a campaign to remove offensive rhetoric from the Pax Centurion newsletter
The Boston Police Department has an extensive list of rules and procedures for their officers. High atop the list is Rule 102, Conduct, Rights, and Responsibilities, which sets out “to establish guidelines for the conduct of, as well as the personal rights and responsibilities, of employees of the Boston Police Department.” Under Section 2 General Considerations, the following point is made:
Police officers are more visible to the community than most other persons in government or public service. Public scrutiny, and sometimes public criticism, is directed not only at police performance but also at the behavior of those who deliver police services.
Section 3 Conduct states the following:
Employees shall conduct themselves at all times, both on and off-duty, in such a manner as to reflect most favorably on the Department. Conduct unbecoming an employee shall include that which tends to indicate that the employee is unable or unfit to continue as a member of the Department, or tends to impair the operation of the Department or its employees.
Sec 9 Respectful Treatment, in its entirety, says:
Employees shall, on all occasions, be civil and respectful, courteous and considerate toward their supervisors, their subordinates and all other members of the Department and the general public. No employee shall use epithets or terms that tend to denigrate any person(s) due to their race, color, creed or sexual orientation except when necessary in police reports or in testimony.
In July of 2009 a Boston Police officer named Justin Barrett fired off an email to local journalist Yvonne Abraham and others after Abraham wrote an editorial about the arrest of Henry Louis Gates in his home. Barrett’s email contained racial epithets against African Americans, and was a source of contention in the Boston community. Barrett was quickly placed on administrative leave. During a press conference to announce the administrative leave placement and subsequent investigation, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said the following:
“The Boston Police Department has a top to bottom commitment to community policing. Community Policing is based on trust. This type of venomous rhetoric is severely damaging. Maintaining our community relationships is paramount to our mission to serve the citizens of Boston.
We all work with the community and have made great strides to earn their trust. We must not allow this action to affect those relationships that have been forged and the progress we have made over the years.
The Boston Police Department is committed to a standard of excellence. Our community rightly has high expectations for us. It is a standard that the community deserves and we are required to meet. Officer Barrett’s actions do not comply with those expectations.
Barrett’s e-mail was racist and inflammatory. These racist opinions and feelings have no place in this department or in our society and will not be tolerated.”
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino agreed with Commissioner Davis’s decision to place Barrett on administrative leave, saying, “I just say that we want to rid our department of the cancer, and that is what we did — rid the department of the cancer.” The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association also denounced Barrett’s email, saying, “”We strongly denounce these statements as being offensive and hurtful.”
The Boston Police Department terminated Justin Barrett in February of 2010. Commissioner Davis said the following in a statement:
“Given the egregious nature of his actions and its effect on our community, I strongly believe that the only appropriate discipline is termination…Our department has a top to bottom commitment to community policing, which is founded in trust. We will not allow the actions of one to damage the community relationships that are essential to our mission to serve the citizens of Boston.”
As Commissioner Davis said in his statement when Barrett was fired, the relationship between a police department and the community it serves is built on mutual trust. The recent discoveries about the content of Pax Centurion have eroded a lot of the trust that many Bostonians have for our police officers and their department. Given the Boston Police Department’s recent history of efficiently handling an instance of an officer’s bigotry, we are discouraged that the Boston Police Department has never held the editorial and writing staff of the Pax Centurion to the same standards.