In the midst this year’s national protests against the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and numerous other Black Americans, video clips posted by reporters and other people on social media showed police across the country responding to the protests with violence that exhibited much of the brutality that had brought people out in the streets.
The recent release of body camera footage worn by police officers in Boston, one of the many cities where protests took place this June, now backs up the stories shared by protestors—that cops were beating them with batons, spraying them with pepper spray indiscriminately, and even deliberately running into them with vehicles.
The unearthed video footage was provided to The Appeal by Carl Williams, an attorney representing protestors arrested in Boston this summer. Among other disturbing incidents of police brutality, the footage shows a Boston Police Department sergeant joyfully bragging about hitting people with his car.
From The Appeal:
“Dude, dude, dude, I fuckin’ drove down Tremont—there was an unmarked state police cruiser they were all gathered around,” says the sergeant, laughing.
“So then I had a fucker keep coming, fucking running,” he continues. “I’m fucking hitting people with the car, did you hear me, I was like, ‘get the fuck—’”
At this point the officer behind the camera pushes the sergeant’s head away and walks off in the other direction. He comes back a few seconds later, saying, “it’s on,” about the camera.
The sergeant quickly changes his story.
“Oh, no no no no no, what I’m saying is, though, that they were in front, like, I didn’t hit anybody, like, just driving, that’s all,” he says. “My windows were closed, the shit was coming in.”
“I have placed a Sergeant involved in this incident on administrative leave,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Goss in a statement on Friday following the public reveal of the footage on Friday.
Other videos from the night show a police force that is gleeful and unbridled—with no fear of having to answer to anyone for their actions—while brutalizing members of the public.
An officer uses his baton to forcefully hit a Black woman in the chest, though she is holding her hands up. After she collapses to the ground, he callously walks over her body.
“I’ve used two of these already—I’ve got a little left, I want to hit this kid,” says another officer in the compiled body-cam footage, referring to his liberal use of pepper spray on protestors and his eagerness to deploy some more on a demonstrator who has his hands up.
In multiple clips, the cops are seen spraying in the faces of individual demonstrators.
In his statement, the police commissioner said that he opened an investigation into the videos “as soon as they were brought to his attention.”
That response isn’t all that reassuring in terms of there being meaningful consequences for the officers seen in the videos, since they are still employed and collecting tax-payer funded paychecks though the footage is from over six months ago and was captured on the Boston police Department’s own devices.
“This callous behavior further stresses the importance of advancing police reform in our state, particularly when it comes to use of force standards and accountability,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in response to the videos.
Each day it gets harder to believe ‘reform’ will be sufficient to tame the loosed beast that is American police. What’s also hard to believe is that though we have have more video evidence than ever that cops routinely harm people’s safety, there is such pushback to the idea of giving them less of our money.