By Sandy Malone and Holly Matkin
Cambridge, MA – A Massachusetts police union is on the hot seat after they used the word “purge” when describing the crime spike that could be expected if a proposed police reform bill gets passed.
The Cambridge Police Patrol Officers Association posted a call to action on July 8 that asked supporters to contact their state senators in opposition to Massachusetts State Senate Bill 2800, The Harvard Crimson reported.
The legislation, which was passed by the state senate on Tuesday, limits qualified immunity for police officers, prohibits the use of chokeholds and tear gas, and requires law enforcement officers to become licensed, the Associated Press reported.
It would also require the creation of a publicly-available, searchable database of complaints against police officers.
SB 2800 heads to the state house next, the Associated Press reported.
The police union explained in its post that SB 2800 would “unfairly get rid of protection for police officers protecting their community.”
“This is a knee jerk reaction to an event that happened across the country,” the union pointed out. “Massachusetts police officers are the most educated in the country and we don’t have the problems some other states do. If you think 7 civilians killed in 7 days in Boston is bad, just wait for the purge that will come.”
Activists immediately went wild over the union’s usage of the word “purge” in the Facebook post, The Harvard Crimson reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts took to social media to blast the Cambridge police union.
“This is the kind of violent and threatening language that police are using to try and destroy the bill being debated,” the organization tweeted. “Cops are bullying our legislators because they want the authority to continue to oppress people in the streets.”
‼️ This is the kind of violent and threatening language that police are using to try and destroy the bill being debated before @MA_Senate ‼️— ACLU Massachusetts (@ACLU_Mass) July 10, 2020
Cops are bullying our legislators because they want the authority to continue to oppress people in the streets. #WhoDoYouWorkFor pic.twitter.com/2BwxyaSMYW
The Cambridge police union edited the post and apologized for any confusion they had caused with their wording, the Boston Globe reported.
It said the word “purge” did not refer to the movies or television shows where the term is used to describe a 24-hour period once a year when crime, violence, and murder are legal and go unchecked.
The police union released a statement on Saturday that clarified they were not calling for a purge.
“This was not a call for anyone to commit any acts of violence,” the statement read. “This has been misconstrued as such. After conferring with the original author and our Association leadership, we affirm that this statement was in reference to violence crime rates increasing in neighboring Boston and in other cities across the country as police departments have had their funding, staffing and resources cut.”
“We apologize that the two sentences in the original post have been chosen to be interpreted as violent or hateful,” the union continued. “We feel that members of our Association and our colleagues have built great relationships with our communities and the last task on our mind would be to drive a wedge between the police force and the community.”
But the apology didn’t assuage the anger of many, the Boston Globe reported.
“In Cambridge, we’ve heard a few people say that we don’t have to talk about reallocating any funds from policing or structural change because we’re already progressive & different than other cities. This a good reminder that we’re unfortunately not that different,” Cambridge City Councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler tweeted.
This isn’t the first time the Cambridge police have been in trouble for social media in recent history, and the last faux pas was made by Cambridge Police Superintendent Jack Albert in May.
The superintendent had to issue a public apology after he mistakenly used the police department’s official Twitter account to post a profane tweet about U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) instead of his personal account.
“Another liberal f–king jerk who just happens to be better than the clown he’s running against. Sad for us,” the superintendent tweeted last week in response to a news story about Kennedy, according to the Daily Mail.
The article recapped Kennedy’s recent WCVB interview, during which he referred to President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as “shameful and embarrassing.”
The angry tweet was deleted shortly after it was posted to CPD’s official account at approximately 2:40 p.m., the Boston Globe reported.
“Earlier this afternoon, a member of the Cambridge Police, who has access to the Department’s Twitter account, inadvertently posted political commentary on the department account rather than their personal account, that was inappropriate, unprofessional and disrespectful,” CPD said in a subsequent tweet.
In a statement, Cambridge Police Superintendent Jack Albert took full responsibility for inadvertently posting his opinion on the department’s official Twitter account.
“To the City of Cambridge, my colleagues at the Cambridge Police Department and my friends and family, I wanted to take full ownership and responsibility for my regrettable actions following inappropriate political commentary I inadvertently published on the Department’s Twitter account,” the superintendent wrote.
The 32-year department veteran said he is well aware of the “high standards the Cambridge Police are expected to uphold in the community,” and acknowledged that he is to be held to an even higher standard yet.
“Those expectations are rightfully heightened with someone in my executive position – on and off-duty,” Superintendent Albert said.
“Unfortunately, in a moment of heated political debate with friends, I posted commentary that was out of character and not something I am proud of,” he continued. “I – not the department – deserve the criticism that has been directed to the Police Department over the last 24 hours.”
Superintendent Albert said his inadvertent action and “lapse in judgement” detracted from the “exemplary efforts” his department has been making in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To detract from their exemplary efforts because of my poor lapse in judgement is something that I will forever carry with me,” he wrote.
Superintendent Albert also apologized to Kennedy and U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts).
Markey was the individual the superintendent referred to as a “clown” in the tweet.
“I want to genuinely apologize to Senator Markey, Representative Kennedy, the Cambridge community, and the great men and women of the Cambridge Police Department,” the superintendent wrote.
Superintendent Albert will face disciplinary action in accordance with CPD policy, the department told the Boston Globe on Monday.
The specific penalty imposed cannot be disclosed under state law, according to the CPD.
The agency has also revised its social media protocols in the wake of the incident.
“Administrative access will now be restricted to the Director of Communications and Media Relations,” the CPD tweeted.