On Tuesday, federal prosecutors announced a investigation into the use of excessive force by the Massachusetts police department against residents on the basis of race or gender.
According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, the civil investigation into Worcester Police Department will examine how the agency handles misconduct complaints and discipline; review department policies and procedures; evaluate officers’ interactions with the public; collect evidence and conduct investigations.
“Based on the information provided to by the Justice Department we find significant justification for investigating whether the Worcester Police Department engages or practices racially discriminatory, gender-biased, and uses excessive force,” Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, stated in a statement.
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Rachael Rollins, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, stated that “the majority of Worcester’s police officers do their jobs with honour, pride, restraint, and distinction.” However, she said that the investigation’s “ultimate objective is to ensure that policing is constitutional, safe and effective in Worcester while preserving the civil rights of its residents”
The investigation was supported by the full cooperation of city leaders.
“The Worcester Police Department and the city collectively strive for the highest quality municipal services to residents, and will continue doing so in a transparent manner as the investigation takes it’s course,” said Chief Steven Sargent, Mayor Joseph Petty, and Acting City Manager Eric Batista in a statement.
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Worcester is home to approximately 200,000 people and lies 40 miles from Boston. Census Bureau statistics show that more than 23% of the population is Latino/Hispanic and 13% are Black or African American.
The 1994 Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act prohibits local and state governments from engaging in any pattern or practice by law enforcement officers that would deprive individuals of their rights under the Constitution or federal laws, federal prosecutors stated.
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The Justice Department also conducted an investigation into the Springfield Police Department. This was resolved earlier this year by a consent decree.
Although the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not identify any incidents that prompted the investigation, in April, a Black man sued five officers and the city, alleging that he was wrongfully accused of murder on the basis of his race and what his lawyers called fabricated evidence.