Demand Department of Justice Investigate Worcester Police Department

United States Department of Justice

This is a petition demanding that the Worcester Police Department be investigated for their repeated abuse of power, use of excessive force, and racist behavior, in conjunction with our petition to Attorney General Maura Healey that can be found here. We are asking that the Department of Justice investigate the pattern of police misconduct demonstrated by the Worcester Police Department.

Through a records request, Defund WPD acquired payment information for 27 lawsuits from 2010 through 2020 citing police misconduct that have cost the City of Worcester more than $4 million of taxpayer money due to lost cases and settlement agreements. An additional 15 police misconduct lawsuits remain in litigation.

However, using the term “misconduct” fails to encapsulate the egregiousness of police officers’ actions. From hurling racial slurs against Black and Latinx residents, to violently assaulting a grandmother in her own home, to coercing a confession from an innocent teenager that cost her years in prison, Worcester police officers continue to act with what retired Massachusetts federal judge Nancy Gertner has called “a culture of impunity” that stems from officers believing they can “get away with virtually anything.”

And why would they believe anything different? Officers named as defendants in these lawsuits -- some of whom are named in multiple cases -- have remained on the force, earned promotions, and gone on to become some of the City’s highest ranking and highest paid employees. When there is no accountability, there is no fear of repercussions and no desire for improvement.

While officers remain unchecked, they are stripping the city of vital funding that could be allocated to underfunded departments in the city. It is important to remember that these payments do not come out of the police department budget. The Worcester Police Department is quite literally not paying for their actions -- but we are. $4 million dollars is five times the amount Worcester has allocated the Department of Health and Human Services 2021 budget. It is twenty times the amount allocated to job training and workforce development. It is 164 times the amount allocated to a program dedicated to finding sustainable housing for chronically homeless residents. The same people brutalized by police are the ones who have to foot the bill should the police get caught.

The astronomical amount of wasted taxpayer dollars is a direct consequence of this culture of impunity remaining unchecked by City Leadership -- the same leadership that argues Worcester is somehow “different,” a place immune to the systemic racism that plagues this entire country. As these lawsuits show, nothing could be further from the truth. The Worcester Police Department must be investigated for misconduct, violence, and betrayal of the public trust within the most targeted communities.

Since local city leadership continues to deny the evidence staring back at them, Defund WPD calls upon the Department of Justice to provide the accountability the Worcester Police Department has grown accustomed to evading.

Petition by
Defund WPD WPD
Worcester, Massachusetts
Sponsored by

To: United States Department of Justice
From: [Your Name]

For decades, Black, Latinx, and Asian residents in Worcester have been terrorized by law enforcement agents. They have been victims of racially targeted attacks, excessive force, and other constitutional and civil rights violations committed by law enforcement agents in their official capacity, leading to a collection of lawsuits that have cost the city -- and many of its underfunded departments -- millions of taxpayer dollars. We ask that the Department of Justice open an investigation into the Worcester Police Department to review these myriad violations.

A records request for police misconduct lawsuits that cost the City of Worcester any sum of money resulted in the finding that, from 2010 to 2020, instances of police brutality and misconduct cost Worcester taxpayers $4 million -- and the safety and well-being of our community members.

These cases include examples of police officers using excessive force at a routine traffic stop, violently assaulting a Puerto Rican grandmother while using disparaging racial remarks, and coercing a confession from a Vietnamese teenager for a crime she did not commit, leading her to lose years of her young life in prison. This is only a small sample of many instances in which the Worcester Police Department has put the lives of residents -- especially residents of color -- at risk, and in the process of doing so, syphoned millions of dollars from the city budget that could have been better used to fund some of our most vital and under-resourced public departments and services.

In 2018, retired federal Judge Nancy Gertner told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette that, during her time as a federal judge, she “did not hear good things” about the Worcester Police Department, stating that there was a “culture of impunity” that surrounded officers, as they believed they could “get away with virtually anything.” It is unacceptable for individuals with the professional title of “law enforcement agent” to believe that they themselves are exempt from the very laws they are expected to enforce and uphold.

It bears repeating that this collection of 27 lawsuits has cost the City of Worcester $4 million dollars. This figure is more than cities such as Orlando, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge have spent on settlements in the same amount of time -- cities with larger populations and police departments than Worcester. It is also not the full picture: there are currently an additional 15 lawsuits still in litigation citing further instances of excessive force, racial discrimination, and falsified reporting – examples of misconduct that have historically cost Worcester millions. In short, this astronomical amount of money spent on police misconduct isn’t normal, it isn’t acceptable, and corrective action must be taken.

We ask that the Department of Justice investigate the Worcester Police Department for its repeated violation of residents’ constitutional rights, its abuse of power, and any other infractions earned by any members of the department. Worcester residents deserve to know that egregious abuses of power will not be allowed to continue, and that their safety is the number one priority of our city.