focus on the issue
Only a committed troglodyte would object to the use
of new technology in law enforcement. Nonetheless, those who watch
“CSI” and “Law & Order” on television
have learned that the effectiveness of technology in solving crimes
The Boston Police department seems to be unaware of such limitations.
In a feeble effort to appear to be resolving the rise in the murder
rate, the Commissioner recently announced the use of Global Positioning
System (GPS) bracelets for violent criminals. The location of dangerous
individuals would then always be known through this human “Lo-Jack.”
The problem with this strategy is that there are few occasions when
the criminal justice system can require the GPS bracelet to be worn.
Even then, one wonders whether judges would release defendants on
bail or probation if there was a serious concern that there freedom
would create a danger to the public.
The real problem is that the police are unable to secure witnesses
to testify in murder cases. One reason for this is that many in
the black community distrust the police. People believe that the
police can be abusive in the black community with impunity. A study
last fall of the outcome of the 274 civilian complaints for the
excessive use of force by the police in the previous five years
found that only 14 were sustained.
It is hard to believe that a timely and objective investigation
of those complaints by the Internal Affairs Division of the police
department would reject 95 percent of them as lacking merit. And
what has become of the case involving Senator Dianne Wilkerson’s
son? A police officer pulled his CORI and gave the information to
the Boston Globe. There is a record of those who get CORI reports,
yet there has been no resolution of the matter after several months.
The Internal Affairs Division of the police department has long
been criticized for its lack of transparency. For many years, African
Americans in Boston have called for a Civilian Review Board with
subpoena power. The proposal was endorsed in 1992 in the report
of the St. Clair Commission which was established by former mayor
Ray Flynn to review police policies. However, Mayor Menino has consistently
opposed the measure.
In addition to an antagonistic relationship with the police, African
Americans are also discouraged from coming forward as witnesses
because of a lack of protection. Witnesses are now on their own.
The bill proposed by the Legislature, allegedly protecting witnesses,
is inadequate because it provides a budget of only $750,000 for
the whole state.
It is unreasonable for city officials to expect the black clergy
and community leaders to step up to solve the administration’s
problems. Complicity with the police, unless they adopt a more accommodating
method of resolving citizen complaints, sullies the reputation of
community activists who would like to be helpful. Many citizens
would see cooperating with the police as collaborating with the
Technology is wonderful, but it can never replace the effectiveness
of a truly congenial and cooperative relationship between the community
and the police.
Melvin B. Miller
Editor & Publisher
Bay State Banner