To the editor:
Ten long weeks after the incident in Market Square at a rally for racial justice where a Newburyport police officer is alleged to have initially refused to assist a victim of a violent attack because they supported Black Lives Matter, a consultant’s report has apparently been issued.
Shortly after the incident, I wrote a letter to the editor of this paper saying that it was critical that the city move quickly to assure the community that they can have confidence that our Police Department will act fairly and impartially in the performance of their duties.
I also voiced concerns to the mayor and City Council that I could find almost no online record of the consultant having any relevant experience and that he did not possess the degree that he claimed.
Weeks went by and our community experienced another incident that featured explicitly expressed racism and hate directed toward a young boy. Then, a recent municipal meeting was “Zoom bombed” with hateful rhetoric and images.
Another hateful racist incident occurred on the rail trail during the Trump boat parade. Now, finally the report is out (although we haven’t seen it) and, according to the mayor, the officer was “cleared” due to “inconclusive” witness statements.
That’s it? That’s supposed to be the end of it? There was some stuff about needing more surveillance cameras and make sure the offices have sensitivity training but basically things will just go on as normal.
In the meantime, last month, a West Seneca, New York, police officer refused to investigate a violent incident that occurred at a Planned Parenthood office because they were displaying a Black Lives Matter sign. He was immediately suspended and he resigned a few days later (https://wben.radio.com/articles/police-officer-resigns-after-planned-parenthood-incident).
Things are not normal in Newburyport and the mayor’s and the marshal’s response is obviously and grossly insufficient.
At the very least, we must demand to see the “report” in its entirety. Instead of reassuring the community, our city government and our Police Department have managed to reinforce the public’s concern that the incident would be “swept under the rug.”
Our community is hurting and we deserve better from the institutions that are supposed to keep us safe and preserve our quality of life.
Christopher M. Welch