Again, Commissioner?

Take a look at the video and read the article:

Here it is, 7 years after the arrest of Professor Gates, and the Cambridge Police have done it again. I will not tar the whole department with the brush properly applied to Det. Sgt. Ahern, (and a breath test notwithstanding, I’m betting he had been bending his elbow at the tavern across the street just before this act of testosterone-fueled lunacy) but for his acquiescence, the Commissioner deserves a thrashing. Young man bumps into older man on the sidewalk and rudely demands an apology. Ranking officer abuses his authority, roughs up the young man, and threatens two women who come to his aid. That’s all on the Detective Sergeant. But now we have an application for criminal charges against all three of them. By the way-  using the clerk-magistrate process is an act of cowardice by the detective. He could have sworn out A&B charges himself, but he decided to make a clerk-magistrate do his dirty work.

My disgust knows no bounds. This reminds me of an incident 20 years ago when I saw a bike messenger tussling with 2 off-duty cops. The cops, driving a personal car, cut off the bike in a dangerous move. The cyclist spat on their car. The angry cops swerved, blocked a lane (in heavy Boston traffic right next to City Hall), yanked the messenger off his bike and refused to give it back to him while they harangued him. I waded into it. The cops backed off after I handed my card to the messenger, wrote down the license plate number and told the cops that unless they let the man go, I’d be applying for criminal charges against them.

How is it that no amount of psychological testing can weed out these jerks? Det. Sgt. Ahern had a perfectly ordinary urban experience. Someone bumped into him. OMG. And then that person was unreasonable and rude. Shall we convene a task force? Wait, a woman had the audacity to demand identification. Repeal the nineteenth amendment! And then another woman touched his arm. This cannot stand!

This situation went bad only because one of the involved parties had arrest powers. If Mr. Hodges had collided with me and demanded an apology, I probably would have given him one. Why not? Later that night I would have laughed about it and told the story about the young man who bumped into me and wanted an apology.

If Det. Sgt. Ahern had been a private citizen, he would have had only 3 options: apologize, walk away, or get into a shouting match. But he did have some authority and he went straight for abuse of the badge and then took every wrong turn available to him. In the aftermath of the arrest of Henry Gates, I hoped that the men and women of the CPD learned a lesson: when something that was not a crime ends with criminal charges, it is a pretty clear indication that the officer handled himself poorly.

It is bad enough that this 50-year-old man, with many years of experience in public service, acted like a schoolyard bully, but I reserve my strongest condemnation for the Commissioner, whose response to this was silence and apparent acquiescence. Is anyone in Cambridge government going to be a grownup? Det. Sgt. Ahern should have been reprimanded and refused permission to file the application for criminal charges. We Cambridge citizens are embarrassed and ashamed of our police, and that is a bad turn of events. By seeking criminal charges for what I presume must be an allegation of violating the wiretap act by audio recording the incident, well, the CPD just made the case for body cameras. Perhaps continued employment for Ahern should be conditioned on wearing one at all times.

Author: Lowry Heussler

Lowry Heussler is a lawyer from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Having participated in the RBC as a guest-blogger, she made it official in 2012. Her most important contribution to the field of public policy to date was her 1994 instruction to Mark Kleiman, "Read Ann Landers every day. You need to learn about real people." Her essay on the 2009 arrest of Henry Louis Gates went viral and brought about one of her proudest moments, being described as "just another twit along the lines of Sharpton, Jackson, Gates, etc." (Small Dead Animals Blog). Currently serving as General Counsel to BOTEC Analysis Corp., she has been a public housing lawyer, a prosecutor for the Board of Registration in Medicine, a large-firm associate and a small-firm partner. She serves as a board member for NEADS, Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, a charity that trains service dogs to increase independence for people with disabilities.

3 thoughts on “Again, Commissioner?”

  1. Trump offered more of this, much more, and it's what his voters wanted: policing in the style of Chuck Norris, not Robert Peel.

  2. Lowry,

    I too live in Cambridge and have written the one council member who seems to respond to emails from residents. I have heard nothing back.

    What is the best way to make a serious issue of this?

  3. Thanks! Join me in pestering the Commissioner. I plan to call tomorrow and ask his assistant why he has a communications portal if he does not communicate with citizens. I use e-mail as a courtesy, and when they remain silent, I blow up the phones.

Comments are closed.