New Bedford City Council Tables Motion to Condemn CfJJ Report
NEW BEDFORD - Councilor-at-Large Brian K. Gomes said he does not want “a banner” placed over New Bedford announcing that the city has a racist police department that is “head-hunting” people of color.
“I wonder if they thought about looking at the numbers at where all the crime is in this city, if they've been to some of the crime watch meetings that many of you go to and hear the constituency ask for more police,” Gomes said during the New Bedford City Council meeting Thursday.
Gomes, the chairman of the council’s public safety committee, referred to a report released last week by Citizens for Juvenile Justice that alleged the New Bedford Police Department has “an internal culture of racial insensitivity” that leads to young Black and Hispanic people being stopped and frisked significantly more often than white people.
Joined by City Council President Joseph Lopes and councilors William Brad Markey and Naomi R.A. Carney, Gomes filed a motion asking the council to go on record condemning the Citizens for Juvenile Justice report – entitled “We Are The Prey” – and a Boston Globe article on the report.
The motion said the group’s report was “not fairly done” and “does not fit the image, the profile and mission” of law enforcement in New Bedford. It also called on Acting Police Chief Paul Oliveira to “reassure” city residents that police officers will treat everyone fairly and with no bias.
“I will not tolerate or stand for anyone's rights being violated,” said Gomes, who added police officers should be held accountable and “don’t belong on the force” if they are racially profiling young people.
“I'm not saying that nothing may be going on. I don't know that,” Gomes said. “I know I don't like a banner put over this city that we have a racist police force out there that are only stopping minority kids or whatever.”
The council did not vote on the motion. Ward 4 Councilor Derek Baptiste moved for the motion to be tabled, meaning it will be discussed at a later meeting. His motion passed 6-4. Gomes, Carney, Lopes and Councilor-at-Large Linda Morad voted in opposition.
The council also voted 10-0 to refer a motion to the administration and the public safety committee requesting that the administration make public the process by which a new police chief will be selected, whether there will be community input and what the council’s role will be. Councilor-at-Large Deborah Coelho did not participate in Thursday’s meeting.