Clark University – Arrest Report

The independent Bowditch report to Clark University about the arrests of June 1/2 has been published on the Clark website.

Among other things, the report misspells ‘cannister’ and ‘Louden Street’ – but perhaps I’m more nitpicky than attorneys that get hundreds of dollars an hour.

That said, there are some interesting items:

1 – ‘[The WPD Tactical Unit] periodically deployed pepper spray cannisters and other non-lethal crowd-control devices such as stinger grenades and sponge rounds. No “tear gas” was used.’

This seems to be splitting hairs to me, but it’s a nice admission of what the WPD was using. I’ll refer readers to factcheck.org for whether pepper spray is ‘tear gas’ and to their own consciences about whether it was warranted in this instance.

2 – The WPD originally called the Clark University PD for assistance with directing traffic. When David Russo was profiled outside of his home and treated poorly by another university’s cops, there were questions (which remain unanswered) about under what circumstances the city will cals campus police for assistance, and what our rights are as citizens when one of these police officers responds to a call. I think these are questions that our elected officials should be asking and demanding answers.

3 – It’s clear that the WPD pushed the protesters in the direction of Clark (“The Tactical Unit deployed pepper spray, stinger grenades and sponge rounds and the crowd began moving south on Main Street towards where CUPD cruisers were positioned.”)

4 – Honestly, from reading this, I think Clark was absolutely right in their statement about the WPD. The WPD called their officers and it’s unclear what they were doing while CUPD cops in two cruisers were being attacked by a crowd (?!?) — “The Tactical Unit deployed pepper spray, stinger grenades and sponge rounds and the crowd began moving south on Main Street towards where CUPD cruisers were positioned. The combination of protesters and backed-up traffic blocked these cruisers from moving. A large group surrounded the cruisers and began throwing rocks and bottles at them, with the officers seated inside. Objects were thrown directly at the
windshields, doors and windows of both cruisers. The side panels of one of the cruisers were repeatedly kicked and each of the cruisers was extensively damaged. Side, back and front windows were shattered, and
the body of each vehicle was dented and scraped. The CUPD officers were eventually able to maneuver their vehicles around the blockade and to return to campus.”

At the point described in that statement, there were approximately 20-40 people in the crowd and 35-40 (not sure why there aren’t exact numbers!) WPD Tactical Unit members. If indeed the maximum protester to police ratio was 1:1, why were two CUPD vehicles damaged in the way they were?

5 – The last two conclusions are interesting!

  1. None of the four Clark students whom we interviewed acted violently or destructively. While two of them clearly were aware of the orders to disperse, the other two may not have been and apparently did nothing else to warrant their arrests.
  2. Arrests are not polite events, but they should involve only those actions which are required to accomplish them. Even in the situation described in this report, that standard applies. Actions taken during the arrests of the Clark students did not meet that standard.

I’m interested to hear what others get out of this report.

Board of Health – June 25

There was a Board of Health special meeting last night and you can read about it in the Telegram and on the social media. I’ve been listening to the recording, which is not the best (various bleep-bloops every time someone enters or exits the meeting). Below is a transcription (not yet complete) of David Fort’s presentation and remarks. I’ll be working through this today and tomorrow and record any other relevant remarks. My transcription isn’t neat (there may be slight misquotations and I’m not using all the capital letters I normally would) but should give you a sense of things. I welcome any suggested improvements!

Slidedeck is here

David Fort is introduced about 8.30 mark to present recommendations related to racism and discrimination.

I appreciate everyone being here tonight for this emergency meeting.  I really appreciate it.
I just want to start out by saying to anyone who is on the phone or who may be listening at some point, especially the people who have been protesting and a lot of people in the community, that I apologize for not just me but for many of us on the board, apologize for the delay in having this meeting.  I have mentioned this to at least one or two of the board members, that there was a lot of community concern about this topic and if the board of health was going to do about it.
So I just want to apologize for the delay, but I’m glad that we are here as a group, and that you’re here as well, those who are watching and listening.  
Tonight, before I get to the recommendations, we’re going to go through some context, talk about a few things, and then I will get into the recommendations at the end.

9.56[Nicole skipped a few more introductory remarks]

Let me begin —
It seems as though after the murder of George Floyd, putting out statements against racism and support of Black lives is more of a marketing technique […] for many.  These are people’s lives, and Black lives should never be a thing to play with.  Practically every business institution that just months ago would have stayed silent on racism or who thought Black Lives Matter was some kind of fringe movement, have issued statements in support of the movement.  And don’t get me wrong, I am pleased to see these statements being issued, great to see, however many African Americans, including myself, are very skeptical about the authenticity of some of these statements.  The history and treatment of black and brown people in this country gives us good reason to do so.  Our lives are not marketing tools.  
While I believe most of the board of health did not want our statement issued several weeks ago regarding George Floyd and police brutality to be lumped into just a sea of statements with no follow-up actions, [that is why] I called for this emergency board of health meeting to take place.
11.08
Even though I called this board of health meeting, over the objections of the current chairperson of the board, she wanted to address these issues in a different manner or perhaps later time – I respect her position.  But we seriously differ in our approach and time, that these issues could wait to be addressed at a later time in the year or in a different manner.  We may differ on some items, but we are still colleagues and friends.   We will remain that way even after this meeting.  
The sole purpose of this meeting is to finalize the list of recommendations that will be sent over to the Worcester police department after this meeting.  We are inviting members of the WPD to attend the next board meeting, which will be in July.  This will be the last meeting until the fall.  I believe in transparency, and I did not want the community to feel that the board was not supportive of further action.
12.00
I and other board members worked on recommendations that we believe would decrease the probability of acts of police brutality among police officers in the city, increase the likelihood of weeding out officers who possess racist or bigoted viewpoints, and lastly to increase opportunities to rebuild trust between the worcester police department and the African American, Latino, LGBTQ+ and other communities, who have been disproportionately affected by racism, bigotry and police brutality.  
Let me give you some background with respect to public health and the board of health.
The board of health uses the CHIP, the Community Health Improvement Plan, to guide many of the issues that we address.  When it comes to race and discrimination, the CHIP says the following:As a priority area, racism, discrimination aim:Improve population health by systematically eliminating institutionalized racism and the pathology of oppression and discrimination by promoting equitable access to, and use of, health promoting resources in the community.Reduce structural and environmental factors that contribute to health inequities
The CHIP is [our] guiding document – the CHIP if implemented throughout the WPD could drastically help to build a bridge between the black and brown communities in the city of Worcester and the WPD and decrease the probability of instances of police brutality in this city.  So why is racism, discrimination, police brutality public health issues?
[13.30]
Anything that negatively affects the well-being, health outcomes, morbidity, and brutality rates of the community, is a public health issue.  Organizations such as the American Public Health organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Physicians, have all called these issues emergency public health issues.  Even locales such as Cleveland, Denver, Indianapolis, Boston, San Bernardino County, have all called racism and law enforcement violence that relates to racism, emergency public health issues.  
[14.07]
Locally, there has been a full week gap between Worcester police dept’s initial statement on the events in Minneapolis and their second statement issued just one day before this meeting.  Neither statement specifically addressed how they are going to address some of the potential systematic racial/public health issues that are present in its own dept.  Since racism and police brutality can lead to deaths, injuries, and a decrease in the quality of life that goes with the communities, the board of health believes it is our charge to work with the WPD to solve these serious public health issues.  Before I deliver the board’s recommendations, allow me to provide some further context as to why this emergency meeting needed to be called, and why these recommendations needed to be developed. 
[14.30]
There would be no need to have Black Lives Matter movement if black lives matter in schools, in the neighborhoods they reside, in the homes they grow up, and the workplace and social circles they socialize in; unfortunately, even the places of worship that the majority of whites worship in.  Every anti-racist, anti-bigot expert will tell you that devaluing of black and brown lives and the racist views that emanate from doing so, has been and still is firmly intertwined in every institution in America, including all police departments. 
[15.29]
However, institutions are made up of individuals and the conscious or unconscious devaluing of black and brown bodies starts in the homes, and emanates to the other areas of our lives and into the institutions that we are a part of.  By the way, as an anti-racist, anti-bigoted advocate who has intimately studied race and its impacts on American society for nearly forty years, this devaluing of black and brown bodies and the pervasiveness of white supremacists, racist, and bigoted viewpoints, are not just the purview of those who proudly wave the Confederate flag or publicly use racist language.  While these people are just the tip of the iceberg, rather a large substantial percentage of whites in America hold racist viewpoints, and the data supports it at every turn.
Like Dr Robyn DiAngelo, a nationally renowned white anti-racist professor has said while discussing in her book White Fragility why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism, the majority of white Americans hold some type of racist viewpoints, and unless white people have had years of sustained deep study of race interaction with black and brown people, they will continue to hold these racist views.  Thus, the racists or white supremacists that still exist are likely to be the grandfathers, grandmothers, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, friends, coworkers, officials, politicians, and even many police officers that we see every day, than the publicly known racists that we hear about in the news.  That is the cold, hard truth, and now is the time for white Americans to take their own moral and racial inventory and make changes to better themselves, America, and the cities and towns they live in.
[17.09]
Being nice to someone, or working net to someone, does not preclude someone from having racist views.  For most white police officers, the first time they’ve had consistent interaction with black or brown people is in the line of duty during tense engagements.  Since the data proves that a substantial amount of white Americans possess some anti-black views (for example, the Associated Press had a poll that 50% of Americans had anti-black views [this may not be accurate; I couldn’t hear that very well]).  Another study reflected large numbers of white Americans possess anti-black sentiments, and since most police officers have had limited non-police engagements with black and brown people, you can clearly see how so many people like George Floyd, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, DJ Henry, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Amadou Diallo, Andres Aguado, and John T. Williams, have been killed by police officers.  
A perceived increase in danger placed on one skin color is an example of a person possessing racist viewpoints.  
[18.15]
Now, returning to the topic of the value of black and brown lives and racist viewpoints [garbled] you can see the affects all around us.  The data is unquestionable.  I have been in the field of health and public health for thirty years, and the racism disparities that they create are crystal clear for all of us to see.  In housing, educational opportunities, job opportunities, income, law enforcement, politics, business, and health, just look at the covid-19 pandemic that we’re currently in and the glaring racial disparities that exist.  Nationally, blacks make up 13% of the US population, are 3.5 times more likely to die of causes related to covid-19 vs whites.  Latinos are 16.7% of US population and are twice as likely to die of covid-19 related causes.  
Even in Worcester county, blacks make up 5% of the population but are 10% of the population in the hospitals for covid-19 related illnesses, and the number’s probably even more now.
[19.12]
Latinos make up 11% of the population in Worcester county but make up 30% of those seen in the hospitals.
With respect to police-related shootings, according to articles in the American Journal of Public Health in the USA, (Michelle, first slide please) as well as in the aggregated research called “Fatal Encounters”, black men are twice as likely to be shot and killed by a police officer in their lifetimes than whites.
Black women are 1.4 times more likely to be shot and killed by police officers than white women.  
In fact, blacks that were shot and killed by the police were twice as likely to be unarmed.  Actually, according to a USA News article, 17% of Blacks who were killed by police were unarmed.  That percentage is higher than any other racial group.  
[note that this makes up the bullet points of the first slide titled “Important Statistics”]
[20.10]

According to the aforementioned aggregate work, Fatal Encounters, police violence is the leading cause of death for black men between [age] 25 and 29. The killings are bad enough but just imagine how many more hostile engagements that black and brown people have to endure each year by police officers and the number of injuries that blacks sustain during those engagements.

In fact, according to the Journal of Urban Health, Blacks go to the emergency department 4.9 times more than whites with law enforcement caused injuries.

[note that the two points above make up the bullet points of the second slide titled “Important Statistics”]

[20.49]

Let’s go even further. A Pew Research study showed that a majority of blacks and whites believe that Blacks are treated less fairly by police officers than whites. 84% of Blacks feel that way, and even 64% of whites do too.

More, the majority of blacks and whites believe that the US Justice system treats Blacks less fairly than whites. 87% of Blacks and 64% of whites feel the same way.

[note that the two points above make up the bullet points of the third slide titled “Important Statistics”]

Black adults are five times as likely to say they were unfairly stopped by police officers because of their race compared to whites.

[note that the point above make up the bullet point of the fourth slide titled “Important Statistics”]

Out of this study, one of the most striking findings was when black, white, and hispanic officers were asked if the fatal encounters between [police] officers and Black people were signs of an isolated incident or a broader problem between police and the Black community, 57% of Black officers, 27% of white officers, and 26% of Hispanic officers said that these encounters were signs of a broader problem and not isolated instances.

[note that the point above make up the bullet point of the fifth slide titled “Important Statistics”]

[22.40]

What about the experiences of those in Worcester?

Even in my own family, I can speak to at least three generations that have been racially profiled, assaulted, or aggressively treated by members of the WPD.

My father was racially profiled.

When I was fourteen years old, a WPD officer pulled a gun on me and slammed me against a vehicle at East Park while my three white friends watched in horror.

And more recently, about a year ago, I was headed to Webster Square. A white WPD officer began yelling at me to get the hell out of here and move on when I just complained about some guy who was driving a truck covered with Confederate flags up and down Main Street and Park Ave and was driving erratically, rear-ending multiple vehicles, including mine.

Even some of my nephews, even young […] cousins, have been racially profiled by officers of the WPD.

Some ask why don’t you report these incidents – I learned as a teenager after my brother was grabbed by the neck by a WPD officer and had his head slammed through a store window at the old Galleria mall, that even if you report something, which my father did, nothing most likely will happen.

You walk in the shoes of a Black person or Brown person, you’ll have a different perspective.

Even with all this knowledge and my experiences, I have never been anti-police. Rather, I always seek to develop relationships with police officers. Many Worcester police officers who I’ve personally known – many that I’ve known for 30-40 years, can attest to that.

[24.29]

All these facts and many others speak directly to racism, the undervaluing of Black and Brown lives and the topic of injustice. These are the other reasons why millions of Black and Brown people have been joined by millions of white allies in Worcester and around the world over the last month or so. I am pretty sure that most of these protesters and their supporters are not even close to being anti-police. Rather, these individuals are anti-racist, fighters for fairness, and champions for justice.

So, again, why did I call for an emergency Board of Health meeting, even though there was opposition to do so?

It’s simple: there are thousands of non-whites and our white allies who are tired of living under the threat of police brutality. We want constructive and immediate changes based on collaboration.

Like many others, I’m on the streets regularly talking to ordinary people in the Black and Latino communities. I hear the non-sugar-coated views of these individuals and of others in the city. If you really want to know what people are thinking in most communities, ask many of us who know what people need and want in the city. We are there. If you are not directly part of these communities, you may not be hearing the true views, frustrations, or [??] of these groups.

Some police officers may deny that racist viewpoints are not prevalent in the police departments across the country, including the WPD. However, the data, the video, and the personal stories of those who have experienced police brutality substantially proves otherwise. Recently we have heard from political leaders on the national, state, and even local levels that we need to change existing police practices and procedures. Some of these changes that have come into place are no chokeholds, no knees on the back or head of a person, and even requiring fellow officers to intervene if they see a fellow officer commit an act of police brutality. All of these changes are good, but they don’t go far enough. And why?

Well, I played football in high school at North High and at college at Colgate University. If you change the rules that are played in the game, and you still have the same set of players, many of whom should not have been on the field to begin with, because they have a propensity to break the rules, or needlessly injure their opponents, you will see the same outcomes. Your team will rack up a bunch of penalties, the ball will being pushed back and not forward, and your team and community that wants you to succeed will lose.

This is a point of the recommendations.

[27.00]

I believe the majority of the board of health wants these recommendations – not demands! – to serve as an opportunity to collaborate with the WPD, to address serious public health issues, to ensure that the best people, the best officers, are in uniform. These recommendations are presented in a public forum so that the WPD can come to our scheduled July board meeting and begin the process of developing publicly announced plans to ensure that they have in their ranks anti-racists, anti-bigots, and fighters of justice for all communities that they serve.

The potential for police brutality does not just exist in Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York City, or Chicago, or other faraway cities; the potential for it to happen here in this city exists too, and unless there’s serious attention to identify those who possess racist or bigoted views and rooting them out, then Worcester will also part of that list of places. No one wants that.

[28.00]

These recommendations to WPD are here to encourage the WPD to be the best they can be, and no organization or institution can operate at their max potential if they haven’t fully addressed issues that have the ability to form an irrevocable gulf between themselves and the people that they serve.

So here is the Board of Health’s official stated recommendations that I put together along with a colleague of mine.

On June 1, 2020, the Worcester Board of Health issued a statement condemning the violence than resulted in the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020 and previous acts of racist violence. We condemn both.

As members of the Worcester Board of Health, we consider white supremacy, racism, bigotry, and police brutality, as significant public health issues in need of ongoing attention by our city.

To that end, the Board of Health recommends that the Worcester Police Department and police officers in the city of Worcester (and members of other law enforcement agencies that operate in the city of Worcester) do the following to protect and build trust with the African-American community and other communities historically impacted by racism, bigotry, and racist violence:

[note the above is the first slide entitled “The BOH Recommends]

[29.18]

Recommendation #1: Acknowledge that racist, bigoted viewpoints and structural racism are pervasive in society and in all institutions, even among police departments (and that includes the WPD). [this is a slide except for the comment in parentheses]

Recommendation #2: Adopt the element of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus “10 Point Plan” that includes this specific item: Peace Officer Standards and Training (which is called POST): resolves to provide for a special commitment on Peace Officer Standards and Training, to study and make recommendations concerning the implementation of POST system, report favorably now with rules committee. Establish a statewide POST system to certify police officers and enable de-certification for misconduct and abuse. [He reiterates that the last sentence is very important]

[30.40]

Recommendation #3: Commit to urgently develop a comprehensive plan to identify (i.e. through previous actions, social media, background checks, etc.) those police officers that may possess racist/bigoted viewpoints.

Recommendation #4: Once officers who may possess these views are identified, commit to educate, re-train and/or if necessary, preclude (in the case of cadets) or dismiss (in the case of current officers) officers who possess these viewpoints and are inclined to impose these views to mistreat (i.e. physically, verbally, legally, etc.) black, brown and other historically discriminated racial and socioeconomic groups.

Recommendation #5: Be immediately and continuously transparent and fair in the investigation of police officers who have been accused of police misconduct and brutality.

Recommendation #6: Commit to working with a newly established, community police misconduct review board which is comprised of residents of the city of Worcester and have at least 50% of its members from the following communities:

African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans. The makeup of the Board should also include members from the following communities who have been affected by racism, bigotry and violence:
• a. LGBTQ+
• b. Mental Health
• c. Homeless
• d. Drug/Alcohol Recovery
• e. Youth
• f. Low-Income
• g. Domestic Violence Survivors

[I’m mostly using the bullets from the powerpoint but he is essentially following the slide]

Note: since the board believes collaboration is the key to best practice policing, we believe that community misconduct police board should include at least one member who is a current or former member of law enforcement, who has had years — and this is important — who has had years of sustained study of good policing practice and anti-racist, anti-bigoted paradigm. That is key. We want to make sure that whoever’s going to be [the member of law enforcement] that that person has experience not only doing good work and understanding good policing practices, but also understands the paradigms when it comes to being anti-racist and anti-bigoted.

[The above paragraph was not on the slidedeck]

[33.24]

Recommendation #7: Every police officer should be required to attend anti-racist/anti-bigoted workshops annually; and at least twice a year, require officers to read publications or view informational videos (and produce a short written report afterwards) that are geared towards improving the understanding of the various communities mentioned above.

Recommendation #8: Commit to developing healthy and nonviolent relationships with all members of the African-American community and other members of communities that have a history of suffering police brutality and misconduct.

Recommendation #9: Adopt the element of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus (and by the way the Mass Black and Latino Legislative Caucus are members who are from the federal level all the way down to the municipal level who have come together to put together a 10 point plan to try to reduce racism, discrimination, and also police brutality) “10 Point Plan” that includes this specific item: Adopt clear statutory limits on police use of force, including choke-holds and other tactics known to have deadly consequences. Require independent investigation of officer-related deaths. Require data collection and reporting on race, regarding all arrests and police use of force by every department.

[35.04]

Recommendation #10: Adopt the element of the Massachusetts Black
and Latino Legislative Caucus“ 10 Point Plan” that includes this specific item: Civil Service Exam Review and Oversight: Establishes an Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity to establish guidelines and review for diversity plans for all state agencies; Establishes a peace officer exam advisory board to review examinations for appointment and promotion of peace officers.

Recommendation #11: Commit to providing training on and implementation of internal and external deescalation resources.

Recommendation #12: Establish a consistent periodic schedule to update the members of the BOH and the Worcester Community (i.e. via the media and in-person community meetings, etc) on the progress of your efforts.

The Board of Health is seeking for the WPD to issue a formal statement to the Board of Health and to the residents of Worcester by, before or soon after our next Board of Health meeting (in July), on how and when (i.e. include specific timelines) they will specifically address each individual recommendation. The Board of Health is recommending that the WPD issue an annual report on its efforts to reduce racist/anti-Black and Brown/bigoted views amongst its ranks, increase more officers who are antiracist/anti-bigoted and build stronger ties to the Black and Brown communities of Worcester and other historically affected communities.

I believe that anything short of addressing each of these recommendations, line by line, will invalidate the experiences of those who are affected by racism as it relates to the local police department, as well as the voices of all the protesters who have marched for justice over the last month or so.

[37.00]

Budget Votes, Reconsiderations, and Holds

This is for folks who are wondering about the more esoteric aspects of the vote on the annual budget.

The Lead-up

The City Council has a standing Finance Committee, made up of all city councilors, that reviews the annual budget submitted by the City Manager.  The budget was submitted on May 12 and the Finance Committee began their review on May 19.  Normally, there are a few Finance Committee meetings due to the length of the budget.

On June 2, the City Council met (in regular session, not Finance Committee) to review, discuss, and (they thought) approve the city budget.  However, many citizens called in to the city council meeting to specifically object to an increase in the budget for the WPD and about the amount for resource officers in the WPS.

The City Council met on June 9 and again on June 16 to continue budget discussions.  These discussions were met by much citizen opposition to funding the police and the school resource officers.  At the end of this time, not all citizens (who had wanted to speak) had had the opportunity to speak.

On June 16, the City Council voted 11-0 to approve the budget (item 8a).


Councilor King’s Reconsideration of the vote

Two days later, on June 18, Khrystian King asked for the City Council to reconsider the vote at its next meeting on June 23 because some people had been disconnected who had wanted to speak at the June 16 meeting.  
He specifically invoked Rule 30 of the City Council Rules:

Rule 30. Reconsideration of Items Previously Considered An item once duly considered and voted, whether adopted or not, shall not be brought back before the city council within ninety (90) days of the last action taken by the city council unless a motion to reconsider has been timely made or filed. Except as provided below, a motion to reconsider an item shall be in order: 1) at any time during the meeting when the item was first decided yea or nay; or, 2) upon the filing such a motion in writing with the city clerk any time prior to 5 p.m. on the Thursday next following the day in which the item was first decided. A motion for reconsideration shall not be debatable and shall, if accepted by a two-thirds vote of the members of the city council, rescind the previous vote on the item and place it back on the floor for further action. In computing the time for filing any motion for reconsideration, Saturdays, Sunday and legal holidays shall be excluded.   

You can refer to Tracy’s thread for a lot of information about the reconsideration he requested:

It goes on the next agenda, it generally is taken first, and it is NOT debatable. That means that the Councilors DO NOT DELIBERATE the item; it’s a straight up or down vote right off the bat.

And again, if they vote YES, that reopens (in this case) the budget for deliberation; if they vote NO, the vote on the budget stays as voted this past Tuesday.

June 23 City Council Meeting

At the City Council meeting on June 23, Councilor King then held under privilege the budget vote.  (City Council Rules – Rule 29 (c) – page 13 of the pdf).

This means that the vote is held until the next meeting.

So – when is the next meeting?

Normally, the next meeting would be on June 30 and the vote would continue.

However, this is the annual budget.

Remember that the city manager submitted the annual budget on May 12.

According to section 5-2 (b) of the City Charter (page 23 on the pdf):

If the city council fails to take action with respect to any amount recommended in the annual budget, either by approving, reducing or rejecting the same, within forty-five days after its receipt of the budget, such amount shall, without any action by the city council, become a part of the appropriations for the year, and shall be available for the purposes specified.

Forty-five days from May 12 is June 26.

Special Meetings

The natural course of action would be to call a special meeting.

You can find out about special meetings in section 2-6 (c) (ii) of the City Charter (pages 8-9 on the pdf):

The mayor or the vice-chair of the city council, or any five members thereof, may at any time call a special meeting by causing written notice, stating the time and place of such meeting and signed by the councilor(s) calling the same, to be delivered in hand to each member of the city council, or left at his/her usual dwelling place, at least twelve hours before the time of such meeting. Except in the case of an emergency, notice of such special meeting, in accordance with chapter thirty-nine, section twenty-three B of the General Laws,  shall be posted on the city bulletin board at least forty-eight hours in advance of the time set for such special meeting.

That means:

1 – The mayor can call a special meeting by delivering a notice by hand 12 hours before the meeting

2 – The vice-chair can call a special meeting by delivering a notice by hand 12 hours before the meeting 

3 – Five city councilors can call a special meeting by delivering a notice by hand 12 hours before the meeting

The second paragraph is a moot point (because that section has been repealed) – but the City Council is still subject to the open meeting law, which STILL requires the posting of a meeting and its agenda 48 hours before the meeting.

If the city council needs to meet in the meantime, they could argue that it was an emergency, but knowing about something for 45 days and not voting on it hardly constitutes an emergency.

Where does this leave the budget?

If the budget is not voted on by June 26, the city council doesn’t need to vote on the budget.

The city manager’s budget will be adopted without their vote.

Couldn’t we have a temporary (1/12) budget voted in?

The City of Boston seems to be able to be able to vote for partial budgets while they work through councilor’s concerns.  It does not appear that Worcester has the same ability; the charter refers to an ‘annual’ budget.

Worcester Police Service Aides in the 1970s

Kevin had recently shared a paper called “Police Service Aides: Paraprofessionals for Police,” which was written in 1978 about a program that the Worcester Police Department had initiated in May of 1974. I am not sure how long it lasted (but I welcome commenters who remember!).

We often think (correctly) that Worcester is a backwater that couldn’t find a good idea if it bit the city in the face, but I am always cheered when I see examples that we were ahead of our time, in a good way.

As various people in the city demand defunding of the WPD, and as the Board of Public Health begins to look at racism/discrimination relative to the WPD, it’s interesting to look back at our history to see how we used to handle things a bit differently.

What was a police service aide (or police paraprofessional)? This was a “police specialist” [quotes in this post are from the article] who handled service calls so that sworn officers could be freed up to deal with the active-crime-specific calls.

There were 41 police service aides at the time of the study (in June 1975). I’m not sure how many police/sworn officers there were in 1975, but my copy of the LWV “Here’s Worcester” brochure from 1969 said that at that time there were 306 patrolmen; assuming that there were similar numbers in 1975, this would be 1/5 of the number of patrolmen. The article says that aides responded to “24.7 percent of all radio calls and assist in an additional 8.2 percent of calls,” so this seems pretty accurate for a percentage of aides-to-sworn officers/patrolmen.

Police service aides made a bit less than very junior police officers ($7,280 for the police service aide vs $9,152 for an officer with less than two years’ experience.

Police service aides had special uniforms and marked cars, worked from 10am-2am, but were not armed and did not have the power of arrest. They rode alone (no partner) and were “dispatched directly by the central dispatcher.”

From a diversity perspective, it doesn’t seem horrible for the mid-1970s: “The average age of the forty-one [police service aides] was 22.5 years; 40 percent were female; 12 percent were from racial minorities; and 32 percent were married.”

What types of service calls did they answer? A list from the article:
Snow Complaints
Notifications (All kinds such as: death in family, children arrested by police or outside agencies, children injured, found, etc.)
Assist Citizen
Fire Alarms
Noise Complaints
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Animal Complaints
Stolen and Lost Property
Recovered Property
Stolen and Recovered Vehicles
Missing Persons
Sick Persons
Injured Persons
Defective Streets and Sidewalks
Automobile Obstruction
Parked or Abandoned Motor Vehicles
Children Complaints [one can only wonder what THIS is!]
Rubbish Complaints

[I’d say at least some of these (snow, streets/sidewalks, etc.) are currently handled by DPW Customer Service]

Why did Worcester implement a police service aide program? The article says there were five major reasons for the program:

1 – “[T]he major impetus for the idea came from within the police department. One of the main architects of the plan was a deputy chief who became chief of police in 1975.” (I am not sure if this is John T. Hanlon; a commenter can feel free to correct me.)

2 – “Worcester has a city manager-county type of government. The current city manager, having been in office for many years, used his strong position to support the police service aide program.”

(So, nothing was going to happen without McGrath’s approval – and he did!)

3 – “[T]he Worcester Regional Law Enforcement Committee planners, who actually developed the plan for the grant and who took care of the details required by the state funding process, were very knowledgeable about the internal functioning of the Worcester Police Department.”

4 – “[T]he relative noninvolvement of the police union.” (You can read more about on page 4 of the article, which I find fascinating but which others may find a bit dry. Basically, the police were moving from one union to another for representation, and the new union was negotiating other things and not focused on the issue of police service aides.)

5 – The presentation of the aides to the existing police force was as “supplements” and not as replacements. In addition, 35 additional police officers were hired (in addition to the 40+ police service aides). And finally, this was part of a “major Worcester Crime Impact Program, which was initially funded at an annual rate of $750,000.” This was sold to the regular police officers as a chance to not have to take the crap calls and just focus on “real” police work.

Wrapping up: There isn’t enough in this short article for me to call the police service aides a success. I’m not sure why Worcester discontinued the program; the article says that the program, which had started out partly grant-funded, was now (1978) completely funded by the city. It also indicated that the aides were underutilized (though it’s unclear if they were more ‘underutilized’ than sworn officers).

The program was structured to be part of WPD but without the benefits of being a police officer (retirement, union membership, etc.), and many of the police service aides said that their reasons for joining were so that they would have a leg up when applying to become a police officer.

I will research this more once I can access the WPL’s microfilm collection again, but it’s worth looking back to our history to see a time when nearly 25% of all radio calls did not involve an armed police officer, and where citizens were, by and large, happy with the response to their calls.

We have already had a system where some “police” calls were handled, just fine, by non-police officers, and we can have that system again. It will look quite different than what happened in the 1970s, but I feel confident that this can happen again.

PS – After I wrote this, I decided to see if I could find better numbers for officers/aides. From the T&G column “Override gets “no frills” police operations” (June 17, 1991) by Donald E. Cummings, which seems like a column to encourage a Prop 2 1/2 overrride vote for the police:

“In 1979, Worcester had 355 police officers and 45 police service aides. These 400 police personnel responded to somewhat fewer than 75,000 calls each year and made about 6,000 arrests. Currently 289 police officers – no police service aides – answer 125,000 calls and make more than 11,000 arrests annually.”

And to compare to other cities:

“Providence has 344 police officers, Springfield 374 and Hartford 406, while Worcester’s strength has been reduced to 289 police officers.”