Boston police commissioner disputes city councilor’s criticism of his officers for alleged ‘riot gear’

“The officers after being attacked by objects thrown at them by violent protestors, were ordered to put on protective helmets, not riot gear.”

Boston, MA - 5/29/2020  -  Boston police man the perimeter outside the District 2 Police Station where protesters marched to this evening.  Boston MAAPB (MA Action Against Police Brutality) protest regarding police brutality in the death of George Floyd at Peter's Park in the South End.  -  (Barry Chin/Globe Staff), Section:  Metro, Reporter:  Globe Staff, Topic:  30PROTEST
Boston police man the perimeter outside the District 2 Police Station where protesters marched on Friday. –Barry Chin / Boston Globe

Boston’s police commissioner is disputing criticism from a city councilor that his officers donned “riot gear” on Friday to interact with protesters demonstrating against the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police this week. 

“If Boston is going to strengthen community policing & trust w/ residents, police should not show up in riot gear to a demonstration where folks are legally exercising their right to voice justifiable anger about excessive/lethal force by police against unarmed, nonviolent people,” City Councilor Andrea Campbell wrote on Twitter late Friday night.

Campbell, who represents the city’s fourth district which includes the neighborhoods of Dorchester and Mattapan, expressed concern that the use of riot gear is based on assumptions that peaceful demonstrations will “dissolve into violence.”

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 “Now is the time to be sensitive to the collective trauma being experienced by our residents especially our black residents,” she wrote. 

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross responded to the councilor’s tweets on Saturday, saying his officers were not wearing “riot gear.”

“The officers after being attacked by objects thrown at them by violent protesters, were ordered to put on protective helmets, not riot gear,” he wrote. “The Officers were in uniform not riot gear.  Four Officers, your constituents, were injured.”

The Saturday exchange on Twitter followed after a night when some protesters clashed with police outside two department precincts, resulting in 10 arrests and four officers being transported to local hospitals with injuries that were not life-threatening. 

Gross joined Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the city’s faith leaders on Saturday for a vigil in memory of the Floyd and in response to racism and violence.

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