The widow of slain Weymouth police Sgt. Michael Chesna is speaking out against the police reform bills backed by state lawmakers this month and the criticism of law enforcement officers across the nation over the past few months.
In a lengthy Facebook post Sunday, Cindy Chesna highlighted the contrast in public attitudes toward police in recent months, as the country has reeled from the death of George Floyd, and in the immediate wake of her husband’s death in the line of duty two years ago this month.
“When Mike was murdered there were no protests (peaceful or otherwise), no riots, and no looting,” Chesna wrote. “There was certainly no public outcry from politicians for the reform of a broken justice system that lets repeat offenders out on the street. Instead everyone banded together and prayed, we prayed that we would find the strength to face each day with the knowledge of what we lost.”
Michael Chesna, 42, was killed when Emanuel Lopes allegedly took Chesna’s gun and shot him in the head and chest after Lopes left the scene of a single-car crash in Weymouth on July 15, 2018.
Lopes, who authorities say also killed 77-year-old Vera Adams, faces two murder charges.
The late Chesna, a Hanover father of two young children, was a six-year department veteran.
His widow says his death spurred an outpouring of support from politicians, first responders, and people from all over. Ribbons, signs, and other displays supporting police covered local towns, including the “thin blue line” American flag.
“Two years later, I am witnessing the complete opposite from a lot of the people who looked me straight in the eyes at Mike’s wake and promised to always be there for me, offering anything they could do,” Chesna wrote.
Now, the same politicians are “showing the utmost disrespect to our officers” with the pending police reform measures at the State House — one that was passed by the Senate earlier this month, and a House version that was passed late Friday — and the decision to remove the “thin blue line” flags from fire trucks in Hingham following a citizen complaint, Chesna wrote. The flags have been displayed since her husband’s death.
“I take each of these actions as a personal attack on everything Mike stood for as a police officer and a decorated army veteran with two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Chesna wrote. “My children are growing up in a world where police are vilified. Their father was not a villain, he was a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice. His memory should never be tarnished by anyone.”
In a 30-7 vote, the Senate passed its own reform legislation on July 14, which would limit the “qualified immunity” that protects officers from civil lawsuits, require police officers to be licensed, and put checks on chokehold and tear gas use.
The House police reform bill passed on a 93-66 vote after three days of debate. The legislation would create a certification system for police officers, curb the use of no-knock warrants, and ban chokeholds.
While Chesna did not name any politicians in particular, two-thirds of Weymouth’s State House delegation did not vote for the bills. Democratic state Rep. James Murphy voted against the House proposal, while state Sen. Patrick O’Connor, a Republican, voted present when the Senate took up its bill.
Here’s the Mass. House’s 93-66 roll call on the police accountability bill.
— Matt Stout (@MattPStout) July 25, 2020
However, Quincy Democrat and House Majority Leader Rep. Ronald Mariano backed the bill — a measure he sees as consistent with honoring those who serve in law enforcement, he said Monday.
“As anyone familiar with the story of the death of Sgt. Michael Chesna knows, it was an unspeakable tragedy which his family and community will never forget. His legacy honors every good police officer we have,” Mariano, who represents five precincts in Weymouth, told Boston.com in a statement responding to Chesna’s post. “The suffocation of George Floyd that we all witnessed on video, was also an unspeakable tragedy. As were the unnecessary deaths of Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and so many others. The legacy of these incidents dishonors good police officers everywhere.
“I have never met a law enforcement officer who does not say that they agree we need to get rid of the ‘bad apples’ in law enforcement,” he added.
Mariano said the deaths of Floyd, Taylor, and Brooks, along with a recently released report by the Department of Justice that found Springfield police’s Narcotic Bureau has a pattern of using unconstitutional, excessive force, made clear that local police need more and updated training “to safely deal with the stresses of today’s society.”
“We should all join these law enforcement officers in calling for the highest of standards for our police, and do all we can to prevent tragic loss of life for police and civilians alike,” Mariano said. “I see the House action on police reform as absolutely consistent with everyone’s shared goal of honoring those who selflessly serve in law enforcement.”
Chesna, in her post, also denounced officers who abuse their authority, writing that they should be removed from the force and “punished criminally.”
“These bad apples are the exception rather than the rule,” she wrote. “I do not condone violence and I agree that every person, no matter what your job, needs to be held accountable for their actions.”
But, she added, lawmakers should be scrutinized, too.
“I also feel that those who give false promises of unwavering support should be held accountable in November,” Chesna wrote.
Her post garnered strong support and reception on Facebook, receiving over 12,000 largely positive reactions and 13,000 shares by Monday evening.
Chesna urged readers to respect one another and be kind.
“I couldn’t be silent anymore,” she wrote. “This is way to personal for me and I will always stand up for my husband. His memory won’t be desecrated along with any officer that has payed the ultimate sacrifice.”
Read Cindy Chesna’s full post:
Two years ago my husband Sgt Michael Chesna was killed for doing the job he loved, being a police officer. It was, and…
Read state Rep. Ronald Mariano’s full statement:
“As anyone familiar with the story of the death of Sgt. Michael Chesna knows, it was an unspeakable tragedy which his family and community will never forget. His legacy honors every good police officer we have. The suffocation of George Floyd that we all witnessed on video, was also an unspeakable tragedy. As were the unnecessary deaths of Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and so many others. The legacy of these incidents dishonors good police officers everywhere.
“I have never met a law enforcement officer who does not say that they agree we need to get rid of the ‘bad apples’ in law enforcement. These recent tragedies across the country, coupled with the recent Department of Justice report detailing abusive practices right here in Springfield, MA, made clear to me and many others that our local police need additional and updated training to safely deal with the stresses of today’s society.
“We should all join these law enforcement officers in calling for the highest of standards for our police, and do all we can to prevent tragic loss of life for police and civilians alike. I see the House action on police reform as absolutely consistent with everyone’s shared goal of honoring those who selflessly serve in law enforcement.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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