During a recent talk at Talbot Middle School, Fall River Police Chief Dan Racine spoke out against the militarization of police. He also emphasized the importance of accountability for police who engage in misconduct. According to The Herald News:
In his remarks at Talbot, Racine stressed the philosophy of "community policing" - which emphasizes close relationships and cooperation between police officers and local residents. Racine added that any police officer guilty of breaking the public's trust through unethical or criminal behavior should be held accountable.
"If he or she didn't do the right thing, then they should be prosecuted," Racine said.
Those are pretty words, but I imagine Racine had his fingers crossed when he said them.
Earlier this year, Fall River resident George Thompson used his iPhone to record Officer Thomas Barboza who he saw talking on his cell phone and loudly swearing when he was supposed to be working a detail. Barboza responded by barging onto Thompson's property, shoving him to the ground, and wrongfully arresting him for wiretapping and resisting arrest. The Massachusetts wiretapping law makes it a felony to secretly record someone's voice, but there was nothing secret about what Thompson did. Barboza actually wrote in his own report that he saw Thompson's cellphone and that Thompson said he was recording twice.
Did Racine respond by having Barboza arrested? Nope. In fact, he went on TV to show his support for the wrongful arrest. "You cannot surreptitiously record people, people – not public officials – in Massachusetts," Racine told WPRI, repeating the lie that Thompson secretly recorded Barboza. "That’s the state of the law."
While Thompson's phone was in police custody, it's memory was somehow wiped. Racine claimed that if a police officer was responsible for wiping the phone, they would be held accountable. "If a Fall River police officer erased that video, he’s fired and I would suspect the district attorney would take out charges," Racine told WPRI.
Was that true? Again, nope. After prosecutors dropped the charges against Thompson, Racine hired an outside company to examine Thompson's phone. When the company determined that a Fall River police officer had wiped the phone by activating a security feature by repeatedly entering incorrect passwords into it, Racine did nothing.
"It is apparent that the data on the iPhone was ‘wiped,’ but the action was not malicious,” Racine said in a press release. That's pretty hard to believe since Racine did not identify the officer who was responsible or even explain why they were trying to gain access to Thompson's phone in the first place.
If Racine is an example of a police chief who believes strongly in accountability, I'd really hate to see a police chief who doesn't.