Author(s): Michael S. Rosenwald, Globe
Staff Date: September 25, 2002
Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and a group of activists met with US Attorney Michael A. Sullivan yesterday and urged him to open a federal civil rights investigation into a recent string of fatal police shootings in the city.
"I thought it was a frank and honest discussion," Turner said outside the Moakley Federal Courthouse. During the 90-minute meeting, Turner added, he strongly encouraged Sullivan to use his office to "satisfy the public that we have an objective body to look into these incidents." In a statement issued after the meeting, Sullivan, the state's top federal prosecutor, did not indicate whether he believes an investigation is warranted, but promised to issue a response to the group by Friday.
According to Sullivan's statement, "the purpose of today's meeting was to provide a forum for their concerns to be raised and presented."
Moreover, "The information provided by the participants at the meeting is presently being reviewed. The US attorney's office has made no decision on how it will proceed at this time," according to the statement.
At issue are eight fatal shootings by Boston police and one by a Boston Municipal Police officer within the last 22 months - a statistic that has aggravated tensions between police and the minority community and placed Commissioner Paul F. Evans on the hot seat.
In the most recent fatal shooting, a young unarmed Dorchester woman in the back seat of a car was killed three weeks ago when an officer fired several times at the fleeing vehicle, striking her. A day later, Evans said he wants to restrict officers from shooting at moving vehicles unless there are other imminent threats - a move that led the patrol officers' union to call for Evans's resignation.
Turner was joined in yesterday's meeting by minister Don Muhammad; Sadiki Kambon, director of the Black Community Information Center; Leonard Alkins, president of the Boston NAACP; and Jamarhl Crawford, chairman of the New Black Panther Party.
In addition to asking for a federal civil rights investigation, the group asked Sullivan to investigate whether the officers who fired had received proper training in the use of lethal force.
"We believe that if you look at each case individually, it's clear that officers did not follow proper procedures," Turner said. The cases are under investigation by the Suffolk County district attorney's office, standard procedure for police shootings.
Turner and Kambon said they support Evans's controversial proposal to curb officers from firing at moving vehicles.
Michael Rosenwald can be reached at email@example.com.