Arlington Officer Placed on Leave After Writing Police Should Meet ‘Violence with Violence’

WBUR

Originally published by WBUR on October 30, 2018.

The incoming head of an organization representing police officers across Massachusetts has been placed on paid administrative leave in Arlington after he called for officers to meet “violence with violence” and forget about restraint in a series of columns that targeted elected leaders, criminal justice reform and former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. Read More

Mass. Police Association Suspends Lt. Rick Pedrini’s Duties Following Comments About ‘Meeting Violence with Violence’

MASSlive

Originally published by MASSlive on October 31, 2018.

The Massachusetts Police Association Tuesday evening announced it was suspending the duties of Lt. Rick Pedrini after backlash over comments Pedrini had made in columns written for the organization’s newsletter, The Sentinel. Read More

Massachusetts Police Organization Suspends Arlington Officer Over Controversial Newsletter

WBUR

Originally published by WBUR on October 31, 2018.

An Arlington police lieutenant has been suspended from the police lobbying group he was set to lead next year after calling for officers to meet “violence with violence” in the group’s newsletter. The Arlington Police Department had, hours earlier, placed the officer on paid leave over his writings, which he now claims were “satire.” Read More

Town of Arlington Seeks Restorative Justice Process with Police Lt. Richard Pedrini

Letters from Town Leadership

Originally published February 21, 2019 on the Town of Arlington website.

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine and Acting Police Chief Julie Flaherty report to the community that the Town of Arlington and the Arlington Police Department (APD) are pursuing a restorative justice process with a member of the police department who has been on administrative leave since October after inflammatory columns were published in a police advocacy organization’s newsletter.

The columns written by Lt. Richard Pedrini in the Massachusetts Police Association magazine The Sentinel were offensive to many and advocated violence against offenders. His writings also directly undermined the progressive programs championed by the Arlington Police Department and the Town of Arlington. It was determined in a Communities for Restorative Justice viability meeting that Lt. Pedrini expressed enough remorse for harm caused to the Arlington community to make him an appropriate candidate for the restorative justice process. Chapdelaine and Flaherty also saw it both fitting and proper that restorative justice be used to address this situation.

Earlier this month, Lt. Pedrini sat with community leaders in Arlington for a restorative circle, overseen by Communities for Restorative Justice Inc.

Restorative justice is an approach to justice in which the response to an offense is to organize a facilitated dialogue or meeting between the parties involved, including those harmed, and the offender and sometimes with representatives of a wider community present as well.

“When we reviewed all options available to us to resolve this matter, we felt there was no more effective or more fitting solution than the restorative justice process. Not only does this process reflect the values of the Arlington community by allowing for community input and reconciliation, but it provides the greatest opportunity for a lasting and valuable outcome – healing,” Chapdelaine said. “As always, when faced with a difficult situation, we turn to our trusted partners in the community for guidance. Restorative Justice is a tried and true method – championed by Arlington since its inception – to offer healing to the community when there is a breach.”

During the circle, Pedrini, Chapdelaine, and Flaherty reached a restorative agreement, which includes a second restorative circle with community stakeholders, and subsequent engagement with staff at the APD to describe the harm that Pedrini caused along with lessons gleaned from this process. There will also be disciplinary measures that acknowledge the seriousness of his actions.

Representatives from various community groups, including the Arlington Human Rights Commission, will be asked to participate in this second restorative circle and contribute to this important dialogue. The Town is also soliciting the submission of community statements describing the harm that was caused by Pedrini’s writings so that they can be shared with him as part of the restorative circle process. Community statements can be submitted using a Google form available here: bitly.com/PedriniRJCircle. Statements will be collected, organized, and shared in the second restorative circle by representatives of the Arlington Human Rights Commission. The deadline for submitting a statement is Wednesday, March 6th.

The second restorative circle will be scheduled in March. The ultimate goal of this effort is to restore the harm caused by Lt. Pedrini, chart a path for his return to work that provides him an opportunity to learn and grow from the incident and allows the Town to begin to rebuild the trust that was lost as a result of the incident.

“It is our sincere hope that this deeply distressing situation will serve as a teachable moment for all public servants,” Flaherty said. “The partnerships forged here in Arlington are on full display, proving again that a police department’s potential for success is only as great as its connection to the community and the trust placed in it by its citizens.”

Arlington is a founding member of Communities for Restorative Justice, a non-profit collaboration of communities and police departments that offers restorative justice to those affected by crime. The organization’s “circle” process recognizes that an offense or crime is a violation of people and relationships, not always simply a violation of rules or laws.

Lt. Pedrini has been employed by the Arlington Police Department since 1996.

Open Letter to the Community from Arlington Town Manager Regarding Lt. Pedrini

Letters from Town Leadership

Published August 8, 2019 on the Town of Arlington website.

To the Residents of Arlington,

I am writing today to provide the Arlington community with an update on our efforts to restore trust in the Arlington Police Department (APD) in the aftermath of Lt. Richard Pedrini’s writings last year and also to provide deeper context and insight into the decision making and processes that led to his return to work this past spring.

As some may recall, this matter started at the close of October 2018, when Lt. Pedrini’s writings were published by a media outlet in western Massachusetts.  As I read these articles I instantly knew how challenging it would be to address the real harm that his words would cause in the community.  His words were both xenophobic and vile.  They were also completely inconsistent with what the APD stands for in both policy and practice and his words harmed the APD and its well-earned standing in the community.   It is for these reasons that Lt. Pedrini was immediately placed on paid administrative leave while we conducted an investigation into the matter.

While the investigation was underway, I had a number of internal conversations about what our best course of action would be in terms of discipline.  Due to the seriousness of the matter, we initially considered several options for addressing it, up to and including termination. However, as our conversations continued, I became more focused on the legal process that needs to be followed in such matters. Part of this process is the right of public sector employees to take disputes about discipline to a third party arbitrator. This arbitrator is empowered, by state law, to overturn discipline issued by the Town. It’s this part of the system that started to shift my thinking about the proper response to this issue. After studying various arbitration decisions, I came to the conclusion that there was a significant risk that a termination would not be upheld by a third party arbitrator.  This risk, in my opinion, created a path to what I believe would have been the worst case scenario for the Town – a terminated police lieutenant being returned to work by an arbitrator’s decision, both vindicated and non-repentant and a community left without an opportunity to heal.

It was concern about this worst case scenario that opened my mind to alternative paths of addressing the issue.  The alternative that first came to mind was restorative justice (RJ). We started to give this alternative some consideration and quite quickly, the possibility of pursuing it became feasible. I felt that it provided us with an opportunity to take the issue head on, require Lt. Pedrini to face representatives of the communities that he so seriously harmed with his words and then set us up for a broader dialogue about race and policing with the community as a whole. I also entered this consideration fully acknowledging that this would be a novel use of RJ and we would be breaking new ground.

For those unfamiliar with RJ, here is a basic definition:

“Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in an offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations, in order to heal and put things right as possible.”

Howard Zehr, PhD, The Little Book of Restorative Justice, 2002

So, we decided to pursue RJ as an option, all while holding the traditional disciplinary process in abeyance, but with the option of returning to it should we need to.  To start, we sat with Erin Freeborn, the Executive Director of the non-profit Communities for Restorative Justice (C4RJ) that Arlington and many other communities have worked with for many years. Erin suggested that we conduct a viability meeting with Lt. Pedrini, so that we could determine if he had an understanding of the harm that he caused and had remorse for causing that harm.  After that meeting, Erin advised us that he, based on her experience with offenders, was showing the right indicators of remorse. Lt. Pedrini realized that he had caused widespread harm.  He was willing to face people he harmed with his articles and hear how his words impacted them. This allowed us to move to the next step of the process.

Following this, under Erin’s guidance, we began the circle process. This circle process is the method in which stakeholders are brought together, harms and needs are identified, and a path to healing is put in place.  The first circle consisted of Town officials, which included myself, the Human Resources Director, the Acting Chief of Police, a Patrol Officer from the APD, and an Arlington resident who is a police official in another community.  This circle met three times and came to a restorative agreement that outlined the conditions that Lt. Pedrini would need to fulfill.  One tenet of this agreement (I’ll describe the other tenets a little later) was to conduct a circle with representatives of the communities most acutely harmed by Lt. Pedrini’s writings.

Based on this, we worked to organize this second circle and solicit participation from as many stakeholders as possible.  Ultimately, nine community members participated along with maintaining the participation of the people who were part of the first circle. Of the nine community members, five were people of color. Through their own personal and professional experiences they represented the refugee/immigrant community, the African American community, the Asian American community, the faith community and people of lower income within our community.

Also, as part of this second circle, we were able to share 114 community impact statements with Lt. Pedrini collected by the Human Rights Commission. Between circle participants and the community statements, Lt. Pedrini was confronted with a broader scope of the harm that he caused. He saw and heard how real the pain was and had to respond in real time to these emotions as they were being expressed.  Ultimately, the second circle ended with additions being made to the restorative agreement. Though the specific terms of the restorative agreement are confidential, the major components include:

  • A commitment by Lt. Pedrini to write and issue a public apology.
  • A commitment by Lt. Pedrini to attend all roll calls of the APD along with Acting Chief Flaherty to describe to all of the women and men of the APD what he had learned from the restorative process.
  • A commitment by Lt. Pedrini to engage in further community dialogues in order to advance healing in the community.
  • A commitment by Lt. Pedrini to attend trainings with the Chief and community members to further his understanding of the communities that he harmed.
  • An administrative assignment for at least 60 days upon his return to work.
  • A significant suspension, in accordance with departmental rules and regulations and the Ranking Officers’ collective bargaining agreement.

After the close of this second circle, Lt. Pedrini returned to work on April 14, 2019.  To be clear, as the appointing authority, this was my decision.  There was no vote taken in the RJ circle.  However, I used all that I had seen and heard through the circles to make this determination and the determination was not made until the final community circle was complete.

To date, Lt. Pedrini has issued the public apology, spoke at all roll calls, attended trainings (listed below) and served his suspension.

He is still serving in an administrative assignment, as the Lieutenant in charge of the Traffic, Details & Licensing Unit.  He is also eligible for overtime and details.

The major thing that still needs to be done by both the Town and by Lt. Pedrini is further engagement with the community in order to both continue to repair the harm and rebuild trust in the APD. In order to design that process in a thoughtful, inclusive, yet also timely manner, we have worked this summer with a facilitator from the Consensus Building Institute (CBI).  Through this, we have engaged in a series of discussions with a set of community stakeholders who have either been directly involved in this matter or who have self-identified as having serious concerns about the Lt. Pedrini matter.  The group has also included Acting Chief Flaherty, members of the Human Rights Commission, and several of the community participants from the second RJ circle.  These stakeholders have met with the CBI facilitator in small groups and the facilitator is now working on a report summarizing perspectives on what is needed that will be delivered to me, and made public, in September in order to guide our next steps.

Beyond that, Acting Chief Flaherty is planning a series of trainings for the entire APD.  These offerings are a continuation of the years of training that the APD has conducted focusing on community policing, procedural justice and anti-biased policing strategies.  The planned trainings are as follows: 

Acting Chief Flaherty is also working to contract with a third party provider to assess the existence of bias in the APD and provide training recommendations for addressing any findings.

Further, we are engaging with the National League of Cities and their Race, Equity and Leadership Division (REAL) to provide training on issues of race and equity to managers and supervisors across all Town departments.  We are also exploring a broader engagement with REAL to facilitate a community-wide dialogue around issues of race in Arlington.

Additionally, we have created a new position in Town government – Coordinator of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The creation of this position was supported by the Select Board and approved by Town Meeting. This position will report to the Director of Health and Human Services and work directly with the Human Rights Commission, Rainbow Commission, and the Disability Commission.

In closing, I want to once again make clear my acknowledgement and understanding of the real harm caused by Lt. Pedrini’s words.  They have had, and continue to have, real impact on people living in Arlington and beyond.  Additional steps are needed, and will surely be coming, to ensure that our Town and all of its employees live up to the values and aspirations of respect, safety, inclusion and justice for all Arlington residents.  I understand that we have more work to do and I am committed to doing it.  I am committed to the restorative principle that none of us should be defined by our worst act and I appreciate that RJ gave us a tool to try to find a better way forward by fostering engagement based on respect and dignity for all.  I look forward to continuing to work with the Arlington community on this matter and I urge Town residents to get involved in the upcoming dialogue so we can truly find a path to healing.

Sincerely,

Adam W. Chapdelaine
Town Manager

What Is the Definition of a ‘Good Cop’?

Letters to the Editor

Originally Published November 21, 2019 in the Arlington Advocate

It took too long for me to do this, but I finally read Lt. Pedrini’s articles in the Massachusetts Police Association newsletter. I encourage you to do the same: https://www.arlingtonfightsracism.com/the-issues/what-pedrini-said. The secondary sources and small quotations don’t convey the seriousness of his words.

Lt. Pedrini — like everyone on the Arlington Police force — has sworn himself to uphold a code of ethics. An excerpt of this code is: “As a Law Enforcement Officer, my fundamental duty is to mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all man to liberty, equality and justice. I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all…”

But Lt. Pedrini wrote about a human being this way: “This animal needs to be put down, but unfortunately this is Massachusetts.” (Pedrini also swore to uphold the constitution of our state, but this statement from him calls his allegiance into question.)

The Arlington Police Department also proclaims allegiance to values of respect, tolerance, partnership and understanding. But Lt. Pedrini wrote: “It’s time we forget about ‘restraint,’ ‘measured responses,’… and other feel-good BS… Let’s meet violence with violence and get the job done.”
I’ve heard several people say, “Trust me, he is a good cop.” But how does a “good cop” say these things? This “good cop” wrote and submitted these articles, and helped ensure they were distributed to a wide audience. His words explicitly violate the oath he took as a policeman. Frankly, his words are really frightening.

One person told me not to “go by Lt. Pedrini’s words.” What am I supposed to go by? And why would a good cop not stand by his word? I ask the APD and our town leadership to be noncompromising in requiring our force to stand by their oath and for there to be clear consequences if people don’t.

Sarah Glover
Franklin Street

ACMi’s Pedrini Coverage

Letters to the Editor

Originally Published November 21, 2019 in the Arlington Advocate

I watched the ACMi segment that aired on Nov. 1 of the town manager addressing the Select Board over the handling of Lt. Rick Pedrini’s case after Pedrini published a series of racist columns advocating violence against marginalized populations last year.

I was struck by how the segment centered on Mr. Chapdelaine’s position, but offered no dissenting views or rebuttals. For instance, Mr. Chapdelaine claimed that, unlike critics of the town’s handling of this matter, he believed in Pedrini’s redemption. As someone who is part of Arlington Fights Racism (arlingtonfightsracism.com), the group that has been most active on this issue, we also embrace and encourage redemption. However, redemption requires genuine remorse as well as efforts to make amends. Additionally, according to the tenets of Restorative Justice (RJ), redemption also does not necessitate (and often in fact must preclude) reinstatement to a former role if the offense involved leveraging a position of power to cause harm (as Pedrini did). In a legitimate RJ process, it is essential that the offender may only be redeemed by people who were harmed. Therefore, it cannot be up to our town manager to make that call. As noted by the American Bar Association regarding RJ: “Neither reintegration nor forgiveness must mean reinstatement to a former role or position…” I am writing to the Advocate because I would like to publicly clarify our views. In the ACMi segment, the town manager mischaracterizes the dissenting position based on his own interpretation. This is a prime example of the town’s refusal to listen to those deeply concerned about this situation, and it should be noted that the deaf ear of the town is the cause for the increasing outcry in this case.

One might wonder whether the town leadership is using our local cable station to dictate a narrative, as if it is their PR firm for its position on this case. Activists on this issue are available for interviews, and we hope all reporting outlets will take advantage of that with any future coverage of this topic.

Shaileen Crawford Pokress
Crosby Street

Pedrini’s Statewide Impact

Letters to the Editor

Originally Published November 21, 2019 in the Arlington Advocate

I am writing in response to a recent letter to the editor that criticized the petition regarding Lt. Pedrini for including signatures of some who do not live in Arlington. The group that drafted the petition was transparent in allowing any Massachusetts resident to sign on, and welcomed those signatures for several reasons.

Lt. Pedrini’s racist articles were published in the statewide newsletter of the Massachusetts Police Association and read by law enforcement officers across the commonwealth. The influence of his hateful words therefore is statewide, impacting 350 other towns and cities, including some communities where police profiling of residents tends to be more commonplace and can have fatal repercussions. Also, Pedrini remains on the executive board of the MPA and continues to have influence there.

Some of us have friends and family who are part of the demographics targeted by Pedrini’s violent rhetoric; these loved ones now may not feel safe when they come to visit us or spend time in Arlington. Many people from other towns and cities work here or regularly patronize our parks and businesses; they may feel threatened by the reinstatement of an officer who has yet to demonstrate he really understands what he did wrong or express genuine remorse for his words. Anyone passing through Arlington can be stopped for minor traffic violations; those who are or may appear to be among the groups disparaged by Lt. Pedrini may now be afraid. (Police logs show that those arrested in Arlington for nonviolent offenses often are not Arlington residents.) All of these nonresidents have the right to not be profiled by law enforcement and may wish to have their voices heard on this matter, as it affects them personally.

Finally, in offering Pedrini a questionable and watered-down process as a path to reinstatement, the town has set a dangerous precedent for other municipalities in the state and nation in dealing with officers who express racist sentiments and advocate violence against civilians. This ripple effect can be far-reaching. A study from just this summer found that police shootings are a leading cause of death for Black men in the United States. Does Arlington want to be responsible for exacerbating this risk and enabling officers who harm or threaten those they are sworn to serve and protect to keep their positions of power? I hope not.

Mary Fusoni
Grandview Road

AFR Letter to Select Board

Letters to Town Leaders

Originally sent to the Arlington Select Board November 8, 2019

Dear Select Board Members: Joseph A. Curro, Jr., Stephen W. DeCourcey, Daniel J. Dunn, John V. Hurd, Diane M.Mahon, Chair

We are writing in reply to the Town Manager’s response to the petition at the Select Board meeting on October 28, 2019. Arlington Fights Racism (AFR) was surprised not to have been provided notice by the Town Manager or the Select Board that this would be an agenda item. As a result of this lack of clear communication, transparency and respect for our work, many of us were unable to be there to hear his words for ourselves. We would have liked to have had the opportunity to invite the over 1000 petition signers to participate or watch the live broadcast.  However, due to the lack of notification, that opportunity to participate in our town’s democracy was denied to us. This is a repeat of the same issue from the Select Board meeting on September 9th, 2019 when the Select Board put to a vote the agenda item, “Support of the Town Manager’s Open Letter to the Community Regarding Lt. Pedrini” without notifying community members who had been intimately involved in this issue. This continued lack of transparency and open communication has been interpreted as a preference for us not to show up.

We are gratified to finally have the Select Board’s full attention, to know that our many months of organizing and testifying before you have resulted in a more respectful interaction, a change in tone, and an acknowledgment that there have been missteps, and that there is much work to be done.  We appreciate the Town Manager’s clear labelling of Lt. Pedrini’s words as racist. However, we were extremely disappointed that he immediately countered this statement by clarifying that he was “not saying that Lt. Pedrini is a racist”. That unnecessary qualifying of the statement harms residents whose personal experience indicates otherwise, and lessens the impact of the town owning that the words are indeed racist.  As they say, one step forward, two steps back. The well worn trope of “this act was racist, but he’s not racist” or “I’m not racist” also exemplifies the core problem AFR has been signaling, which is a lack of cultural competency and a great need for education and training of our town leaders and employees by AFR vetted, diverse-led organizations.

We welcome the opportunity to work with you moving forward and appreciate your stated long term commitment for this work to “last as long as it needs to”.  We will continue to hold the Town Manager and the Select Board accountable for their promises of transparency. In that spirit we request that the lack of transparency in the following areas be immediately addressed;

In accordance with Open Meeting Law, we would like to be sure that our verbal and written testimonials are part of the public record. Therefore we ask that they be represented in more detail in your meeting minutes and that those testimonials we have submitted are accessible on line as part of the public record.  That is currently not the case.

We request an open, transparent conversation about Arlington Police Officers being deployed to Select Board and Human Rights Commission meetings to discourage dissent, an honored and protected part of our democracy.

We request that the misrepresentation to the public and to Town Meeting members regarding Lt. Pedrini’s past record be rectified.  The Town Manager continues to publicly state that a thorough investigation was done into Lt. Pedrini’s police record and that no evidence was found of “on-duty” misconduct.  Public records requested by the news publication DIG Boston and made available on the Arlington Fights Racism website clearly demonstrate this statement to be false. Community trust will continue to erode until the Town Manager publicly and transparently addresses this issue.

We expect to be notified well in advance of any changes to the work assignment of Lt. Rick Pedrini, or when anything related to this issue (such as assessing the APD for bias) is  placed on the Select Board Meeting agenda, so that we are afforded an opportunity to respond and participate.

Many community members who have been harmed by Pedrini’s words and by the Town’s failure to lead in this area have taken a great risk by coming forward and testifying in your chambers and on public TV. Several of you took the important step of acknowledging their bravery in your remarks.  In a gesture to rebuild trust, we ask that you contact them individually and thank them for their courage.

We are at the beginning of a long journey towards learning and healing.  Arlington Fights Racism will work with the Select Board, the APD and the Town Manager in a partnership based on respect, with clear communications and transparency.  We expect the same in return.

Respectfully,
Arlington Fights Racism

50 Discuss Steps to Safe Community

Your Arlington

Originally Published by Your Arlington (yourarlington.com) on November 25, 2019.

Community members gather to share stories and recommendations.

Police budget covers facilitator’s fee

UPDATED, Nov. 25: The impact of Lt. Rick Pedrini’s published words more than a year ago continued to echo in town as an estimated 50 people came together at First Parish Unitarian Universalist church… Read More

Arlington’s Use Of Restorative Justice To Discipline Officer Sparks Criticism

WBUR

Originally Published by WBUR on May 3, 2019.

An Arlington police lieutenant says he’s sorry for inflammatory comments he made in a police newsletter.

Lt. Rick Pedrini has been the talk of the town since October, when he penned several controversial columns calling for officers to “meet violence with violence” and describing criminals as “maggots.” Read More

Restorative Ruckus

Dig Boston

Originally Published by Dig Boston on June 12, 2019.

Arlington’s attempt to mitigate a police department controversy causes more distress for some concerned residents

“It’s time we forget about ‘restraint,’ ‘measured responses,’ ‘procedural justice,’ ‘de-escalation,’ ‘stigma-reduction,’ and other feel-good BS … Let’s meet violence with violence and get the job done.” Read More

Arlington’s Behind-the-Scenes Response to Police Controversy

Dig Boston

Originally Published by Dig Boston on August 7, 2019.

In June, DigBoston published an article, “Restorative Ruckus,” about Arlington Police Department Lieutenant Richard (Rick) Pedrini, whose controversial writings in a statewide police newsletter have caused a significant schism in the town north of Cambridge. Read More

Creating Safe Communities Meeting Report from AFR

Report to the Community

Published November 22, 2019 on the Arlington Fights Racism website.

Statement by Arlington Fights Racism:

On Sunday November 17th at 3pm, around 50 people gathered at First Parish Unitarian Universalist for “Creating Safe Communities,” an event organized by Arlington Fights Racism (AFR) and co-sponsored by Arlington’s Diversity Task Group, The Arlington-Teosinte Sister City Project and The ArCS Cluster: Supporting Refugees. This was  the first of several discussions as AFR works to reach even more residents of Arlington, with the goal of understanding the state of our community today. Participants included everyone from longtime residents to the very newest, with the majority of attendees representing those groups harmed by Lt. Pedrini’s words. Several members of the Arlington Human RIghts Commission, and one member of the Select Board also participated.

The event was facilitated by Dr. Rick Pinderhughes of Visions,Inc. (https://www.visions-inc.org/), the same organization that is conducting the bias evaluation of the Arlington Police Department. When town leaders learned that AFR organizers had brought Dr. Pinderhughes in with their own resources, they demonstrated their support by paying his fee on our behalf.  They also sent a letter of support and in respect of our wishes, they were not present at the event.

Dr. Pinderhughes opened the event by explaining the norms and guidelines of this community forum and how to create a “brave” space. Participants then broke out into four groups of approximately ten to fifteen people,  in order to give everyone a chance to speak. Some came to tell their stories of how they have directly experienced racism, prejudice, and bias in our town. Some came to express their fears and concerns for our future and that of our children. Some came to share stories of people they know who did not yet feel safe to tell it themselves and some came to respectfully listen, to gain a greater understanding of their neighbors. All were promised that their words would be held in anonymity, that they could speak without fear of reprisals. The group then came back together and Dr. Pinderhughes asked for closing thoughts on how to address these harms. Recommendations included: holding public shows of support for the marginalized, continuing to push town leaders for open and transparent communication regarding the work being done with APD, requiring Lt. Pedrini to publicly address those he has harmed, requesting that town leaders acknowledge that the restorative justice process in this case was seriously flawed to avoid setting precedents for other towns, and requiring the town to create a clear policy for all town employees about hate speech on social media.

As this is an ongoing process in understanding how the members of our community have been harmed, we do not expect fast and easy answers to our problems. AFR will continue its efforts to build trust through reaching out to the community. We currently plan to hold the next event in March. We hope that you will join us.  Please visit our website at ArlingtonFightsRacism.com for more information and updates as well as to subscribe to our email list.

Lt. Pedrini and the Danger of His Dehumanizing Language

Letters to the Editor

Originally Published November 14, 2019 in the Arlington Advocate

I reject the argument from retired Arlington police officers, Jack Bass and Joyce Wilson, that criticism of Lt. Rick Pedrini’s writings should stop, and that his racist columns should be respected as “free speech”. While the First Amendment does protect an officer’s right to write and speak as s/he pleases, it does not require those who employ them and to whom they are accountable — the tax-paying citizens of Arlington — to tolerate their behavior. Employers have the right to terminate employees for violating their values, especially so if the nature of that speech indicates that the person who engaged in it possesses biases that would compromise their ability to carry out the duties of their job — which has heavy implications with a police officer advocating violence and brutal force against vulnerable demographics. This threatens the safety of the very public they are entrusted with protecting.

The officers write that Lt. Pedrini’s “satirical” writings should not be taken seriously by non-police community members, because they were meant as an inside joke only for police. Does this mean that it is okay for police to share among themselves the most degrading and contemptuous depictions of those they are sworn to protect and serve, without the knowledge or oversight of their employers, us? Was this intended to be comforting?

Writing and sharing “satire” that portrays our most vulnerable citizens as “maggot criminals” and “human excrement” is never acceptable, even and particularly if the characterizations were meant for consumption by other police officers. This rhetoric is toxic and threatening, and spreading it among police officers is not a form of innocuous “dark” humor; it is the weaponization of dehumanizing language against our most vulnerable citizens. This trend of dehumanization is dangerous and studies have shown it leads to an increased willingness to perpetrate violence. When we dehumanize others, we no longer see them as people like us, we “deny them the consideration, compassion and empathy that we typically give other people. It can relax our instinctive aversion to aggression and violence. Studies have found that once a person has dehumanized another person or group, they’re less likely to consider their thoughts and feelings.” (TheConversation.com)

As police are tasked with “protecting and serving” their communities, and are armed with weapons designed to kill, I believe they should be held to the highest standards of professionalism and responsibility. Until that happens, I will not “move on.”

Elizabeth Dray
Executive Director
Arlington-Teosinte Sister City Project