Excessive Police Force

Anthony De Leon, Student, Fitchburg State University

If one thing is for certain it is that excessive police force has been extremely common in the last few years, especially here in New England. In Massachusetts alone there have been dozens of cases where excessive police force has been seen by officers throughout the state. When the topic of excessive police force is said or thought about it doesn’t always mean the police killed someone. Nobody has to die in order for excessive force by the police to be seen. But the issue with excessive police force is that a lot of these officers aren’t being held accountable. If they do it’s usually just a small slap on the wrist and nothing more. My hometown is Lynn. It’s a very big city compared to all the other ones in Massachusetts. It’s a very diverse city and it's full of different cultures and heritages.

In February 2021, an incident occurred at the Lynn Police Department and was captured on video. A male POC was beaten in a holding cell by a white police officer and another officer. The man was brutally beaten by the officer because the male allegedly tried to hit the officer. That was clearly not the case and it is seen very clearly in the video. The other officer just watched as this happened and didn’t do much to try to stop this. You would think that after the tragedy that occurred in Minneapolis with George Floyd that officers would understand and intervene when they see excessive force by another officer but I guess this officer didn’t care. On the mass.gov website in the press release section it stated that on December 31, 2020 Governor Baker signed a state police reform law. In that article it stated, “it will create a duty-to-intervene for police officers and a duty to de-escalate.” A duty to intervene is what our Governor told our officers to do and what that officer did was absolutely nothing but watch how his fellow officer beat that man up. If our Governor wants police officers to be respected, they have to do their jobs and end that mentality of being “better” than everybody else because they’re police officers. Not only are our officers supposed to be role models in society but also in our schools. Our youth is important and will always be important but how can we expect them to grow up not having a bad image towards authority and the police when our officers attack our youth.

In Springfield, MA, a school resource officer grabbed a male POC student by the neck and threw him against the wall. This incident occurred on February 25, 2019. The officer, Angel Marrero is caught on camera watching as the student passes by and then grabbing the student by the neck and throwing him against the wall. The officer then continued to be aggressive towards the fifteen-year-old. A grown police officer with training felt the need that it was okay to grab a minor by the neck and assault him. If officers like these are the ones that are going to be in our schools, then it's safe to say that officers like Officer Angel Marrero are useless. A SRO (School Resource Officer) is supposed to guide the students and help them. The SRO is by no means a teacher or school paid faculty. According to the Mass.Gov website under the Educators and Administrators part it states what an SRO is and what they should do. In that website it stated, “These MOUs must ensure that SROs do not take the place of appointed school disciplinarians, enforcers of school regulations, or school-based mental health providers. The law ensures that SROs do not use police powers to address traditional school discipline issues, including non-violent disruptive behavior, and restricts law enforcement action in response to certain school-based offenses.” To start off with this quote, a “MOU '' means a “Model Memorandum Of Understanding and that governs the role of what an SRO is supposed to do. It clearly states what the officer is supposed to do and not do. What that SRO did to that child was not right and he should be held accountable. But that's not what happened. Once again, this officer merely got held accountable, he was placed on desk duty and just got a slap on the wrist for what he did. He didn’t lose his job nor did he have to go through re-training. This was and is absolutely unfair. How could this happen and the officer can still continue to be an officer without any actual repercussions. This goes back to holding officers accountable and if needed making them be an example for others. He at least should've been placed on leave and due for retraining. If the officer would have agreed to re-training then it would’ve shown that he really does want to change unlike other officers. 

Springfield is clearly a tough city just like Lynn where a lot of crime is seen and also a lot of bad policing. In another case in Springfield officers got called to a hotel where a man and woman denied leaving the room and threatened the hotel staff. The incident was caught on the officer's body camera. The couple was inside the room and was holding the door so the officers wouldn’t get in. The officer then takes his stun gun and tasers the woman on her fingers while she's trying to close the door. The officer then tasers the woman four times as the woman says “I’m pregnant.” The officer replied, “oh you wanna play those types of games.” The officer tasered a pregnant woman and in a way mocked her or tried making a joke. The situation is definitely bad on the man and woman’s part but it's also the officer’s job to use as less lethal force as possible. Instead of using his baton he went straight to his stun gun. The officer not only hurt the woman he tasered but also the child inside her. How cruel can a person be to taser a woman and hear her scream “I’m pregnant” while tasering her. This officer was held more accountable than the other officers mentioned above and he was charged with assault and battery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. The officer serving this time won’t undue what he did but hopefully other officers will notice not to be like him. Springfield is a very big police department and with big police departments follows problems. The Department of Justice (DOJ) posted an immediate press release article/paper about the SPD narcotics unit back in July of 2020. The article spoke about how they have reasonable cause to believe that the narcotics unit of SPD is engaging in excessive police force. So not only are they patrolmen showing signs of excessive force, so are the special units. These officers need to be held accountable for their actions and this whole department needs to be wiped clean. 

All these incidents have more than one thing in common. But what is the most common out of all them is the excessive force from these police officers. All of these officers used more force than what was needed in their situations. One out of the three officers had actual charges pressed against him but it all depends on how court goes. These officers were not held accountable and their cases weren’t transparent. Looking back at the Lynn Police case the officer didn’t try to use any other force but physical and he went extremely hard on that man. On the National Institute Of Justice website, it states the broad definition of use of force: “Broadly speaking, the use of force by law enforcement officers becomes necessary and is permitted under specific circumstances, such as in self-defense or in defense of another individual or group.”

The main reason as to why all this is important is because people are dying. Families are losing dads, moms, siblings, children and many other family members at the hand of these rogue police officers, and it’s just not right. An example of a city who is trying to keep their officers in check and in line is Cambridge. Cambridge made a law on June 8th, 2020, months before the governor did about requiring officers to intervene. On the city website under the news and alerts section it stated, “Prior to this Order, an officer was obligated to report any use of force violations to their superior officer under the Cambridge Police Use of Force policy and Departmental Rules. This new General Order will still require supervisor notification, but now mandates officers to take a preventive or active approach.” They want their officers to be held accountable but also stop other officers right away when too much force is being seen. More cities should strive to hold their officers accountable and in check. What has been happening to this country is sad and if we don’t do anything about it, it’ll just get worse.

Final, Sarah. “Governor Baker Signs Police Reform Legislation.” Mass.gov, 31 Dec. 2020, www.mass.gov/news/governor-baker-signs-police-reform-legislation.

Healey, Maura. “The Role of School Resource Officers in Massachusetts.” Mass.gov, 13 July 2018. www.mass.gov/the-role-of-school-resource-officers-in-massachusetts.

“Justice Department Announces Findings of Investigation into Narcotics Bureau of Springfield, 

Massachusetts Police Department.” The United States Department of Justice, 8 July 2020, www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-announces-findings-investigation-narcotics-bureau-springfield.

“New General Order Issued Requires Officers to Intervene When Another Officer Uses Unreasonable Force.” Cambridgemass.gov, 8 June 2020, www.cambridgema.gov/cpd/newsandalerts/Archives/2020/06/newgeneralorderissuedrequiresofficerstointervenewhenanotherofficerusesunreasonableforce.

“Overview of Police Use of Force.” National Institute of Justice, nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/overview-police-use-force#citation--0.