Updated: New Bedford NAACP Demands List of City Police Reforms
July 8, 10:45 a.m.: This story has been updated with a response from New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro.
The New Bedford Branch of the NAACP is demanding that the New Bedford Police Department adopt a series of policies and protocols geared toward protecting communities of color in the city.
"Every Black person in the country has a right to live, a right to breathe, and a right to be a part of their community, without fear of violence and senseless attacks simply for the color of their skin," the organization said.
The local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People today issued a press release naming Mayor John Mitchell, Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro, and District Attorney Thomas Quinn III.
The list is topped by a demand that the city establish "community review boards" with subpoena power to oversee and review police incidents.
In all, the list contains 12 demands for reforms, some of which are already in place. For instance, the NAACP is demanding a ban on chokeholds – a practice already prohibited by the department. The group is demanding a review of the department's use of force policies – a review that is already underway with NAACP representation. As for a demand that all officers wear body cameras, Mayor Jon Mitchell recently announced that he supports that concept and is looking for funding to implement it.
The NAACP is calling for greater transparency and access to police department records, a review of police overtime budgets, and more.
The release references the deaths of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, all Black people killed by police officers in the U.S., and also refers to the "wrongful death" of Malcolm Gracia, a 15-year-old boy of Cape Verdean descent shot and killed by New Bedford police in 2012 after he allegedly stabbed a detective.
The release refers to the death of Gracia as an "unjust murder" and calls for the prosecution of the officers involved in the boy's death. In 2019 a Superior Court judge hearing a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Gracia's family said the on-foot police stop of Gracia that preceded the boy's death was unlawful. However, the shooting itself was deemed justified by then-District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter.
New Bedford NAACP president Dr. LaSella Hall told WBSM "I will not shy away from difficult conversations when we are dealing with the people who murdered and brutalized communities of color for decades." He said it's a nationwide problem, and that federal legislation is needed.
New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro responded to the NAACP document on Wednesday.
"We appreciate all public input to our policing practices at the New Bedford Police Dept. and invite everyone to review the many community policing programs we have in place," Cordeiro said in a statement. "We’re currently revising the High Energy Patrol Initiative and will be sharing the update upon completion. Transparency is key to our success. We continue to extend the offers of two seats on the Chief’s Advisory Committee, roll call meetings and ongoing dialogue with command staff to city protestors. We also encourage concerned residents to make an effort to have their concerns addressed at a legislature level to ensure consistency in policing across the state."
Jonathan Carvalho, public information officer for the Office of Mayor Jon Mitchell, said Tuesday that the NAACP document is under review, noted that some of the demands are for policies that have already been adopted, and said Mitchell looks forward to ongoing communication with the NAACP concerning issues of racial justice and the police.
The NAACP is demanding the following, according to the press release:
- Establish Community Review Boards (CRB) with subpoena power to oversee and review police incidents and maintain checks and balances among the police department.
- Prohibit the use of chokeholds and knee holds by New Bedford police officers.
- Implement mandatory and continual training of all parties in the police department regarding: de-escalation tactics/procedures, implicit and racial bias, mental health, and domestic violence.
- Require that information requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the State Open Records Act, and others result in police officer incident records being made available and accessible to the public, and that they include:
- police officer names, badge numbers, body cam footage, police record history etc.
- department disciplinary and accountability policies, history of department responses to use of fatal and excessive force, etc.
- Institute a credential renewal process for police officers and the department periodically and upon incidents or complaints, especially those related to fatal or excessive force.
- Provide periodic progress reports on reforms/processes.
- Review the police budget to consider reallocation of funds to agencies/the police department which may be better suited to handle certain areas of responsibility.
- Review use of force policies to abolish unlawful practices and policies in order to eliminate police brutality and the murdering of innocent individuals e.g., George Floyd and Malcolm Gracia.
- Release all available evidence of the Malcolm Gracia case to the public.
- Mandate the use of body cameras for the New Bedford Police Department.
- Address and remove the disproportionate use of surveillance in target areas of communities of color.
- Examine overtime wages for police officers.
- Rescind the High Energy Patrol Initiative New Bedford Police Directive 06-71.
The High Energy Patrol Initiative, directed at "zero tolerance to gun violence" in the neighborhoods, was instituted in 2006 under former Acting Police Chief David Provencher. WBSM has reached out to Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro for comment.
The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons, the press release said.