An off-duty Boston police officer was caught on video Tuesday in the middle of a road rage attack on a pedestrian he chased down. The video has prompted the Boston Police Department’s notoriously inefficient and unhelpful internal affairs division to open an investigation, according to The Boston Globe.
The video begins with the pedestrian lying on the sidewalk while the police officer forces his knee in the man’s back, screams at him, and thrusts his index finger in the man’s face.
The police officer was wearing a Red Sox jersey, driving an unmarked car, and repeatedly refuses to identify himself throughout the video, even saying that he did not have his badge on him. It’s unclear that the attacker is actually a police officer until several minutes into the video when he calls for backup which soon arrives.
The Boston Police Department still has not released his name to the public and redacted his name from the police report it has released to media.
After the initial attack, the cop yells at the victim to get up, then begins dragging him by his shirt collar. “You’re under arrest right now,” the cop says.
The officer drags the man to his car, then pushes him against it while continuing to pull on the man's collar.
The video was shot by Stephen Harlowe, a witness who is seen following the officer and pedestrian to ask about the pedestrian’s well being.
The pedestrian tells Harlowe that he was walking in a crosswalk when the officer cut him off. He tapped on the officer’s car window using his umbrella, then the officer got out and chased him down.
Harlowe says at one point that prior to the video, the officer tackled pedestrian and hit his head on the ground.
According to the police report about the incident, the unidentified officer alleged that the pedestrian crossed the street against the light, although police have yet to substantiate this allegation.
In the video, the officer places a phone call, and soon a number of uniformed police officers show up.
While on the phone, the officer falsely tells police that the pedestrian hit his window so hard that he cracked it. However, Harlowe, who shows the mark the officer claimed was a crack in his video, says it’s just a smudge. The police report confirms that the mark was “[a] large vertical scratch … [that] was able to be wiped from the surface of the glass,” but makes no mention of the officer’s false claims.
Despite the fact that the unidentified police officer told the pedestrian he was under arrest, the responding officers allowed him to leave and he was not charged, according to The Boston Globe.
The Globe also reports that the officer has yet to be disciplined in any way. It’s unlikely an internal investigation would even have been opened without the video, because the police report makes no mention that the attacker was a police officer or that he chased down and attacked the pedestrian – despite the fact that the responding officers spoke with the pedestrian.
Commissioner William Evans called last year for a law that would ban people from recording the police while standing within a certain distance of them—a law that would criminalize the citizen journalism practiced by Harlowe in his video.
Evans has also claimed that Boston police always identify themselves to members of the public, despite numerous videos like Harlowe’s showing that the problem of Boston officers concealing their identities is widespread.
Update (same day as original post): Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was asked about Harlowe’s video today on WBUR.
Walsh confirmed that both he and Commissioner William Evans have seen the video.
Walsh said he could not comment on whether the officer’s violent behavior was inappropriate because of the police department’s ongoing investigation. However, the ongoing investigation did not stop Walsh from admonishing the victim of the officer’s attack for his behavior.
“You can’t be hitting peoples’ cars – whether it’s a police officer’s car or not a police officer’s car – with an umbrella. That’s something you can’t do,” Walsh said.