Commissioner: Don’t judge our officers from law enforcement actions elsewhere
From Christopher J. Burke, acting commissioner of the Cambridge Police Department, July 20, 2016: Sadly, recent events around the country have once again demonstrated the profound dangers law enforcement officers face and witness on a daily basis. These incidents are deeply disturbing and have rightfully generated much discussion surrounding law enforcement and the relationships police have with their communities. While many of these discussions are emotionally charged and complex, they are vitally important to helping communities heal, respond and evolve. Rather than letting these tragedies divide us, this is a time for us all to come together as a community and share our grief and look for solutions to prevent these types of incidents from occurring in Cambridge.
At the suggestion of City Manager Richard C. Rossi, I provided the City Council with specifics on how Cambridge stands out compared to other communities (excerpts here). Here are a few highlights that were shared with the City Council:
How our specialized training helps us better serve our community and is now regarded as a national model;
How our policies are designed to monitor officers’ discretionary authority, while also ensuring that personnel are providing the highest level of service;
How we have seen a significant decrease in citizen complaints and allegations of excessive force, while maintaining a high favorability rate;
How we have invested significant resources into our community outreach efforts to serve our neighborhoods and most vulnerable populations.
We strive to develop strong relationships in the community with our boards, commissions, neighborhood and business groups, service providers and nonprofits and act not only as links to the police department, but also as advocates for their priorities. Having a diverse workforce is a key priority for the department, and our hiring and recruiting efforts continue to rank among the most balanced in terms of diversity and language skills. I believe it is also important for residents to understand that nearly 70 percent of our officers grew up in this community. Many of them and their families still reside here. Our officers, like those that they serve, are fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, daughters and sons. When they were sworn in, they took an oath to safeguard their fellow residents in the city they call home. They believe in that oath, and they feel an allegiance to, and strong sense of pride for those they protect and the community they serve.
In other words, at every turn, our police department continues to focus on growing, doing more, connecting, and advocating for our community.
While it is clearly frustrating when some in our community continue to judge the Cambridge Police Department for the actions of police officers in other jurisdictions, we understand this reality. As a police department, we will continue to rise above these sentiments and perform with the highest level of professionalism, integrity, fairness, advocacy and empathy that our community has come to expect from us. It is my hope that we will not be judged by the uniform we wear, but rather by who we are as individuals.
I’m hopeful we can continue this discussion. If your neighborhood or organization is holding conversations about the national climate, we would be more than willing to participate and address questions or concerns. As another opportunity, I encourage you to join me and other members of the Cambridge Police Department and City Council at the next Public Safety Committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. July 27 at City Hall.
Thank you for your attention and support during this difficult time.