Jun 28 2013

New Bedford drafting curfew law: a “tool” to “manage” certain neighborhoods

Dr. Q

The Standard-Times reports that city councilors in New Bedford are working on a new city ordinance that will allow police to arrest people simply for leaving their homes after dark. This law will not apply to all areas of New Bedford, however. Only people in areas the city government labels as “hot spots” will be subject to arrest.

The City Council voted Thursday night to draft an ordinance allowing police to enforce curfews in high-crime “hot spots,” even as some expressed reservations about whether the policy would be constitutional.

“I do question the constitutionality of this motion. We are creating a curfew, but for whom? For what neighborhood? What defines what a hot spot is?” asked Councilor-At-Large Debora Coelho.

Councilor-At-Large Brian K. Gomes proposed drafting the ordinance, which would create curfews in specific parts of the city. The curfews Gomes has described would run from dusk until dawn in “hot spots” where criminal activity has affected the quality of life for residents. The curfews would be implemented throughout the city as police need them and would not blanket all of New Bedford.

Gomes did not specify where those hot spots are but said “several areas from north to south” struggle with high crime.

So, the busybodies in the city government believe the best way to increase peoples’ “quality of life” is subjecting them to arbitrary harassment and arrest by the police simply for leaving their homes at night. After all, what possible reason could a person have for wanting to do that?

“I don’t support standing on the corner in the neighborhood, disrupting the neighborhood, making people feel unsafe “¦ nearly taking the neighborhood hostage,” Gomes said. “I want to give (police) a tool that can manage these areas.”

Gomes doesn’t want people “nearly taking the neighborhood hostage” by standing on street corners in the neighborhoods where they live and work. He would much rather that the police take these neighborhoods hostage, so he wants to give them “tools” to “manage” the lives of those people.

The council voted unanimously to have the Ordinance Committee draft the curfew ordinance, although two councilors acknowledged they doubted the proposal’s legality.

Coelho and Ward 5 Councilor Jane Gonsalves raised concerns about potential discrimination that could ensue if certain neighborhoods are forced to live under a curfew. Both, however, voted to have the Ordinance Committee draft the proposed curfew rule, saying it deserved to be discussed despite their reservations.

“I’m concerned about discriminating against certain groups of people, certain neighborhoods,” Gonsalves said, adding that meeting with neighbors to hear their concerns could provide authorities with other ways to tackle high-crime areas.

“Some may say constitutional, I say unconstitutional is what you’re doing to those neighborhoods. Unconstitutional is what you’re doing to those people,” Gomes said, later adding that “There will be no discrimination, there will be good neighborhoods.”

Coelho said the curfew zones could disproportionately fall on low-income, inner-city neighborhoods. Drug dealing, lewdness and other issues plague some of those neighborhoods but residents there need to work with police in keeping communities safe, she said.

“We have all that, there’s no question about it, but we also have a police system in place. “¦ You should be dialing 911 “¦” Coelho said. “I do not want New Bedford to be a police state. “¦ I don’t want the heavy hand coming down on these inner-city neighborhoods who will clearly be discriminated upon.”

Other councilors, however, said the curfews would not create a police state but would keep safe law-abiding residents fearful to leave their homes after dark.

“This is not to cause a police state but to preserve the happiness in those neighborhoods,” Council President Bruce Duarte Jr., who supported creating the curfews, said.

“Important to send a message and send it early to those factions that are disrupting quality of life in those neighborhoods,” Ward 1 Councilor James D. Oliveira said.

Gomes invited anyone who doubted the need for curfews to go out into the city with him at night. Pushing crime out of neighborhoods would give residents some peace of mind, he said.

“If they’re not (out), they’re not selling their drugs, they’re not doing their criminal activity,” he said. “I want those people out of our neighborhoods.”

The purpose of this “curfew” ordinance is not to stop any real crimes or make anyone safer. The purpose of this ordinance is to give police a green light to use arbitrary violence (their “tool”) against anyone they want from populations of low income people that the privileged members of the city government believe need to be “managed.”

These city councilors can’t bear the thought that one person in these “hot spots” might get away with a consensual “crime” like selling drugs, so they’re taking away everyone’s right to so much as stand on a street corner of the street where they live and have a conversation with someone — everyone except for the police, of course — in order to “send a message.”

Sure, it’s sad that these people have to give up basic liberties, the busybodies tell us, but they need to “work with” the police if they want to increase their “quality of life.”

Jun 19 2013

New Bedford officers get four day suspensions for role in man’s death

Dr. Q

The Standard-Times reports that five police officers have received four day suspensions for failing to get medical attention in a timely manner for a man who was dying of a drug overdose.

Five police officers on duty when a man died in their custody each received a four-day suspension without pay, despite disciplinary recommendations that ranged from six months’ suspension without pay to termination.

The settlement reached between the city, the officers and the police union in August 2012 concerns the early morning hours of July 22, 2010, when Erik Aguilar, 42, overdosed while handcuffed and officers did not attempt to provide medical care until nine minutes after he stopped moving, according to investigations of the incident.

A March 2011 police review found that the officers had neglected their duties and failed to perform according to department rules and regulations. The review called the incident “an embarrassing disgrace to the New Bedford Police Department and a case of absolute negligence on the part of the … police officers on scene.”

Commenting on the suspensions, Police Chief David Provencher said Friday, “Am I completely satisfied? No, but I also understand that it was important to get the disciplinary action sustained and I think to that end, it’s an outcome that’s effective.”

The settlement, which also requires the officers to undergo three days of unspecified training, was based on the city’s calculation that a state arbitrator would have given the officers an even lighter punishment, Mayor Jon Mitchell said.

“The arbitrators are notoriously lenient and that’s a problem in my view, but that’s the system we operate in and I have to play by those rules,” Mitchell said.

While the officers all got off with slaps on the wrist, the taxpayers of New Beford will probably have to fork over some money to pay for what these officers did since they are currently being sued by Aguilar’s family.