The Boston police have been urging calm and peace in the days leading up to the expected announcement of the grand jury decision in the Mike Brown police shooting case in Ferguson, Missouri. The police have been sending out mass emails and even making robocalls asking people not to riot when the decision is announced.
The anticipated protests that seem likely to follow the grand jury decision are a key opportunity for the Boston Police Department to live up to Commissioner William Evans' vision. Evans recently claimed in an interview with WBUR that the Boston police have changed their violent crowd control tactics in the decade since a Boston police officer killed Victoria Snelgrove, a bystander at the riotous celebration that followed the Red Sox eliminating the Yankees and making it into the World Series in 2004.
Evans Told WBUR that the Boston police no longer wear riot gear at crowd events and that instead of violently dispersing crowds, they nicely ask protesters to move along and offer them high fives. Despite Evans' claims that these changes to the department's culture have already taken place, they have yet to be seen in action. It's unsurprising that they haven't when you consider that Officer Rochefort Milien, who killed Snelgrove, faced no significant repercussions for his actions, still works for the department, and took home $142,711.36 in taxpayer money last year.
These protests will also be a test for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has also called for peace in the aftermath of the grand jury announcement. Walsh expressed a troubling view on the First Amendment earlier this year to The Boston Herald. After an inflammatory incident that occurred shortly before the Boston Marathon, Walsh called on the Boston police to arrest anyone wearing a backpack and shouting "Boston Strong" as soon as possible, not even allowing them to travel two blocks in the city.
The Boston police are the only group likely to show up to the protests who have specifically trained to perpetrate organized violence against crowds. The last major street protest movement, Occupy Boston, was “successfully” policed according to Evans, despite Boston police officers who choked multiple people and threw others to the ground on camera.
If the Boston police want to send emails and make robocalls to try to head off violence in the streets, they should be to their own officers.