Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Roderick L. Ireland.

A former chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has been hired by the city to conduct an independent review of the Police Department’s own internal review associated with the April 13 arrest of a 21-year-old Harvard student, City Manager Louis A. DePasquale and Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard Jr. said Friday.

Roderick L. Ireland will have access to the evidence related to the arrest, including police reports, witness statements and video, as well as the personnel, policies and trainings related to the arrest, and will conduct an independent review of the findings determined by the Cambridge Police Department’s Professional Standards Unit, DePasquale and Bard said in a press release.

An internal review into the incident is still underway by the Cambridge Police Department Professional Standards Unit, police said. When that is done, Ireland will then review the findings and issue a report that will then be made available to the general public.

“A timetable for its completion has not yet been determined, but will be communicated once the results are nearly finalized,” DePasquale and Bard said.

Ireland’s pay wasn’t disclosed, but he will be paid “a flat rate” for as long as the review takes, police spokesman Jeremy Warnick said.

“Having an independent party was Commissioner Bard’s idea, due to the attention this incident garnered and to serve as another layer in ensuring  a thorough, complete, fair and transparent internal review process is conducted,” Warnick said.

There was virtually no internal investigation into the last high-profile incident with racial elements – the July 16, 2009, arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. – and police officials at the time had difficulty even answering whether there had been an investigation.

In this case, a Harvard student was found naked April 13 on a traffic island at Massachusetts Avenue and Waterhouse Street near Harvard Square; an officer punched the student five times in the torso during a struggle to get him handcuffed. The incident was watched by about 30 people and videotaped, and the Harvard Black Law Students Association called it “a brutal instance of police violence” and linked it to Black Lives Matter incidents nationwide.  

No charges have been filed against the student.

“Our intention at the outset of this incident was to ensure a thorough, complete, fair and transparent internal review process,” Bard said. “Having someone with a proven track record like Chief Justice Ireland reinforces those intentions and our commitment to a transparent process. We are thankful for his willingness to conduct an independent review.”

Ireland, now a distinguished professor of criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern University, where he has taught for 40 years, served as a judge for 37 years, sitting in the Boston Juvenile Court, the Massachusetts Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court. He was the first African-American Justice to be appointed to the Supreme Judicial Court in its then 305-year history, and its first African-American chief justice.

“I have complete confidence in Commissioner Bard and the Cambridge Police Department, and I want to thank Chief Justice Ireland for his willingness to work with the City of Cambridge. His experience and credibility will add great value to the process,” DePasquale said.

A message seeking comment was left Friday with Lauren Williams, incoming president of the Harvard Black Law Students Association.

This post took significant amounts of material from a press release.