Calling Out the Issues-

A Time of Reflection and Action

Tuesdays: June, 23, July 7 & 24, August 4, 7:00 pm

Moderated by Jillian Harvey, DEI Coordinator and Allentza Michel, DEI Community Consultant- Powerful Pathways, the panel discussion with town leadership will reflect upon the roots of systemic racism, its implications for Arlington and acknowledge the calls for action now. Topics will cover town racial equity initiatives and goals, school data and racial disparities, and policing policies. Panelists will include Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Police Chief Juliann Flaherty, and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Roderick MacNeal Jr. Attendees will be able to submit questions beforehand and during the event. jharvey@town.arlington.ma.us

Register in advance for these webinars: https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/News/News/10288/16?backlist=%2f

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Please feel free to submit beforehand any questions you would like have addressed during the session to jharvey@town.arlington.ma.us

Each session will be recorded and made available on the town website for those who missed them or wish to review.

Not sure what kinds of questions to ask? Need more information? Feel free to reach out to Arlington Fights Racism at info@arlingtonfightsracism.com

This four-part series is meant to open up the dialogue to address challenges past and present the Town of Arlington has faced, acknowledge plans for moving forward in the journey to dismantle the systemic racism that is embedded into all of the Town’s institutions, and provide an opportunity for community voices and concerns to be heard and discussed. AFR has been advocating for the town to have these community conversations for over a year! Please attend to show the town that these issues are important to YOU too! https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/News/News/10288/16?backlist=%2f

Election Results Statement

This election season has been like nothing seen before in Arlington. For the first time, a group of people came together to make change in a unique way, to challenge the election landscape to build a more welcoming and inclusive environment, one that embraces its changing demographic, rather than simply tolerating it. We invited and supported the first ever campaign of a large group of candidates, united against racism, who share the goal of increasing the representation of people of color and other marginalized groups in positions of leadership in Arlington. Some complained that what we were asking for was too much. Some complained that what we were doing was not the right way to do it. Some did not take us seriously. Some fought us, some derided or slandered us. Through it all, we stuck by our belief that Arlington could be a town where all voices and perspectives are identified, invited and included in town government.

While we are disappointed with some of the results, we are proud to have played a significant role in increasing voter participation, bringing new voices and perspectives into our town government and centering the campaign conversation on inclusion, representation and equity. We are proud of the thoughtful race that Michaiah Healy ran for Select Board. Her message calling for transparency, civic participation, mutual respect, collaboration and accessibility is one much needed in Arlington. We are grateful to School Committee candidate Lynette Martyn for her courage to talk about difficult topics for APS, including disparity gaps in discipline, MCAS scores, and graduation rates for students of color, English language learners, special education and economically disadvantaged students. AFR believes that Lynette’s commitment to listening to families and improving the district’s communication and transparency would have benefited all APS students and families. Both the Select Board and the School Committee would have been stronger with the voices of Michaiah and Lynette. Despite running as outsiders without establishment endorsements, they lost by narrow margins, 0.463% and 3.7% respectively. AFR thanks them for their courage.

During our journey, we grew from a group of people who barely knew of each other, to a family of activists committed to a movement that is helping shape the future of our town. We faced attacks on many fronts, some from corners expected, and some from those we had counted on as allies. But we pressed on, we persevered, and we rose above.

AFR would like to share some impressive statistics for a first time, grassroots campaign. 44 Town Meeting candidates committed to support the ideals and values expressed in AFR’s Inclusion Platform and two-thirds of them won, half of them first time candidates and half of them incumbents, 25% of them identify as people of color. This more closely aligns with the representation of our community demographics and we hope will set a new standard for future elections. AFR supported ten candidates of color, nine of them first time candidates, and eight won. AFR endorsed 64% of all first time candidates and just under half of them won their seats, many in highly contested races. AFR candidates ran in 90%, or 19/21, of Arlington precincts and won seats in 79% (15/19) of them. Of the 88 seats up for election, AFR candidates won 32%.

Arlington Fights Racism (AFR) would like to thank everyone who voted for our candidates, for believing in our vision of Arlington as a more welcoming and inclusive town. These exciting, contested races and important issues engaged many new voters and helped inspire the highest voter turnout in history, 11,148, or 34.8% of all registered voters voted. By comparison, last year’s turnout was 6,158 or 19.87%. We want to thank our volunteers and their families for all the hard work, late nights and sacrifice these past few months. We especially want to thank our candidates for standing with us, fighting alongside us, but mostly, for putting your trust in us to back and support you.

We couldn’t have done any of this without you, our supporters. Thank you for listening to us, believing in us, and taking this journey with us.

To our candidates who did not win, we appreciate your hard work, we believe in you and stand with you in your ongoing quest for equity and inclusion in Arlington government.The road to racial justice, equity, and inclusion is a long one and we look forward to walking that road with you again next time.

Our congratulations to all who won their races during this historic election. AFR celebrates your achievements and looks forward to working with you in the upcoming years.

Congratulations to new Housing Authority Board Member, Jo Anne Preston on her landslide victory!

Congratulations to Arlington’s newly elected Town Meeting Members:

Nada Fouad El-Newahy, Precinct 1

Asia Kepka, Precinct 1

Rebecca Persson, Precinct 1

Silvia Dominguez, Precinct 4

Sarah Glover, Precinct 5

Laura Tracey, Precinct 6

William Berkowitz, Precinct 8

Elizabeth Dray, Precinct 8

Michael Ruderman, Precinct 9

Susan McCabe, Precinct 9

Sanjay Newton, Precinct 10

Lynette Culverhouse, Precinct 11

Caroline Murray, Precinct 12

Sanjay Vakil, Precinct 12

Guillermo S. Hamlin, Precinct 14

Chris DiMeo, Precinct 16

Sandra Mostajo, Precinct 16

Kaspar Kasparian, Precinct 18

Melanie Brown, Precinct 19

Elaine Crowder, Precinct 19

Katharine M. Radville, Precinct 20

Jordan Weinstein,Precinct 21

Zarina Memon, Precinct 21

Congratulations to these incumbents and first time Town Meeting Members who also supported our efforts:

Michaiah Healy, Precinct 14

Beth Benedikt, Precinct 21

Finding common ground for a better Arlington

Once again, the goals and purpose of Arlington Fights Racism (AFR), all of which is public on our website, are being misrepresented by those who feel threatened by our existence.

So once again, AFR asserts that we are no more and no less than what we have stated time and time again, a diverse group of residents, each with our own opinions and goals for the town, who have come together on this one thing: to address problems of systemic and institutionalized racism in Arlington, compounded by a lack of transparency in governance.

We do not demand a purity test of our members for anything beyond our stated goals. Our candidates and supporters include people who are incumbents and first timers, lifelong and new residents, renters and homeowners, low income and high, abled and disabled, young and old, parents and childless, married, single, straight, gay, cis, trans, of many faiths, of no faith, white and people of color.

If our greatest crime is having held up a light so that others can see — for which we have been called disruptive, divisive and rabble-rousing — then we’ll take it.

While our candidates and supporters may not agree on every policy or detail we consider relevant to our platform, or even outside of it, we believe in reconciling our differences. In finding common ground as we work collaboratively toward the advancement of equity and inclusion in Arlington.

We are not an exclusive club that only allows members who vote in lockstep with the majority; instead, we embrace a support network encompassing a diversity of backgrounds and lived experiences. We hope other candidates and elected officials can see the value of including diverse voices at the table, and people who may not always agree on every issue, because that is how a truly representative local democracy, and better solutions, are achieved.

Both the published comments of Arlington Lt. Rick Pedrini and the town’s response left many people feeling disturbed and dissatisfied. For that reason, AFR chose to put its energy into identifying and championing the policies and practices that will allow Arlington to act appropriately the next time these issues arise.

Members of AFR contributed to the writing of the Consensus Building Institute’s report about the town’s response to the Pedrini issues. We’ve hosted community listening sessions with the support of both town leaders and APD. We continue to look for ways we can work with APD and town leaders to repair the harm in our community that these writings, and the precedents set by the town, have caused.

But without clear policies to prevent a recurrence, the next such incident is only a matter of time. We invite you to join us in our efforts.

To learn more about our community group Arlington Fights Racism, please visit our website at www.arlingtonfightsracism.org.

Creating Safe Communities

Letters to the Editor

Originally Published December 5, 2019 in the Arlington Advocate

Approximately 50 people gathered at First Parish Unitarian Universalist for “Creating Safe Communities,” organized by Arlington Fights Racism, facilitated by Dr. Rick Pinderhughes of Visions Inc. (which is conducting the bias evaluation of the Arlington Police Department), and co-sponsored by Arlington’s Diversity Task Group, Arlington-Teosinte Sister City Project, and the ArCS Cluster. AFR plans more such events as we work to reach additional Arlington residents, seeking to understand the state of our community today. Participants included everyone from longtime residents to the very newest, with the majority representing groups harmed by Lt. Pedrini’s words. Some members of the Arlington Human Rights Commission and one Select Board member also participated.

When town leaders learned that AFR organizers had brought in Dr. Pinderhughes with their own resources, they demonstrated their support by paying his fee on our behalf. They also sent a letter of support and, respecting 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. Some came to speak about how they have directly experienced racism, prejudice and bias in Arlington. Some came to express their fears and concerns for our and our children’s future. Some came to share stories of people they know who did not yet feel safe to tell their own stories. Some came to respectfully listen, to gain a greater understanding of their neighbors. All were promised that their words would be held in anonymity and that they could speak without fear of reprisals. The group then came back together to share 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, transparent communication regarding the work being done with APD; requiring Lt. Pedrini to publicly address those he’s harmed; asking town leaders to acknowledge, in order to avoid setting precedents for other towns, that this restorative justice process was seriously flawed; and requiring the town to create a clear policy for all town employees about hate speech on social media.

This process of understanding how members of our community have been harmed is ongoing; we do not expect quick, easy answers to our problems. AFR will continue its efforts to build trust through reaching out to the community. Please visit our website, www.ArlingtonFightsRacism.com, for more information.

Lynette Martyn
Eustis Street

Self-Reflection Needed to Fight Hate

Letters to the Editor

Originally Published December 5, 2019 in the Arlington Advocate

The hate that we are seeing around the country and the violence that follows is deeply disturbing. It is also disturbing to see that there are people in Arlington who think that Lt. Pedrini’s hate-filled words were a joke or tongue in cheek and rush to defend him. It might be hard to confront a friend or family member when they step out of line morally, but to avoid doing so is enabling them and depriving them of an opportunity to face the consequences of their actions and to grow. I don’t know of any religion that says that hate is OK, I don’t know of any code of conduct that says hate is OK. And yet when showing support to someone who spread hate and tearing down the very people who worked tirelessly to address it is what allows hate to continue, and gives the message that it is OK. It is not OK. Arlington Fights Racism is working to unite our town by addressing the harm done to our marginalized communities. Hate and indifference are dividing our town. How differently this might have turned out if the people who care about Rick Pedrini had helped him to see how his words hurt members of our community and offered him support to make it right. Perhaps there are people in town who share the same attitudes expressed by Pedrini. This is racism and is harmful to everyone, and surprisingly even to the person who harbors hateful thoughts. Racism and bias only keeps us separated from each other. We live in a racist country with a racist history so none of us avoids having some version of it. For white people to recover from our racism, we need to deeply examine the biases we hold and the values we hold and see if they are in line with each other. If we don’t do this self-reflective work, we are living in the dark and miss the opportunity to connect with the cross section of people who make up our community. The reality is that we have a rich and diverse country with people from all walks of life and all corners of the earth. We are a country of immigrants and the potential to break down barriers and learn about each other is endless. Arlington Fights Racism is encouraging people to talk with each other and seeking ways to make Arlington safe for all of its residents. Please join us if you would like to be part of this journey.

Lynette Culverhouse
Draper Avenue

Dray Letter to Communities for Restorative Justice

Letters to Town Leaders

Originally sent to Communities for Restorative Justice December 4, 2019

Dear Erin, Ashley, Margot and C4RJ Board Members,

C4RJ has left the community of Arlington devastated and divided. The organization’s decision to facilitate a “restorative justice” process for Lt. Rick Pedrini was a misuse of restorative justice. In addition, C4RJ’s efforts are not only incomplete, they were unsuccessful in repairing the damage done to the harmed community and in rehabilitating Lt. Pedrini. I am writing to ask that C4RJ take immediate measures to acknowledge their failure and to repair the severe harm they have inflicted on my community.

The use of restorative justice in response to Lt. Pedrini’s three racist, xenophobic and hate filled columns published in the Massachusetts Police Association’s magazine The Sentinel was inappropriate. According to the C4RJ website, restorative justice (RJ) requires 3 criteria, the third of which is “Together with the police department, we must be able to ensure the safety of all parties — especially you. If we have a concern about the well-being of anyone involved in the case, we may advise that the case not be referred.” Given that an Arlington police officer is the offender in this situation, the harmed individuals cannot reasonably be expected to believe that this condition can be met. Therefore, RJ should not have been used. Furthermore, the uneven power balance between an armed, white, male police officer and that of the targeted communities – including the disabled, the mentally ill, the addicted, immigrants, asylum seekers, people of color and “social justice warriors” makes RJ invalid. Is an undocumented immigrant going to sit in front of a person with the power to arrest and deport them, a person licensed to carry a gun, and feel safe enough to tell them how they feel? Substitute the other groups he targeted into that sentence and you will still end up with the answer, few to none. Also from the C4RJ website: “If there are physical or emotional risks [for the victim], we may return the case to you.” Clearly, circumstances for the affected parties involved the potential for serious “physical or emotional risks”.

Lt. Pedrini’s writings were published throughout the state of Massachusetts and even reported on in national media outlets such as Newsweek. The harmed community is too diffuse, too large and too difficult to identify and, therefore, impossible to adequately and ethically engage in the RJ process and, therefore, impossible to heal. This simple fact alone makes the use of RJ inappropriate for Lt. Pedrini.

Chief Police Fred Ryan, a proponent of RJ who sat on the Board of C4RJ, did not think that RJ was the correct approach for Lt Pedrini’s case. In an email from then-APD Chief Ryan addressed to Arlington’s Town Manager (TM), Adam Chapdelaine, soon after Pedrini’s articles were published regarding Chapdelaine’s suggestion to use RJ for Pedrini, Ryan stated:. “One critical element of restorative justice is remorse and a willingness to accept responsibility for your actions, and the harm caused by your actions. I don’t think [Pedrini] is in that mindset and, although he might be willing to put on a show to save his hide, his views on our community values are in writing and not likely to change in any meaningful way.” Chapdelaine, who would later tell the media and public that he had no questions about Pedrini’s remorse, wrote back, “I fear that you’re right about that.” https://digboston.com/public-information-requests-reveal-arlingtons-behind-the-scenes-response-to-police-controversy/.

Public emails disclosed from a Freedom of Information Act Request revealed that the Arlington’s Human Rights Commission (AHRC) expressed discomfort with the decision to use RJ with Lt. Pedrini and felt pressured by the Town Manager to partake in the process even though the Commission did not approve of its use in this case. The AHRC later formally withdrew from the process after those from the harmed communities attended their meetings and implored them to reconsider their participation. Public emails show that despite the AHRC’s withdrawal in response to community input, Erin advised Chapdelaine to move forward with the process as planned. Finally, in a departure from C4RJ’s own principles of not using RJ for offenders with documented histories of domestic violence and restraining orders, Lt. Pedrini had several restraining orders against him and was specifically named in a 2014 wrongful death suit against the APD in which he was suspended without pay. Neither C4RJ nor the Town Manager informed the RJ participants of Pedrini’s history, potentially putting them in danger and not providing them with vital information they needed to interact with and evaluate Lt. Pedrini.

Despite being declared complete and successful by Chapdelaine on March 29, 2019, and despite the fact that Lt. Pedrini returned to work in mid-April, 2019, it is clear that the restorative justice process is far from complete. The only public facing requirement the community has seen was Lt. Pedrini’s public apology. Yet, this published apology was a farce. Lt. Pedrini did not apologize to any of the specific groups he targeted and threatened violence against. Most importantly, he failed to even acknowledge that his words were racist and ableist, much less denounce them. Instead, he apologized for his “crude and careless” comments and then proceeded to list his accomplishments and awards and boast of his ability to work with “diverse” populations. Since the release of Pedrini’s apology letter, we have learned via a public request for emails, that a RJ circle participant was asked to help write the apology letter, a request s/he declined. These emails also show that town officials, including APD Acting Chief Julie Flaherty, also had a hand in editing the apology letter before it was released. The Arlington community is still waiting for a legitimate apology.

Lt. Pedrini was not required to resign from his role on the Executive Board of the Massachusetts Police Association, despite the fact that public emails show that Fred Ryan made it clear to the Town Manager that any valid restorative process should include this term. That C4RJ did not require Lt Pedrini’s resignation is outrageous, and the process will not be seen as complete until he has resigned and has written a retraction of his statements in the same publication in which the original offending statements were published.

Over a year later, and ten months after the RJ process was declared complete and a success by the Town Manager, the community of Arlington has yet to have an opportunity to interact with Lt. Pedrini. How can C4RJ continue to turn a blind eye to this blatant violation of everything RJ stands for?? The very basis of RJ is to place the needs of the harmed community front and center. In Howard Zehr’s 69 pages of text in his “Little Book of Restorative Justice”, the words “community” and “communities” are mentioned 151 times. Three of the five Key Principles of RJ include the words “victims and communities” (pgs. 32-33) According to Zehr, the goals of the process are: “1. To focus on harms and consequent needs of victims, but also of communities and offenders; 2. To address obligations resulting from those harms of offenders, but also of communities and society; 3. To involve those with a legitimate stake in the situation, including victims, offenders, community members, and society.” Zehr writes “The key stakeholders, of course, are the immediate victims and offenders. Members of the community may be directly affected and thus should also be considered immediate stakeholders”. (pg 27) He further states, “For restorative justice, the key questions are: 1) who in the community cares about these people or about this offense, and 2) how can we involve them in the process?” (pg. 28)

The Arlington community has been very vocal about our need, our desire, and our right to participate in this RJ process and demand its completion. We were denied this opportunity by C4RJ and, until very recently, our requests have been ignored by our Town Leadership. In March, when the use of RJ was first made public, many of us asked to participate in the circles but were told “No.”. We were told that specific people had been “invited” to participate to “represent” the targeted groups. The ignorance of that decision to tokenize individuals is disturbing — as if one person’s experience as a person of color, or an immigrant, can represent all people’s experiences. Needless to say, this did not satisfy the Arlington community. It is ignorant and negligent to (1) invite tokenized members of a community into a confidential process, while (2) preventing public transparency and (3) asking them to represent the entire community but (4) telling them they can’t actually talk about anything that happened in that process with the community they purported to represent. Such a process will not lead to healing. In addition, C4RJ included in the circles representatives of groups that were not specifically targeted by Pedrini, while representatives of those who were explicitly targeted (such as people with addiction or mental illness, or from the activist group Black Lives Matter) were absent altogether. Why? Zehr is very clear about the importance of centering the harmed community in the RJ process. Zehr’s third Fundamental Principle of Restorative Justice is “The needs of victims for information, validation, vindication, restitution, testimony, safety, and support are the starting points of justice.” And “The justice process belongs to the community.” (Pg 72) Clearly, there has been no justice in Arlington.

C4RJ must explain to the public how Lt. Pedrini was allowed to return to his job BEFORE he had completed several of the requirements of the RJ agreement. While that agreement has not been made public in its entirety, we do know that Lt. Pedrini was required to write a public apology, to attend all roll calls of the APD along with Acting Chief Flaherty to relate to the APD what he had learned from the restorative process, to engage in further community dialogues in order to advance healing in the community, and to attend trainings with the Chief and community members to further his understanding of the communities that he harmed. Lt. Pedrini should have been required to fulfill all the requirements of the agreement BEFORE returning to work and BEFORE the RJ process was declared complete and successful.

C4RJ must acknowledge publicly that, in this case, the RJ process failed. C4RJ’s mission states, “C4RJ uses a circle process to help individuals to understand the harm they have caused and hold them accountable. We give those who have been affected a voice, in order to address the harm and build stronger, more respectful communities.” The C4RJ website also states, “We listen to victims, hold offenders accountable, and restore trust in communities.” Per C4RJ’s own mission, you have failed to “to build a stronger, more respectful community” in Arlington. Per your mission, you have failed to “restore trust” between the community and the Arlington Police Department or Lt. Pedrini, and you have failed to hold Lt. Pedrini truly “accountable” for his actions. The Arlington community is divided and angry. I respectfully request that you click this link to read letters to the editors that concerned residents have flooded our local paper with over the past months (https://www.arlingtonfightsracism.com/letters-to-the-editor/). Please take the time to watch community members share their anger and disappointment at Select Board meetings (https://www.arlingtonfightsracism.com/2019/11/25/september-9-2019-arlington-select-board-meeting and https://acmi.tv/videos/select-board-meeting-october-7-2019/). I suggest you read the hateful and blatantly racist comments written daily on the on-line Arlington List. These comments have increased since this C4RJ absolved Pedrini and bear witness to the harassment and intimidation of marginalized people who dare give voice to their frustration, heartbreak or fear over how this case has been mishandled. You will see the damage that C4RJ has done.

In addition, there has been true and long-lasting damage done to the reputation of the Arlington Police Department and to the faith and trust many once had in them. Retired Chief Ryan was known nationwide for his progressive policing and developed a solid relationship with the community based on mutual respect and trust. Unfortunately, all of that goodwill was ruined and will remain destroyed as long as Lt. Rick Pedrini is part of the APD. In 2017, Arlington passed a Trust Act, to become a sanctuary town–but the language of that act is non-binding and was a symbolic gesture. The public was told it didn’t need to be binding because the APD already followed Trust Act protocols. Lt. Pedrini’s writings and his reinstatement to the APD have undermined the intention of that resolution. It is now more frightening for immigrants in Arlington to come forward and trust the APD and they may actually be further endangering themselves by doing so. Arlington Fights Racism (AFR) has been told by several immigrants that they no longer feel safe contacting the police. AFR has also been told by a person of color (POC) that they, and other POC they have spoken to, feel the same. This person said, “They (APD) are racist. And arguably an even worse label, APD is indifferent. There is no trust between POC’s and APD.”

More evidence that RJ was unsuccessful was found on Lt. Pedrini’s Facebook page. Up until mid-September of this year, Lt. Pedrini followed a page called “Drug Enforcement Cops,” which contained memes and videos mocking and degrading those with addiction and applauding police violence against those with addiction. Another page he followed was “Proud Infidels,” which contained blatantly Islamophobic, misogynist and anti-immigrant posts. The skull for the profile pic for the page “Drug Enforcement Cops” Pedrini liked has a thin blue line running through it. This isn’t just a reference to Blue Lives Matter. The skull is known as a Punisher Skull–it’s a reference to a character from Marvel comics known as “The Punisher”–a vigilante who acts outside of the law to enact revenge and perpetrate acts of violence on those he believes deserves it. The Blue Line Punisher Skull is symbolic of a movement that is several steps beyond “Blue Lives Matter:” they embrace vigilantism and police violence against civilians, rather than due process under the law . These were removed from his Facebook page only after members of Arlington Fights Racism made them public at a Select Board meeting.

Further proof of RJ’s failure can be found in Chief Ryan’s email to Adam Chapdelaine after the RJ process was over. Chief Ryan wrote that he has “serious concerns” saying “Rick’s MPA (Massachusetts Police Association) work has become a distraction to his duties at APD and the culture of the MPA in not reflective of the culture of the Town of Arlington nor the APD. That is not likely to change… I think he needs to step away from the MPA”. However, Lt. Pedrini has not been forced to step down by Chapdelaine. Chief Ryan also writes that Lt. Pedrini’s actions at a Patrol Officer Union event was “VERY concerning….a snub in the nose to the TM, his management team, the restorative process and the community as a whole” and warned of “long-term adverse impact on the credibility of the APD.”

From the little that has been made public about Lt. Pedrini’s RJ process, it appears that it did not follow the RJ Circle process as outlined on the C4RJ website. Here is the outline of the circle process from the C4RJ website. “Intake: C4RJ meets with affected parties: victim, offender, family/supporters, and community members to learn about the incident and resulting needs and to prepare everyone for the circle process.

  • Opening Circle: At a time and place of the victim’s choosing, C4RJ convenes all the affected parties, community volunteers, and a law enforcement officer. The offender tells the story of what happened, the victim speaks about the impact of the crime, and the group works towards a plan of repair by consensus.
  • Agreement Phase: The offender pairs up with C4RJ volunteers who offer support as the offender works to meet the obligations agreed upon during the Opening Circle, which may include letters of apology, restitution, service, and reflective exercises.The victim may also request progress reports or updates.
  • Closing Circle: The group reconvenes approximately two or three months after the Opening Circle. The offender reflects on what s/he has learned, and the victim and other community members acknowledge the work done. If all are satisfied, the matter is closed and returned to the police.”

However, according to the Town Manager’s Open Letter to the Community released August 8, 2019, “the first circle consisted of Town officials, which included myself (Adam Chapdelaine), 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.” To make this clear, the initial restorative agreement was outlined without any input from the victims or the community. Only after that first group met three times were nine community members invited to join them in a second circle. There does not appear to have been a Closing circle. This is corroborated by both the TM ‘s letter and by an email from a concerned Circle participant. The Closing circle is important as it is, according to the C4RJ website, where “the victim and community members” meet with the offender to make sure s/he has completed the agreed upon obligations and decide if they are “satisfied”. Yet in this RJ process the Town Manager alone decided that he was “satisfied” and that the process was successful without consulting “the victim and community members” and before the obligations had been completed. According to the TM ‘s letter “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.”. The RJ process that C4RJ followed with Lt. Pedrini veers far from the one outlined on your website and the process followed by other RJ scholars.

It is inexcusable that the nine circle participants who represented the “harmed community”, were not asked if they felt that Lt. Pedrini had been rehabilitated. One member told me that, after going through the process s/he was “100% positive” that Lt. Pedrini should be fired, and “I will not stop until he is fired.” Another participant confided that s/he was more harmed by their experience with C4RJ then s/he was from Lt. Pedrini’s writings, “I feel more harmed now than I did before the restorative justice circle”. Others expressed their concern that the RJ process had not been successful in emails to the TM and their concerns were ignored. Your website states, “C4RJ seeks feedback on its own cases, too. At the conclusion of each circle, we ask every participant — victim, offender, supporter, volunteer, law enforcement officer — to complete an evaluation.” The participants I spoke to were not given such an evaluation. Participants are upset that it appears to the public and town leadership that they green-lit Lt. Pedrini’s return to duty when they actually were never asked about their impressions even as some seriously doubted Pedrini was at all rehabilitated.

C4RJ has also failed Lt. Pedrini. He entered into a faulty and problem filled RJ process and is suffering as a result. Instead of receiving rehabilitative training and thoughtful guidance in taking responsibility for and learning from his mistakes, Lt Pedrini remains under valid suspicion from the community he once swore to serve. If anything, this process has heightened the community’s suspicion of Lt Pedrini, and the Arlington Police more generally.

This list of problems only scratches the surface of our concerns. We are sure that there is much more to be learned from the new email requests that we have made and from the people we have yet to talk to. We are concerned about not only our community but about the use of this case nationwide as a precedent for the use of restorative justice in similar cases in the future. We refuse to let that happen.

Restorative justice is an important tool when used correctly. Currently, this misuse of restorative justice is hurting the reputation not only of restorative justice but also that of C4RJ. We are asking C4RJ to return to Arlington to listen to community members and answer our questions, acknowledge that the RJ process failed in this case and to take responsibility for the current dire situation in which we currently find ourselves .

Since November 5, I have repeatedly asked Erin for a face-to-face meeting but have not been offered one. Another AFR member, Lynette Martin, and I attended your annual meeting on November 12. We attempted to respectfully engage Program Director Ashley Bentley and Board President Margot Fleishman in conversation about this topic but they made it very clear that they were not interested. We found a more interested and sympathetic audience with Board Vice President David Wilson and Board member Thomas Black. We left feeling hopeful. We are still waiting.

I would like to make it clear to C4RJ that Arlington Fights Racism will not be ignored and that we are not going away. We had over a dozen members of AFR ready to protest and disrupt your annual meeting. However we decided to be patient and to continue to respectfully ask C4RJ to engage with us. Unfortunately that respect has not been returned. A month has gone by and we have lost patience. By this Friday I would like to have a meeting scheduled. If not, AFR is ready to go very public with our concerns. I am available next week, December 9, from 11:15-2:30 and December 10, from 3:30-7:00 pm. Please let me know which of those time frames work for you.

I sincerely hope that someone at C4RJ will begin to understand how serious this situation is and will meet to discuss steps the organization must take in order to begin to repair the harm you have caused in Arlington.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Elizabeth Dray
Arlington Fights Racism

Friedman Letter to Town Manager

Letters to Town Leaders

Originally sent to the Arlington Town Manager August 14, 2019

Law Offices of Howard Friedman, P.C. 
92 State Street, 9th Floor
Boston, MA 02109
www.civil-rights-law.com
Telephone 617-742-4100 
Fax 617-303-3938

August 14, 2019

Adam Chapdelaine, Arlington Town Manager
730 Mass. Ave., Annex
Arlington, MA 02476 

Dear Mr. Chapdelaine, 

I am writing in response to your August 8, 2019 open letter to the Arlington community regarding Lt. Pedrini’s racist and violent views expressed in an article. I am a civil rights attorney with over forty years of experience. My practice focuses on representing victims of police abuse. I represented the estate of Patrick Barry on a negligence claim against the Town of Arlington. Then Sgt. Pedrini was one of the negligent employees; he failed to follow a policy requiring him to provide a medical evaluation of Mr. Barry. The delay in care resulted in Mr. Barry’s death. 

You say Lt. Pedrini’s comments were so problematic that termination of his employment would be appropriate. But, because termination could result in an expensive appeal and Lt. Pedrini might win his job back, you decided to use restorative justice, which is not a punishment at all. Your actions set the standard for the department. If another employee makes similarly racist comments, and you attempt to punish the person by a suspension without pay or demotion, that employee will argue you are treating them differently than Lt. Pedrini. Your fear that you can’t terminate a police officer will become reality. 

Your lenient treatment was opposed by former Chief Ryan, the chief at the time of Lt. Pedrini’s comments. Chief Ryan stated that while Lt. Pedrini would say the right things, restorative justice was not likely to change his behavior because his expressed views were “not likely to change in any meaningful way.” 

Your effort to save money could backfire. By failing to discipline a lieutenant you have sent a message to other officers that making racist comments and statements about using violence is acceptable and therefore even using violence is acceptable in Arlington. After the Barry incident, then Sgt. Pedrini was made a lieutenant, which tells officers that failure to follow policies will not prevent promotions. You also open the Town treasury to civil rights suits. Plaintiffs will argue the town has a policy of failing to properly discipline police officers, which results in police misconduct. 

Finally, it appears in deciding Lt. Pedrini’s discipline you did not consider his history. I was told by Town Counsel that Lt. Pedrini was suspended without pay for his role in Mr. Barry’s death. But this does not appear in the documents released in response to a public records request. 

Approving restorative justice for Lt. Pedrini may have seemed like an easy solution to a tough problem. It was a mistake. Comments from people in Arlington show they have noticed that instead of doing what was right, you decided to do what seemed easy. 

Sincerely, 

Howard Friedman

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