Racial Profiling By New Bedford Police Alleged in New Report
A new report from a youth advocacy group, Citizens for Juvenile Justice, alleges that New Bedford Police stopped, frisked, or questioned Black people at significantly higher rates than white people. The data was gleaned from almost 5,000 field incident reports compiled from 2015 to June 2020. The reports were obtained through a public records request.
The report, entitled "We Are the Prey: Racial Profiling and Policing of Youth in New Bedford," alleges that 46 percent of those "field incidents" involved Black people.
"That shows that there is a pattern of policing in certain neighborhoods and police looking for certain demographics of people because the city of New Bedford is only seven percent Black," according to Josh Dankoff, the author of the study. The report alleges that 10 officers, mostly with the department's gang unit, were involved in nearly half of those incidents.
Leon Smith, Executive Director for Citizens for Juvenile Justice, says he was taken aback by the sheer number of incidents involving Black people as compared to white people. He's also concerned about young people constantly being engaged by police.
"When young people report police contact, especially more intrusive contact, they end up exhibiting a higher level of anxiety and trauma, up to and including PTSD," he said.
Mayor Jon Mitchell said in a statement, "We are committed to confronting any indication of systemic racism in public institutions. The city will review the report and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure policing in New Bedford is even-handed."
A spokesperson said New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro has yet to see the report, but he told the Boston Globe many of those field incidents may not have been the result of personal interactions, but rather observations or via social media.
The City of New Bedford has reported a decline in crime over the past five years; however, Cordeiro says their work is not over. Cordeiro says the department will continue to work with city residents to ensure that safety is carried out fairly and equitably.
READ THE FULL REPORT: We Are The Prey: Racial Profiling and Policing of Youth in New Bedford
The report also offers some recommendations. Citizens for Juvenile Justice wants to see broad police reforms, including the implementation of a strongly enforced racial profiling policy, more oversight of how the city’s gang database is compiled and used, the use of body-cams by police, and withdrawal from the program where officers live in public housing and pay very little in rent. The arrangement, according to the report, has led to complaints from residents about "over-policing" in some areas of the city.
LISTEN: Josh Dankoff, author of the report, with WBSM's Brian Thomas
“It seems like the city of New Bedford, with the police chief announcing his retirement, is at a bit of an inflection point," Dankoff told WBSM's Brian Thomas. "I’m hoping this report can help the community and help policymakers have the data that they need to make the decision around the future of police leadership and the policing of all people in New Bedford, and especially the young people.”