Open letter to Mayor Lungo-Koehn
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From: [Your Name]
May 24, 2022
Open letter to Mayor Lungo-Koehn:
We write as concerned residents, voters, and active members of community organizations in Medford. We write to express our outrage about recent news about the Medford Police Department. We ask you to apologize to the victims for their treatment and move our community forward with systemic changes.
- MPD stopped two young, Black recent Medford High School graduates at the Winthrop St. Rotary without explanation;
- MPD held them at gunpoint and handcuffed them, despite their cooperation;
- MPD searched their car and found no evidence of wrongdoing;
- MPD retaliated against one of the teens for requesting the police report by denying the report existed, following her in the community, and intimidating her.
There needs to be an independent investigation of the incident to determine who was responsible. Experience shows MPD cannot investigate itself. We want the city to make the victims whole and begin to implement major police reforms in this city. This operation by MPD contradicts the 2020 statewide police reforms that require officers to de-escalate and give time to comply before using their weapons.
This was a traumatic incident that could have easily ended in a neighbor being killed. Many past victims of police mistreatment and violence are too intimidated by MPD to come forward or have given up hope of real change. Public awareness of this incident gives us an opportunity to reflect, change, and do better in the future. As mayor, we ask you to take the following actions:
- Issue a public apology to the victims in this case.
- Work with the City Council to create and fully fund a Civilian Oversight Board in the upcoming budget.
- Minimize encounters with armed police by establishing and funding public safety alternatives to policing in Medford in the upcoming budget.
The organization must be empowered to approve hiring and training policies, investigate accusations of police misconduct, disclose all use of force reports to the public, and propose policy changes to avoid future police violence. Crucially, the board must also be given the power to act on the results of its investigations by disarming, suspending or firing officers who violate the law and betray the public trust.
- Create an alternative crisis response team for mental health and substance abuse crises, like that in Lynn, Amherst, Northampton, and Cambridge. This model saves lives and saves millions of dollars in unnecessary police presence. It is not the same as Chief Buckley’s “co-response” model.
- Fund positions for trained Restorative Justice coordinators and unarmed crossing guards at all schools.
- Fund services for victims of domestic violence and an Office of Housing Stability to reduce the trauma of eviction and displacement in Medford.
- Fund a civilian traffic enforcement program that reduces or eliminates face-to-face traffic stops conducted by armed police officers.
This problem is not limited to one incident. On-duty officers have followed members of our community outside after city council meetings to yell at them for giving public comment. On-duty officers have posed in photos pretending to arrest a political candidate days before an election. MPD didn't fire Officer Stephen LeBert despite numerous suspensions, complaints, and department violations over 30 years. When he threatened to murder a Medford resident on video, he was given paid leave and allowed to resign with his pension. Dozens of officers who perpetrated overtime fraud and are Brady-listed by the District Attorney as unreliable witnesses also kept their jobs. At least one Brady-listed officer is at the center of the current complaint. This culture of police being above the law makes our city less safe.
The City of Medford must put real money into something better. Police misconduct like that in this recent case is likely to lead to costly settlements. It is irresponsible to accept those costs while refusing to provide funding for alternative public safety measures. Further, as many of our demands come in the form of a public health response, they can be funded by federal ARPA funds the city received.
Police violence has always been racist. Massachusetts imprisons Black people at a rate 8 times that of white people and Latinx people at 5 times that of white people. Most of this disparity is caused by police targeting enforcement and filing more severe initial charges against people of color. Disparities in Massachusetts are worse than the US national average. Ending police violence in Medford is a matter of racial justice.
Representatives of our groups would like to meet with you to discuss these concerns and proposals as soon as possible.
In solidarity with victims of police violence, we sign our names and organizations we represent:
Our Revolution Medford
Mystic Valley NAACP
MASSACHUSETTS SENTENCING COMMISSION, SELECTED RACE STATISTICS 2 (Sept. 27, 2016), https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/09/tu/selected-race-statistics.pdf
Racial Disparities in the Massachusetts Criminal System (Sept, 2020), https://hls.harvard.edu/content/uploads/2020/11/Massachusetts-Racial-Disparity-Report-FINAL.pdf
The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in State Prisons (2021) http://cdn.cnn.com/cnn/2021/images/10/13/the-color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons.pdf