New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell is attempting to play both sides against the middle since the rise of Black Lives Matters protests and the targeting of all police in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

Mitchell has continued to praise the New Bedford Police Department under the leadership of Chief Joseph Cordeiro for its achievements in de-escalating tension between the police and the Black community since the controversial police shooting of 15-year-old Malcolm Gracia in 2012.

Yet the mayor has now announced the formation of a Commission on Police Use of Force Policies. But still, he refuses to discuss the Gracia case and seems unable to accept that it is at the heart of the local protests. He instead blames the media for trying to stir the pot.

Mitchell has signed on to the “Mayor’s Pledge,” established by the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. The "Mayor’s Pledge" seeks to address the use of force policies in police departments across the country.

The Commission, to be headed by veteran City Councilor Brian Gomes who chairs the Council Committee on Public Safety has been charged with making recommendations to Mitchell and Cordeiro as to "appropriate reforms to police department policies and practices."

The Commission's charge includes the following:

1. REVIEW your use of force policies.
2. ENGAGE your communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in your review.
3. REPORT the findings of your review to your community and seek feedback.
4. REFORM your communities’ police use of force policies.

In 2018, the Mitchell Administration contracted for a "complete and thorough" review of the New Bedford Police Department. The results of the study were presented to the Administration in February of last year. Is another review needed so soon afterward or was the first review not thorough enough? Or maybe Mitchell is pandering to the local activists out of fear of offending them.

So for six months, the commission gets to listen to people find fault with the local police Whatever the commission includes in its report is on them and can be accepted or rejected by the Mayor's Office. But at least the mayor can say he listened to the community's concerns.

The review last year revealed a deep distrust of Mitchell-Cordeiro policing policies by the rank and file. The criticism was deflected by the mayor as nothing more than a negotiating tactic. Perhaps instead of sitting down with the community to find fault with our police officers, Mitchell needs to sit down with its officers and find out what they are thinking.

I'm all for dialogue with members of the community who have an absolute birthright to protest and the right to seek a redress of their grievances. I am not, however, in favor of the incessant bashing of the police for political purposes. The Mitchell Administration is putting our police officers on the hot seat to keep the peace with the protesters.

It's easy to find fault with our cops. Everyone is doing it. Try standing up with our police officers. That takes leadership and courage.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

PHOTOS: Protests around the world in the wake of George Floyd's death

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