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Boston officer who punched suspect followed the rules, union says

Posted by Metro Desk  October 29, 2010 05:29 PM

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Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis today identified the officer who was captured on a videotape punching a teenager who was struggling with other police officers as they tried to take him into custody.

Davis also said that he had put the officer, Michael T. McManus, on administrative duty. McManus has been a member of the force since 2007 and was assigned to Area B-2 in Roxbury. McManus, 32, was one of several officers who arrested a 16-year-old boy in the entryway of a Roxbury Community College building on Oct. 22.

Video of the encounter, captured by a bystander and posted to YouTube, has sparked a controversy and pledges from police brass to investigate.

The president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association and the union's attorney both said they expected McManus and the other officers to be cleared. They said McManus was using techniques taught to him by the city.

"We have no concern about the outcomes of this investigation," said BPPA president Thomas Nee. "That’s the training."

Nee called on the community to record shootings and robberies they witness in their neighborhoods. "Where are the cameras when we want to see real crime?" he asked.

McManus was also involved in the controversial incident involving David Woodman, a 22-year-old Emmanuel College student, who died after police stopped him as he celebrated Boston Celtics championship celebration in 2008.

An independent panel found that there was a "lack of supervision" and other "missteps" by Boston police, but that none of the mistakes contributed to his death.

The city paid $3 million to Woodman's family to settle a civil rights lawsuit this June.

In a statement released earlier today, the commissioner said that changing McManus's responsibilities would assist the investigation.

“This personnel decision is in the best interest of the ongoing internal investigation,'' Davis said. "I would like to reiterate my commitment to ensuring an open and transparent investigation.''

McManus's actions are now under review by internal affairs investigators and Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, who has assigned his top prosecutor, First Assistant District Attorney Joshua Wall, to oversee an inquiry that could possibly lead to criminal charges.

Conley launched the investigation, a highly unusual move made with the consent of the police commissioner, as Mayor Thomas M. Menino said Thursday he was troubled by the video.

Still, Menino urged the public not to rush to judgment before the investigation is complete.

“I’m really concerned about the actions of the officers on the video,’’ Menino said in a telephone interview. “The clip that you see shows some perception of excess aggressiveness. But it’s perception. We don’t know if it’s real or not.’’

Nee said today that at least five officers are being questioned by investigators. "We’ve been in full cooperation with this," he said. "There is nothing to hide."

Nee said the investigation by police and prosecutors will show that the officers were following proper police procedure for arresting a suspect who refused to be handcuffed.

Thomas Drechsler, a lawyer with the union, said all of the officers being questioned were trained within the last two months to employ the tactics seen in the YouTube video.

"Before people start jumping to conclusions they might want to start educating themselves on the fact that the city actually trained the officers to do that," Drechsler said.

The release of the seven-minute video provoked swift criticism from several community leaders, including some city councilors.

It has also underscored the pressure that new technology has placed on police, whose every move on the street can be recorded by anyone with a cellphone and posted online.

In front of police headquarters Thursday, about a block away from where the arrest took place on the Roxbury Community College campus, about a dozen ministers and activists decried the police actions.

With them was Eusida Blidgen, who with her cellphone recorded about seven officers holding down the teenager while one male officer -- now identified as McManus -- delivers the blows.

The teenager, whose name has not been released, had just fled juvenile custody and violently resisted arrest when officers caught up with him at a college entrance, police have said.

The teenager has a pending charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, according to his criminal record.

“It was just the wrong thing for them to do. The camera doesn’t lie,’’ said Blidgen, a first-year student at the college. “I’m still shaken up by this.’’

Other community leaders, however, said it is too early to judge the police, especially since the video does not show what led to the beating.

“I don’t think at this point we as leaders or the community can say it is police brutality or unnecessary excessive force until we actually know if there was other campus video that shows the event from the beginning,’’ the Rev. Shaun Harrison, associate minister of Charles Street AME Church, said in an e-mail.

Originally published on the blog MetroDesk.

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