Pokress Letter to Select Board

Letters to Town Leaders

Originally sent to the Arlington Select Board September 10, 2019

To the Select Board of Arlington, MA

First, I want to thank the two members of the Select Board, Mr. Curro and Mr. DeCourcy, who argued against an outright endorsement of Mr. Chapdelaine’s letter in an attempt to understand whether it addresses the concerns of our very diverse community. However, I feel that last night’s meeting did not even scratch the surface of beginning to rebuild trust between community members, our Town Management, and the Arlington Police Department.

I feel that is important to acknowledge the privilege that allowed me to stand before you at last night’s Select Board meeting, as a white person possessing good physical and mental health as well as financial stability. And I ask you to consider why the Select Board heard from me rather than someone who better represents the marginalized communities against which Officer Richard Pedrini holds dangerous bias, as he has revealed on multiple occasions.

Last night I urged the Select Board to delay voting to endorse Mr. Chapdelaine’s letter to the town, and to instead revisit the following important issues. It was my hope that the Board would persuade the Town Manager to amend his letter to better reflect the following requests from the townspeople.

1 – We would like to see Lt. Pedrini remain on administrative assignment for the remainder of his contract with the town.

2 — We ask that he NOT be assigned to school events or given any supervisory roles involving children, such as his assignment in June 2019 to the Last Blast overnight event at the high school.

I wonder what he thinks when he sees students with obvious “liberal” leanings, perhaps wearing an Elizabeth Warren t-shirt or a Black Lives Matter button? Does Lt. Pedrini carry a gun in the presence of these kids whose opinions he despises? Pedrini’s alignment with the MA Police Association (MPA), which has, for example, issued official statements urging police officers to protest against Senator Warren, gives me serious pause. Imagine what goes through Pedrini’s mind if one of these young people wears the jersey of Colin Kaepernick — a person he openly wished to see dead.

3 – The town should formally request that Lt. Pedrini step away from all MPA connections. As of today his name and picture still appear on the MPA website under Executive Board.

In regard to this, it is important to be aware of the following words uncovered in the FOIA request:

From Police Chief Fred Ryan, dated March 2019, emphasis is mine:

Rick’s MPA work has become a distraction to his duties at APD and the culture of the MPA is not reflective of the culture of the Town of Arlington nor the APD. That is not likely to change anytime in our lifetime. The last time I attended one of their meetings they gave a standing ovation in response to an announcement of a fatal police shooting [of a suspect]. As an element of any credible restorative contract I think that he needs to step away from the MPA. …As I understand it, Rick recently attended a Patrol Officer union event and accepted some sort of “best supervisor” award. …a snub in the nose to the TM, his management team,the restorative process, and to the community as a whole. … Failure to address these issues will have a long-term adverse impact on the credibility of the APD.

4 – The town should revisit the decision to have community policing in the schools. At a minimum, we would like to have the town conduct a third party assessment for bias. Additionally, we should carefully consider why a school resource officer needs to open-carry a gun.

In closing, I just want to share that I have a college-aged daughter who is in her third year of studying criminology & criminal justice. Through her, my eyes have been opened to the far-reaching effects of police bias, and the abuse of power. I urge you to learn everything you can about the Pedrini case, in particular by reading the content exposed by the FOIA requests, so that you can make informed decisions on behalf of all the people of Arlington, especially those who may not make their voices heard out of fear, lack of agency, or myriad other reasons.

Thank you for your time.

Shaileen Pokress
Crosby Street