FRAMINGHAM – Greater Framingham Community Church Pastor J. Anthony Lloyd comes from a family of police officers. All three of his brothers were sworn into the Philadelphia Police Department, he said.
“I know the good having officers invested in the community can do,” said Rev. Lloyd.
But the Pastor also has seen the bad police officers can do for the Black community, over the years, through incident after incident after incident across America.
The latest incident was in Memphis.
Five black police officers were fired, after a black man was stopped, beat up, and eventually died. Those fired officers were charged with second-degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official oppression and one count of aggravated assault.
Last Sunday, February 5, Rev. Lloyd held a roundtable with MetroWest Police Chiefs including Framingham, Ashland, Natick, Marlborough, and Southborough. Close to 100 people, mostly Black individuals, attended the event.
Framingham Police Chief Lester Baker, the community’s first-ever Black Police Chief, and Deputy Police Chief Sean Riley attended.
Chief Baker talked about the Memphis officers. (He had issued a statement the previous weekend.)
“Those officers were wearing body cameras. They didn’t seem to really care. So you can’t just simply have body cameras if you’re not going to monitor them,” said Chief Baker.
“One of the areas that we focus on, one of many, but I’ll use it as the example to answer your question is use of force,” said Deputy Chief Riley to an audience member’s question. “That’s why we’re here today, right? Excessive force in, we at the Framingham Police Department monitor that daily. Our officers are required to file certain reports. It gets reviewed.”
“As leaders, especially as chiefs in Massachusetts, we are saying these are the guidelines. There’s no, ifs, ands or buts about it. You don’t have a choice. You shall be reporting, you shall have accountability and you shall have oversight,” said Framingham Police Chief Hicks. “If you choose not to, the board itself, the POST board can turn around and not only decertified officers, but the POST has a power to decertified departments. That’s different and that’s new. I think that’s what’s going to hold us all accountable. But I have to say, I think that again, working very closely with everyone at this table, we’ve held each other accountable for many, many years.”
“What is it about black people that causes people to get out of control and kill black men and women and children? Why is it that black people can be beaten with impunity and it doesn’t seem to have the same effect as anyone else in the site? I’m not talking about people of color. I’m talking about black people. Why do you think black people, what is it about black people that we can be beaten and traumatized and are harassed and treated like people who are not human? I know that you are here and I know it’s difficult and I thank you for coming, but I’m looking for an answer for that. What about us as a people that causes this kind of behavior? Have you asked yourself that? When you ask yourself that, what is your answer?,” asked an audience member.
“I think that it’s a great question and I’m going to answer it not only as a police officer but as a white male. In my coming on 51 years of life, I have learned a lot,” said Framingham Deputy Police Chief Riley. “Being a white male in a police uniform is direct correlation to your question. I grew up in a 99.9% white community. What we are surrounded by impacts how we react in policing.”
“If you grew up in the inner city, you were exposed, your circles were bigger, you were exposed to different cultures, people, religions, you name it. I grew up in a very small community, where it was just all white people, one or two black families in the entire town. So that did impact you. I had to get comfortable around people of color. And I can admit that. And there’s nothing wrong with admitting that, right?,” said Framingham Deputy Police Chief Riley.
“I used to use the term I don’t see color and I was corrected,” said Deputy Police Chief Riley. “And at first, and I say this, okay, because I self-reflected on that, I was actually offended by that when the person told me that. But throughout the years, and again, I think I’m going to try to answer your question of where we need to go is of course I see this gentleman right here, there’s a black male. And I think people in the room will understand that what I meant by that was not at all derogatory and it was never meant that way. But I understand where people of color say, no, I want you to see me as who I think. But go deeper, get to understand who they are and how we react as groups. And I think we need to do a better job of that as police officers, even in our training at the academy level.”
“Because the reality is we’re hiring men and women that may not have been exposed to different cultures and people. And that may need to be part of the curriculum in the teaching of our officers because we all come to this world, we all come to this table with those biases, and we need to overcome them,” said Riley. “It is a lot of work. And it is work, to be honest with you. It doesn’t happen overnight. So that is something I can tell you as a white male, okay, Irish Catholic, who’s the prototypical cop, right? that we are working on every day.”
Many in the audience wanted to see not only changes in the police department, but changes in culture in the communities, and language changes, too.
“My comment is that you were talking about respect. Every time I hear when George Floyd happened, I cringe. I think it’s disrespectful to him and I think it just adds to the trauma that he went through. His family went through. I would like to hear it said, when Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, I think that if we don’t objectify him, if we speak of it in terms of being subjective, I think when police officers or anyone else have to say, when a police officer murdered that person, then it brings it back and you can’t ever forget it. The other thing I like to ask you the question I heard it said that it was the person I didn’t watch the video. I can’t watch any more of those. Cause when George Floyd happened, when Chauvin killed George Floyd, I could never probably watch anymore of that again,” said one black audience member.
“If I could, the verbiage and the way we talk about things that hit home with me,” said Deputy Police Chief Riley. “It’s Derek Chauvin killed that man. And you’re right. And words do matter. And again, I don’t think we say it derogatory. I don’t even think we realize we’re doing that.”
“The question that I have is, regardless of training, regardless of hiring practices, regardless of whether or not we have the best candidate pool, how do you get as a human being to the point where you can beat someone like that? How do you watch it?” said Ashland Police Chief Cara Rossi. “How as a human being do you watch that happen and not intervene? This is where I struggle and I call on my fellow chiefs to speak about this as well, but I can’t watch that and not say or take the profession out of it. Where are we as human beings as a society where we don’t value a life of someone to the point where this is happening over and over and over again. I just can’t wrap my brain around it.”
Framingham Police Chief Baker said “look at the world, take the profession out of it, and look at the world the way people treat people. It’s disgusting. Something I say to the new recruits and to the men and women as much as I can with conversations – this job you can have a very successful career, but treat people the way you want to be treated. And I take it one step further. I say treat people the way you want your mother to be treated. That’s the way you should treat everybody on every interaction.”
“We talk about the culture of our police department. It never ever goes away. We hammer it home every day. Even when I send emails out to the police department, we talk about the culture and what our philosophy is. I think we would be hard pressed to go talk to any of the 135 men and women at the framing police department and civilians and ask them what’s the culture of your police department? And I believe we would get almost a hundred percent. They would know what our culture is all about,” said Framingham Deputy Police Chief Riley, responding to a question from the audience on training. “That starts at the top. That starts at City Hall. … That goes down to knowing when our narcotics units doing are out there, our street crimes units, whatever those units are. If they know what that culture is, they have to remember that. So we work really, really hard sir on that and we’ll continue to do so.”
Framingham City Councilors Janet Leombruno, John Stefanini, Leora Mallach and Tracey Bryant attended the 2-hour event.
Natick Select Board member Paul Joseph attended the event.
Also in attendance was State Rep. Priscila Sousa, School Committee member William LaBarge, and former Mayor Yvonne Spicer.
“I want to first and foremost to say thank you to every one of the chiefs that have taken their Sunday away from their families or whatever else they needed to do, to be here. I must say I have not watched the video. And it was intentional. I heard it. I heard everything that was happening. We’ve been here too many times. We’ve been here way too many times. And I’m pretty proud of the work that I have seen happen in Framingham and Chief Baker and the entire leadership team in Framingham. This is an ongoing dialogue and it’s really about humanity. It’s about respect, it’s about dignity,” said former Framingham Mayor Spicer.
“Diversity, equity, inclusion matters,” said former Mayor Spicer. “As a resident of Framingham, 30, almost 40 years, I’ve lived in this community. I’m pretty proud of what I’ve seen happen in our (police) department over the last several years. So I just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you. And I appreciate you very much.”
District 9 School Committee member Labarge said “I just wanted to say that we’re currently in the basement of God’s house and many of us claim to be Christian. Many of us came from service upstairs And I’m just calling on people that we need to go and call on the Lord Jesus, right? Amen. And also people who claim to worship the Lord Jesus Christ, need to follow the teaching of respect and love for all of God’s people, including people who may not even be believers, as well. I just go and pray for all that to happen, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Myself being a new chief a brand, brand new chief, this today has been incredible. I just want to let you know that I really appreciate all the comments and the stories that I’m hearing,” said Southborough Police Chief Ryan Newell.
“It is tough because this one woman over here was very happy that the officer stopped her and complimented her. And then over here, you felt they shouldn’t be doing that. And again, I’m just being completely honest and vulnerable here. I want to do the right thing, but I don’t know how to get that message out to everybody because how we going to bring everybody together, If what I do as the leader of my agency could offend some people but make other people happy,” said the Southborough Police Chief.