Ahern smacking the phone out of the woman’s hand appears to violate state law that says bystanders have a right to video police during performance of their duties as long as it’s in public, which this clearly was.

Hodge and the two women, whom the Globe does not identify because they have not yet been charged, were summonsed to Cambridge District Court for a clerk magistrate hearing on possible assault and battery charges. The story seems to indicate that Ahern not only has not been charged with anything, but no disciplinary action has yet been taken from the October incident.

Though it looks like nothing more than feelings were hurt in the encounter, it is a microcosm of underlying anxieties in police-civilian interactions, especially when that civilian belongs to a racial minority group. There is no shortage of studies that find minorities, especially blacks, are disproportionately stopped by police. Even Cambridge, often viewed as a bastion of enlightenment and progressive ideals, is not immune from charges of racial profiling. All one needs to do is look back on the 2010 incident involving Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates who was arrested on his porch by Sgt. James Crowley, an incident that resulted in the infamous Beer Summit at the White House.

A ruling earlier this year by the state Supreme Judicial Court tossed out an arrest of a black man who ran from Boston police and was chased down by officers, who found a gun on the suspect. The ruling, which cited a Boston Police study that determined blacks were regularly racially profiled for Field Interrogation and Observation stops (FIOs) without cause, said blacks have good reason to flee police that may have nothing to do with committing a crime.

“The finding that black males in Boston are disproportionately and repeatedly targeted for FIO encounters suggests a reason for flight totally unrelated to consciousness of guilt,” says the opinion written by Associate Justice Geraldine Hines, the court’s first black female justice. “Such an individual, when approached by the police, might just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity.”



Attorney General Maura Healey’s hate crime hotline receives more than 400 calls as elected officials rally outside the State House declare Massachusetts is “no place for hate.” (CommonWealth)

The Baker administration is not getting enough takers on its employee buyouts, hindering efforts to deal with a deficit. (State House News)

Former House speaker Sal DiMasi is due to be released this morning from federal prison in North Carolina. (Boston Globe)


Telegram & Gazette columnist Dianne Williamson targets City Councilor Michael Gaffney, whom she describes as Worcester’s trickle-down clone of Donald Trump.

Quincy city councilors voted to add an addenda to approval for a zoning variance of a proposed privately-funded, mixed-use project at the North Quincy MBTA station requiring the developer to pay prevailing wage to workers. (Patriot Ledger)

The state supervisor of records has ordered Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter to turn over emails from his private Gmail account, which are the center of an ongoing public records battle, to the city clerk for “safekeeping.” But the city solicitor said the mayor will not comply because many are covered under attorney-client privilege. (The Enterprise)


The white supremacist National Policy Institute holds its annual conference in Washington, complete with racial purity rants and Nazi salutes hailing Donald Trump’s election. (The Atlantic)

His election as president has not so far held Trump back from raging on Twitter about various unfair acts toward him or his fledgling administration for which apologies should be issued. Peter Gelzinis says Twitter is Trump’s crack. (Boston Herald)

The ever-modest Scott Brown declared that he is “the best person” to lead the Veterans Administration and says he told Trump that Mitt Romney would be a “brilliant choice” for secretary of state. (Boston Herald) Gov. Charlie Baker says Brown would be a good candidate for the VA post. (MassLive)

America’s first test of automatic voter registration in Oregon garners mixed results. (Governing)

Nantucket is preparing for the final Thanksgiving visit of Joe Biden as vice president as an army of advance Secret Service teams has landed on the island and flight restrictions have been put in place. (Cape Cod Times)


Edward “Ned” Johnson 3rd will step down next month as chairman of Fidelity Investments, handing the reins to his daughter, Abigail Johnson. (Boston Globe)

Nonprofits are seeing an increase in giving since the election, which some are terming “rage donations” intended to battle a rising tide of discrimination and intolerance that contributors believe Trump’s election has unleashed. (Boston Globe)

A Boston entrepreneur is launching what he hopes will be cheaper, super-fast wireless broadband service that will compete with wired Fios systems being laid by Comcast and Verizon. (Boston Globe)

Wellfleet shellfishermen who were affected by the month-long closure of Wellfleet Bay because of suspected norovirus in the water can apply for some financial relief from a fund set up by a local nonprofit that promotes the local clam and oyster industry. (Cape Cod Times)

A federal Appeals Court has upheld local right-to-work laws in Kentucky and Ohio, ruling communities can enact their own worker regulations in the absence of state statutes. (National Review)


Officials are investigating allegations that a 7-year-old boy was sexually molested multiple times by a 6-year-old boy on a school bus taking them to the Boston Renaissance Charter Public School. (Boston Globe)

A Salem News editorial calls for changes in state pension laws to prevent people such as Peabody School Superintendent Herb Levine from double-dipping by collecting a pension from Salem, where he retired earlier.

Attorney General Maura Healey calls Trump University “a classic case of a for-profit predatory school” and says Trump was wise to settle the case against the institution. (MassLive)

A report suggests building a new Lowell High School would cost $300 to $350 million, much more than earlier projections. (Lowell Sun)

Former Wilmington superintendent Mary DeLai is being paid $13,000 a month even though she resigned in October after it was disclosed she was arrested for operating under the influence in August. (Lowell Sun)

The Valley Collaborative in Billerica has pulled off a financial turnaround and recovered from its scandalous past when it was known as the Merrimack Valley Collaborative. (Lowell Sun)

Hampshire College has stopped flying the American flag — at least until next semester — after its president called it a “disruptive symbol.” (Boston Globe)


High-deductible health insurance plans are on the rise in Massachusetts. (MassLive)

A Boston medical team reports that an advanced prosthetic device shows signs of giving patients far greater control and sense of foot movement than previously seen. (Boston Herald)


The oversight for South Coast Rail is shifted from the MBTA to the Department of Transportation. Officials also sign a deal with Gulf Oil, peg the T’s deficit at $126 million, and provide an E-ZPass update. (CommonWealth)

Less than half of the trains on the Worcester commuter rail line have been on time so far this month. (Boston Herald)


Is Donald Trump against wind farms? Or just one wind farm that happens to be next to his golf course in the United Kingdom? (New York Times)


State Auditor Suzanne Bump says the Plainridge Park Casino has failed to hire enough locals. (CommonWealth)


Attorney General Maura Healey says she will fight an order from a Texas judge to provide deposition in a case involving her investigation of ExxonMobil’s climate change policy.

Salem police officer Brian Butler, who is charged with indecent assault on a man in protective custody, resigned his position. Butler is the husband of Salem’s police chief, Mary Butler. (Salem News)

Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, a vocal supporter of deporting illegal aliens, has received the okay for his office to partner with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to arrest, jail, and assist in deporting criminal illegal immigrants. (Herald News)


Donald Trump meets with TV news executives and complains about unfair coverage. (Washington Post) The New York Post offers an uncensored version of the meeting. Trump was scheduled to meet today with editors and reporters at The New York Times, but tweeted this morning that the session is off, saying the “unfair” paper changed the ground rules. A Times editor says the paper made no changes at all. By 11 am the meeting was back on. (Boston Globe)

Fake news vs false news. Discuss. (WGBH)