"I am sick and tired of the social justice warriors telling us how to do our jobs. It’s time we forget about 'restraint,' 'measured responses,' 'procedural justice,' 'de-escalation,' 'stigma-reduction,' and other feel-good BS that is getting our officers killed. Let’s stop lip-synching, please! Let’s meet violence with violence and get the job done."
~ Arlington Police Lt. Rick Pedrini, Mass. Police Assn. Newsletter, 2018
WHAT IS THE BACKGROUND OF THE PEDRINI SCANDAL?
What did Lt. Pedrini say and where did he say it?
If you have not had an opportunity already, please read Lt Pedrini’s unabridged writings here, Don’t stop after his first article, there are three in a row. He submitted premeditated pieces in a police trade publication consumed by officers across the Commonwealth called The Sentinel. It was accepted without criticism by the police audience and published. In his articles, he referred to Central and South American asylum seekers attempting to cross our border as a “caravan of illegals” invading our country and implied they should be shot. He suggested the Posse Comitatus Act–which was imposed to stop racist makeshift militias from lynching Black people as first formed during the Reconstruction period post-Civil War–should be suspended (which is in line with the demands of current white nationalist/supremacist organizations, including the Ku Klux Klan). He called Black Lives Matter “unAmerican” and wished death on progressive activists and high profile Black activist Colin Kaepernick. He referred to those with substance abuse disorders as “maggots” and “animals.” He advocated the use of violence in the police force and specifically disavowed the APD’s policy of using de-escalation techniques. He asserted all of this in a place and time where/when hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment are exponentially rising and young children are separated from their parents or adult guardians at the border and imprisoned. Note Lt. Pedrini still sits on the board of the Massachusetts Police Association which published the piece.
Even though Lt. Pedrini’s words were vile, he has never acted out on them. Shouldn’t we go by his actions and not his words?
Marginalized people are less likely to report police violence or have their reports validated when they do. This means a lack of evidence regarding excessive force on Lt. Pedrini’s part is not necessarily indicative of innocence. Approximately 84% of surveyed individuals who experienced force or the threat of force felt that the police acted improperly. Of those, only 14% filed a complaint against the police. Additionally, many of those who are undocumented or suffer from addiction would be unlikely to file such complaints due to fears of profiling, deportation, incarceration or further harassment and assault. Furthermore, a public records request yielded evidence that Lt. Pedrini had been the subject of multiple restraining orders and a lawsuit over allegations of inappropriate conduct, again calling into question his temperament and fitness for duty.
I’ve heard people claim Lt. Pedrini’s words were just words and did no harm. Isn’t that true?
Absolutely false. Lt. Pedrini’s words harmed the people he threatened in his writings. In doing so, he harmed the ability of the APD to do its work effectively. He triggered people with a history of being traumatized by police brutality and intimidation. Furthermore, given his words were in a state-wide publication, that harm extended beyond Arlington’s borders, influencing officers who work in communities of color which are more vulnerable to excessive force and profiling. This makes the APD beholden not only to the harm within its own community, but outside it as well. Downplaying Pedrini’s rhetoric as “just words”–when they actively advocated for violence against marginalized people and groups–normalizes such rhetoric and enables more overt forms of hate and violence to take root. This is already the case in our state–which leads the nation in hate crimes–and our town–which ranks #2 in the state for hate crimes of those municipalities that track such incidences. Research has shown a strong link between hateful speech and an exponential rise in hate crimes and racially motivated violence. Downplaying Pedrini’s hate speech as “just words” ignores its very real impacts on vulnerable populations, who are more likely to be targets of violence as a result of such speech.
What additional harm could result from Lt Pedrini’s words?
Lt Pedrini’s words harm our community by frightening those who would otherwise report crime to the APD, by frightening those who would turn to the APD for help with substance abuse issues. Would the undocumented immigrants Pedrini suggested should be shot feel comfortable or safe reporting to him or any cop when they fear family separation or deportation? Would someone struggling with an addiction, fearing jail time, feel confident reporting excessive force? If we’re going by just his words, which is what we do have as evidence, we have a police officer who lacks the temperament and good judgement to properly fulfill his duties and who possesses deep-seated prejudices that strongly indicate he is unfit for the role of an officer. In almost any other scenario, an employee who shared such rhetoric would be swiftly terminated. Treating police officers as exceptions to that expectation is problematic, especially as they are entrusted with the ability–and equipped with the weapons necessary–to kill civilians.
I’ve heard members of Arlington’s restorative justice circle deny that Lt. Pedrini’s words were racist or in line with white supremacist rhetoric. Is that true?
It is not accurate to state that his words were not racist. Much of his wording was directly in line with white supremacist/nationalist rhetoric as defined by experts in this area. Also, it is appropriate to question the makeup of the circle employed in this case. The people chosen to participate in a restorative justice circle are typically trained mediators, the offender, and members of the community. The mediators used here were not necessarily experts on race/racial bias, and there were issues with the choice of the community members. If the RJ circle does not include community members who were among the harmed, the process betrays one of the most basic tenets of restorative justice.
Didn’t Lt. Pedrini write his harmful and offensive post in grief over the loss of two officers?
No. If you read the available Sentinel pieces by him from 2017, a year prior to the deaths of these officers, he is expressing the same biases: opposition to policing reform, opposition to immigrants and refugees, activists and BLM, and substance abusers. So the viewpoints he expressed which make him unfit for a position in the APD did not emerge out of grief and seem to be longstanding. If anything, it is deeply concerning he would exploit the deaths of two officers as an opportunity to express bias, hatred, and racism, toward so many demographics based on ethnicity, race, health status, political leaning, or nation of origin. He also called his piece in response to fallen officers “tongue-in-cheek satire,” which indicates they were not expressed in remorse or grief–and is rather disrespectful to the memories of these honorable officers.
Is there is a local ordinance which might cover Lt. Pedrini’s words?
In Arlington: “It shall be considered an unlawful practice … for any person to deny, interfere with, threaten or subject an individual to coercion or intimidation concerning equal access to and/or discrimination in employment, housing, education, recreation, services, public accommodation and public area where such denial, interference, threats, coercion, intimidation or unlawful discrimination against a person is based upon race, color, religious views, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, citizenship, age, ancestry, family/marital status, sexual orientation, disability, source of income, or military status.” See Title II, Article 9, Section 2 of the town bylaw for more information.
While defending that Pedrini’s words denied equal opportunity access to police services through threats and intimidation based on citizenship, race, color, and national origin might be difficult in a court of law, certainly this is something which should have been easily understood as a violation by our town leaders.
But these are just Lt. Pedrini’s words, why are we concerned about a systemic problem within the Town of Arlington?
It has become increasingly apparent that we do have a systemic problem in the APD and other areas of town governance. Lt. Pedrini had been writing pieces with the same sentiments back at least to 2017 (we are unable to obtain pieces prior to that). If you read the available Sentinel pieces by him from 2017, he is expressing the same biases: opposition to policing reform, opposition to immigrants and refugees, activists and Black Lives Matter, and substance abusers. So the viewpoints he expressed which make him unfit for a position in the APD seem to be longstanding, and there was no censuring of his words until the public took notice. At the Diversity Task Group meeting that she attended in May (at which about 40 other residents were present according to DTG notes from the meeting), Acting Chief Flaherty admitted to the writings being racist but then added that she didn’t believe Lt. Pedrini was racist because he is her friend. Some attendees noted that those comments demonstrate how little APD leaders understand about how racism works and how she (and by extension the APD) were letting their personal feelings and biases cloud their judgment on this case.
Additionally, almost all of the town press releases place Lt. Pedrini at the center of concern and talk almost exclusively about his teachable moment, rather than addressing the harm done to targeted people. Also, Arlington Public Schools have a recorded discipline disparity for children of color with black students being suspended at a rate eight times higher than white students. Lastly, Kiesel’s article exposes how young African American men were treated when they were arrested for marijuana possession and suspected distribution. Rather than being offered restorative justice, their names were released, thus negatively impacting their lives and ability to get jobs. The arresting officer in that case was Lt. Pedrini’s wife. Lt. Pedrini’s brother is also on the force, is a former president of the union, and is now the executive of the Arlington Police Patrolmen’s Association (APPA).
According to an email from former Police Chief Fred Ryan, the problems run deeper than Lt. Pedrini. He expressed concern about the culture of the Massachusetts Police Association, citing a recent meeting at which those present “gave a standing ovation is response to an announcement of a fatal police shooting.” In light of this culture, former chief Ryan said he believes that Lt. Pedrini needs to “step away from the MPA” as part of the restorative justice process. According to the MPA website as of August 2019, he is still on their executive board.
Furthermore, he said that the APPA had given Lt. Pedrini a “best supervisor” award during Pedrini’s suspension, and stated: “the fact that a lieutenant, who is out on admin leave pending discipline, chose to attend and accept an award from the APPA is VERY concerning on a number of fronts. Symbolically, this is a snub in the nose to the TM [Town Manager], his management team, the restorative process, and to the community as a whole. Further, the fact that the APPA created this award and gave it to Rick is evidence of the harm that his actions have caused to the culture and credibility of the APD. Failure to address these issues will have a long-term adverse impact on the credibility of the APD.”
It is important to note that this email from Fred Ryan to town leaders was sent in March, towards the end of the RJ process and shortly before the process was deemed to have been successful. What we are seeing now is the “adverse impact on the credibility of the APD” that Fred Ryan predicted, and why we believe that the problem is systemic, rather than an issue of just one man’s words.
WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS OVER HOW RESTORATIVE JUSTICE (RJ) WAS HANDLED IN THE LT. PEDRINI CASE?
Is confidentiality in restorative justice (RJ) appropriate in the case of Lt. Pedrini?
While confidentiality is usually part of a restorative justice process, it is not appropriate in the case of Lt. Pedrini, for several reasons. In this case, a law enforcement officer, who has sworn an oath to protect and serve the entire community, published three state-wide articles in which he spoke in hateful terms about members of the community—specifically, drug-addicted persons, the mentally-ill, immigrants, and “social justice warriors.” Each person who might fall into one or more of these categories —or appear to, in the eyes of the officer—is surrounded by a circle of family and friends, all of whom also can be counted among those harmed by the hatred of his words.
Further, Lt. Pedrini urged his fellow officers to disregard department policy to de-escalate violent encounters with the persons in his denigrated categories and instead to react with violence towards them. This constitutes widespread harm inflicted on the community of Arlington. The community, therefore, has a huge stake in the restorative justice process, and it is inappropriate to bar all but a select few members of the community from knowledge of the process. The community at large needs to see and hear for themselves that the process is effective and the perpetrator is sincerely committed to repairing the harm done and to changing direction in his own thinking. The Town of Arlington keeps referring to their lack of transparency as justifiable because it was a personnel issue. However, if they were not going to be able to be transparent, that in itself is an argument for why restorative justice may not have been appropriate for this case as restorative justice (or “RJ”) usually requires the inclusion of those most harmed by an offense.
What did former APD Chief Fred Ryan think about using restorative justice for Lt. Pedrini?
According to email exchanges between then current APD Chief Fred Ryan and Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Chief Ryan did not believe Lt Pedrini was a candidate for restorative justice and in fact indicated he thought Lt. Pedrini would “put on a show”.
Chief Ryan wrote, “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 he (Lt. 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.”
Consequently, shortly after his retirement and after the restorative justice process had begun, Chief Ryan delivered further warnings to the town manager outlining the violent nature of the MPA (an organization that Lt Pedrini previously led and remains on the board of) and referencing a “best supervisor” award given to Lt Pedrini during his suspension by the Arlington Police Patrolman’s Association (APPA). Both the acceptance and offering of this award signaling a lack of remorse and poses the question of how much support Lt Pedrini’s words have among other members of the APD police force.
Quoted from an email from Chief Ryan to Town Manager, Chapdelaine,
“I have no doubt that Rick is a decent human being and there is no evidence that I’m aware of that his practice of policing mirrored his writings. That said, I have a couple of very serious concerns.
Rick’s MPA (Massachusetts Police Association) 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. 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. If this is true, the fact that a lieutenant, who is out on admin leave pending discipline, chose to attend and accept an award from the APPA is VERY concerning on a number of fronts. Symbolically, this is a snub in the nose to the TM, his management team, the restorative process, and to the community as a whole. Further, the fact that the APPA created this award and gave it to Rick is evidence of the harm that his actions have caused to the culture and credibility of the APD.
Failure to address these issues will have a long-term adverse impact on the credibility of the APD.”
I’m confused. Is the petition looking for the restorative justice process to be re-done or for the town’s decision to pursue RJ vs. arbitration to be reconsidered? What is the petition seeking to do and why?
Given we do not have information regarding what the town can and cannot do, we have left the petition fairly open ended, asking the town to “Develop and announce a plan for repairing community trust by November 1, 2019.” Whether they choose to re-do restorative justice or pursue another avenue is completely up to the town. We want to give town officials some autonomy in the matter. That said, the petition recognizes that what we have done so far does not qualify as restorative justice and therefore some sort of follow up action must be taken.
Is it wrong to want Lt. Pedrini to be rehabilitated ?
No, it’s natural, but when you focus on the rehabilitation of the offender, it is easy to lose sight of those harmed by the offense. The offender here is one person. The harmed are many. One of the core tenets of RJ is that it needs to prioritize the needs of those most harmed by the given offense; the onus is on proving that the harmed were restored—specifically here, that those made to feel unsafe in their own community can feel safe with this officer on the street with a gun. Unfortunately, it does not seem that this process was carried out in the robust and culturally competent manner expected of a restorative justice process, and therefore its effectiveness is questionable at best.
Isn’t Lt. Pedrini entitled to First Amendment rights and Freedom of Speech?
He can (mostly) write or say what he wants without the government imprisoning him. Freedom of Speech under the First Amendment simply means one’s right to say (most) things and not face imprisonment as a result. It does not at all mean freedom from other consequences, including termination from a job. His employer has the right to terminate him for acting against the mission of their agency and violating the values of the town and the APD. This is 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 heavier implications with a police officer advocating violence and brutal force against vulnerable demographics. This threatens the safety of the public they are entrusted with protecting. If we took away the right of an employer to fire someone who violated the trust of the employer and the trust of the people he interacts with, we’d be in trouble.
Repercussions become even more likely if that speech could be interpreted as a clear threat or inciting violence (a case could be made Lt Pedrini’s speech attempts this). As a Lieutenant, Pedrini is a person with disproportionate power and influence in town who aired very disturbing racist and xenophobic grievances, and advocated violence, while possesing state sanctioned power to use fatal force.
Lt. Pedrini’s words suggesting violence toward dealing with undocumented immigrants violate the command philosophy of the APD and the town’s/APD’s own rules about immigrants (coming from Town Meeting’s Trust Act resolution in 2017). The words also speak ill of those with substance abuse disorders and mental illness, despite APD’s dedication to an opioid outreach program and their solicitation to people with mental illness to visit the APD for support. Additionally, according to the town-released statements from the town manager and chief of police, Lt. Pedrini’s statements were in direct conflict with APD’s stated mission.
Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine:
“I am deeply disturbed by the apparent disregard for human life and for the duty of a police officer shown by Richard Pedrini in the Massachusetts Police Association newsletter. These comments do not represent the mission and values of the Arlington Police Department or the Town of Arlington. The sentiment raised by these comments is disturbing. The Town is taking these comments very seriously, and we will thoroughly investigate this matter.”
Police Chief Fred Ryan:
“The columns written by Mr. Pedrini in the Sentinel newsletter directly contradict the values, morals and mission statement of the Arlington Police Department. Such remarks risk eroding the public trust that municipal police departments in Massachusetts have worked so hard to build in recent years. I disavow the remarks in the strongest possible terms, and this matter will be dealt with swiftly and certainly.”
From an employment law office: “Generally speaking, government employees—such as police officers….—do enjoy protected speech under the First Amendment. But that protection is limited: if speech demonstrates that a government employee wouldn’t be able to fairly do his job, that employee can still be legally fired for engaging in hate speech. So, if a police officer participated in a white nationalist rally, her department might conclude that she could not lawfully and neutrally engage with citizens of different races and therefore could not properly do her job as a police officer…Even government employees can probably be fired for hate speech if it interferes with their ability to do their jobs.”
But isn’t restorative justice the best route here? The town says you can’t fire an officer.
There is a precedent of officers being fired for racist rhetoric less extensive and premeditated than Lt. Pedrini’s in recent years in the Commonwealth and those terminations were upheld in arbitration. Restorative justice could have been used for Lt. Pedrini, but not in the way Arlington used it. Arlington seemingly used it as a means to an end: to reinstateLt. Pedrini, not as a process focused on healing the harmed community. As such, the process the town undertook violated critical precepts of Restorative Justice, as documented by national authorities on the subject. Even C4RJ, the group who administered RJ in this case, does not believe RJ is appropriate in every situation or for every kind of offense. Restorative Justice could have been applied to Lt. Pedrini without him being reinstated to his former role. In fact, a robust restorative justice that focuses on the people harmed does not guarantee someone’s job or position of power back.
The town was afraid Lt. Pedrini’s termination would fail in arbitration and that we’d get an angry officer on the force who feels able to write whatever he wants or act on it. Doesn’t that make sense?
Choosing “expediency” over justice might make for a good decision for people not threatened or at risk from Lt. Pedrini’s words, but not for those harmed or threatened by his words. If the town has terminated Lt. Pedrini and he sought arbitration and was granted reinstatement, town officials would have at least sent a clarion message to their employees that racism and hate speech that threatens vulnerable people is not tolerated in our town. That is their duty, and they are negligent when they do not act in the interest of that duty.
This was the only case in Massachusetts where RJ was used to resolve a personnel issue, and it sets dangerous precedents involving lack of transparency and misusing RJ to create a loophole to divert from terminations of officers who endanger the community while keeping their wrongdoings confidential. Many other municipalities and states facing similar circumstances took assertive and proactive steps to address instances where their own officials engaged in hate speech to defend themselves from legal liability and protect the public. We should have done so as well. If Pedrini does act on his words, the town could face a large lawsuit for reinstating him to the APD despite having knowledge of his biases and advocating of violent means on the police force. There is a long list of precedents in Massachusetts where harsher punishment was upheld for officers with similar or lesser infractions.
What about forgiveness?
One can forgive Lt. Pedrini but still accept that his actions and words have deemed him unfit for the role of an officer and of holding a gun and being entrusted to ensure the safety of Arlington residents–including the very people he threatened with his hate speech. Additionally, participation in restorative justice does not necessarily signify one can (or should) return to their former role, though town officials have treated that as though that is the case. As noted by the American Bar Association on the issue of restorative justice: “Neither reintegration nor forgiveness must mean reinstatement to a former role or position or that a victim must reconcile with an offender.”
Are we offering restorative justice equitably among offenders in Arlington?
The MA crime bill of 2018–of which RJ features a key role–was largely intended for use in diverting people of color and those of other marginalized identities from a judicial process that has unfairly discriminated against them. There are many situations in Arlington where RJ could appropriately be applied to achieve that end–such as to address the highly disproportionate rates of suspensions faced by African American and Hispanic students at Arlington’s middle school and high school or young men of color arrested by our APD for petty theft and other non-violent and/or drug-related crimes. For example, last September, three young African American men were arrested in the town for possession of marijuana and intent to distribute. APD Sergeant Jim Feeney referred to the men as “dangerous criminals” during a televised press conference, claiming that an unidentified witness reported seeing one of the suspects carrying a firearm. No firearm was found. The future for these three young men would have been very different had RJ been pursued rather than their names blasted out to the media.And yet, RJ is not being applied in these instances, thus reinforcing the very same racial disparities RJ was supposed to address and rectify.
Restorative justice emphasizes the need for accountability. Lt. Pedrini apologized. Doesn’t that mean he has expressed remorse and is willing to undertake what is necessary to take accountability for his actions?
In his published apology and a color-highlighted version of his apology outlining areas of concern, Lt. Pedrini fails to name the nature of his offense or exhibit much remorse. He does not acknowledge that his rhetoric was blatantly racially biased–and therefore, racist. In fact, the majority of his apology centers himself and reads like a CV. The apologies he does offer are almost entirely dedicated to the APD for tarnishing its reputation, rather than to the marginalized people he targeted with his hate speech and advocated violence towards. He does not apologize to people of color–in particular, undocumented immigrants and the Black activists he wished physical harm upon. He does not specifically apologize to those with substance abuse disorders and mental illness, whom he referred to in his columns as “maggots” and “animals.” He even goes out of his way to assure the reader that he has experience working with and policing “diverse” populations, as though that is enough to offer him insulation against charges of racism and discrimination. He hides behind generic and vague terms to characterize his offense, such as describing the words in his articles as “careless and crude” or “hurtful,” which belittles and even dismisses the threat he posed and the harm done. Restorative Justice emphasizes the need for accountability by the offenders in order to be valid. Based on his apology, it does not seem Pedrini has taken true accountability for his words and their implications.
The problem with this extends merely beyond his apology falling short, it indicates he does not even comprehend the harm he has committed or why what he did was wrong. If he cannot comprehend that and own up to it, it means that he is a danger to our community because he could act out on his biases in ways that are fatal or irreparable to vulnerable community members. The Town itself is also complicit, as it has failed to publicly denounce Pedrini’s words as racist or characterize it formally as hate speech.
But if we hadn’t pursued RJ, wouldn’t it have cost the town too much money in arbitration?
Clearly arbitration would have cost the town some money, but arguably the decision NOT to pursue arbitration puts the town at an even greater financial risk. Lt. Pedrini’s record demonstrates that he has already received disciplinary action from the town and the recent open letter from a civil rights attorney reported that one man died due in part to Pedrini’s negligence. Should Lt Pedrini continue to make bad choices in the line of duty, the town could be liable for large lawsuits. Additionally, by leaving Lt. Pedrini on the force the town opens itself to future civil rights suits by anyone arrested, questioned or ticketed by Lt Pedrini past or present who identifies with one of the groups that he targeted in his writings. According to the civil rights attorney “ Plaintiffs will argue the town has a policy of failing to properly discipline police officers, which results in police misconduct.”
WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS ABOUT C4RJ, THE THIRD-PARTY ORGANIZATION THAT CONDUCTED THE RESTORATIVE JUSTICE?
C4RJ is forced to maintain demographic data and to be transparent in their efforts, right?
No. After being founded in part by local police departments approximately a decade ago, they have not tracked demographic data, a basic data point for NGOs in criminal justice. They do not respond to press inquiries regarding demographics and unlike state and municipal agencies, their data is not publicly accessible. In many ways, the RJ for Pedrini is less transparent than had he undergone certain other means of correction for his behavior (such as arbitration).
Does C4RJ as an organization have a transparent and non-biased process for choosing what cases they take on?
Not according to their spokespeople. Their spokespeople talked about how they receive recommendations for whom to offer RJ from police departments (many of which are founding members and funders of their group, which calls into question their impartiality) and district attorneys. Both police departments and criminal prosecutors have clearly documented entrenched racial biases. In majority white municipalities, they have administered RJ to primarily white offenders, despite that even in such communities, people of color are over-represented in arrests, ticketings and fines. Furthermore, the staff and board C4RJ is almost entirely comprised of white people, as are the majority of their volunteers.
Did C4RJ ensure the targeted groups were invited to participate in RJ for Lt. Pedrini?
The RJ process that was facilitated by C4RJ did not even initially envision community statements. The Arlington Human Rights Commission (AHRC) was asked to solicit written statements from the public after this was pointed out to be a deficit. But written statements are usually inadequate in RJ according to several RJ scholars and sources we consulted. The intent of RJ is for the harmed and the offender to be in the same room. An offender reading written statements doesn’t have the effect of the harmed talking directly and without fear to the offender.
Now, what makes this case unusual is this: could you imagine an undocumented immigrant confronting Pedrini, who asked that the military be used to shoot undocumented immigrants? People of color with no power in the community who were threatened by Pedrini’s writings could not reasonably be expected to participate in a RJ session with an APD officer who could later on use their participation against them in retribution. Likewise, Pedrini targeted those with substance abuse disorders and mental illness, who are disproportionately vulnerable to police profiling and punitive measures.
HOW DID THE TOWN FAIL TO EFFECTIVELY REACH OUT TO HARMED INDIVIDUALS IN THE COMMUNITY?
Did the town conduct basic due diligence to reach harmed communities?
As noted by the National Council on Crime & Delinquency, “…simply including [impact letters from] the community does not make a program restorative.” They elaborate that a process that does not fully engage with the victims of an offense along with the person who committed it also is likely not restorative justice. In the case of Pedrini, the online comments that were solicited by the AHRC initially asked for identifying information from those who submitted. This would likely exclude undocumented immigrants and those with active substance abuse disorders–as well as other vulnerable populations such as people of color–for fear of repercussions and profiling. Even after the AHRC revised the process to allow people to submit comments anonymously, the form was only available online and only in the English language. This means it would not have been accessible to those who do not have internet available in their homes or places of work (namely, lower income folks) and those for whom English is their second language (or whom do not speak it at all)–two populations that intersect heavily with the demographics targeted by Pedrini’s hate speech.
Didn’t the Arlington Human Rights Committee approve of restorative justice for Lt. Pedrini?
The decision to apply “restorative justice” in the case of Pedrini was made by town officials and the APD. The AHRC had no role in this decision. The AHRC were only consulted afterwards to conduct outreach to find people to participate in the circle and to help facilitate the solicitation of online comments. The AHRC has asserted at meetings that many of the Commissioners did not personally agree with the use of RJ in this particular case. Finally, as a result of persistent and vocal requests from those in marginalized groups directly targeted by Pedrini’s rhetoric to do so, the AHRC formally withdrew from the process altogether.
Didn’t the Mystic Valley NAACP approve of restorative justice for Lt. Pedrini?
The Mystic Valley NAACP reportedly sent at least one representative to one of the RJ circles (according to town officials). However, prior to their participation in the circle, the NAACP MV chapter President said “We do not support the reinstatement of Lt. Pedrini. We stand by our previous statements that an individual who expresses that sort of rhetoric has no place serving the public.” Additionally, even after agreeing to participate in the circle, the chapter did not officially endorse re-hiring Pedrini, instead abstaining in their press release from supporting RJ as the appropriate remedy for the case of Lt Pedrini. They also stated that they were conflicted as to whether they support an outcome where Pedrini is reinstated. Furthermore, prior to participating in the Circle, the President of the Mystic Valley chapter of the NAACP told one reporter on the record that “…we have not had any voice or input into coming up with the decision to consider RJ as an option [for Pedrini].”
It should also be noted, the town did not initially consult Black Lives Matter before making this decision, even though they were specifically singled out in Lt. Pedrini’s articles. Later on, BLM reportedly declined to participate in this process.
WHAT SORT OF IMPACT DOES THIS HAVE OUTSIDE OF ARLINGTON?
I understand we are allowing people from around the state to sign the petition. Why aren’t we limiting to Arlington residents?
Lt. Pedrini’s writings were published in a statewide publication. Arlington’s decision to use restorative justice for a police officer is precedent-setting and will have implications for residents of other towns should their police departments decide to follow suit. Additionally, whereas Arlington’s demographic is primarily white, Lt. Pedrini’s words are out there influencing officers in other communities, many with higher percentages of targeted populations, where other police officers will be empowered to “meet violence with violence.” Lt. Pedrini’s words have an effect on all these communities and those residents should be able to voice their concern via the petition. That said, the “town of residence” for all signers of the petition is being collected and the petition will be submitted to the town with Arlington residents delineated from non-residents. As of the end of July, 65% of the over 500 signatures are Arlington residents.
How does this relate to gun violence and other hate crimes?
Given recent events in Dayton and El Paso, it has become increasingly clear that authority figures such as Lt. Pedrini, empower white supremacists by using their words to promote violence against immigrants and other targeted groups. These actions pose a real and present danger to Arlington’s public safety and security. We as a community want to do everything possible to protect Arlington from messages that incite hate and violence. Time and time again these messages are so often followed by incidents of violence and tragedy that were inspired by the messages. In order to best protect our town from joining the growing list of communities that have suffered from domestic terrorism incidents, we must send a clear message that Lt. Pedrini’s calls for violence will not be tolerated in our community.
HOW HAS THE TOWN RESPONDED?
What is this CBI report I keep hearing about?
In June 2019, the Town contracted with the Consensus Building Institute (https://www.cbi.org), an organization they had worked with on other matters, to speak with concerned residents about the Pedrini situation. Stacie Smith of CBI set up interviews with 22 residents in groups of 3-4, for the purpose of listening to their concerns and recording their recommendations for next steps. Her report on these sessions is due to be released on September 17, 2019. Among the concerns expressed by participants from this group were that the large majority of the 22 residents interviewed were not representative of the groups Pedrini targeted, that CBI is an organization that already has an established relationship with the town and does not have competence in racial justice work and that the facilitator, Stacie Smith is herself, a town meeting member, which poses a conflict of interest.
What is the concern over the open town letter and the Select Board endorsement of the Town Manager’s role in this?
Some residents requested that the Select Board refrain from endorsing the Town Manager’s letter until the CBI report was available for review. Given that the report will raise numerous concerns about the process and will contain recommendations for how the town can move forward, endorsement of this letter seemed premature. The Select Board did not endorse the letter but instead endorsed alternate text provided by Selectperson Joe Curro that publicly reaffirms the Town Manager’s authority in this matter as well as their confidence in his handling of the case, in spite of the testimony by numerous citizens expressing serious concerns at the same 9/9/19 Select Board meeting. In fact 18 residents expressed well-documented concerns as to the flaws with how the situation has been dealt with so far, this vote left residents feeling dismissed and not heard. This feeling has been compounded by the Select Board’s failure to address any of the concerns either verbally or in the endorsed statement that evening. In fact the video reveals Select Board Chair, Diane Mahon interrupting and challenging residents during their testimony as well as angrily accusing the town leadership’s critics of hurting the “morale” of the APD and sullying the good name and reputation of our fair community–as if this whole controversy were their fault, and the APD and the town were blameless.
Are the petition organizers being divisive?
The organizers of the petition drive have serious questions and concerns about the Town’s response to Lt. Pedrini’s articles. They question why the Town did not fire Lt. Pedrini; why the Restorative Justice (RJ) process was designed with minimal input from those who were threatened and denigrated in the articles; on what basis Lt. Pedrini was deemed to have completed the RJ process successfully; and other aspects of this situation. In a democracy, it is the right and even the duty of concerned citizens to question the actions of governmental authorities at all levels. Those who do not share these concerns might label the organizers as divisive, but the fact is that the organizers are expressing deep caring for members of the community who feel threatened by Lt. Pedrini’s public expressions of hatred and they are striving to resolve the situation in the best interests of all town residents.
Additionally, rather than proactively taking steps to publicly address the concerns that have arisen from the media and public records, town leadership remains conspicuously silent when those that were harmed become vocal or upset and consequently others in the town attack those individuals words and accuse them of enabling further tension. For example, the town has failed to message out that Pedrini’s words were racist. Many residents have become angry when other residents assert Lt. Pedrini’s words were racist. When this happens, harmed individuals are then given no other choice but to either become silent and continue to be harmed or to continue to speak out and educate and be called divisive. The town leadership’s silence does nothing to aid residents in making them feel safe, further breaks trust and in itself perpetuates the divisive situation they are enabling and creating.
Why do I hear there is a controversy over when Pedrini got his gun back? Does he have a gun now?
The Acting Chief of Police, Julie Flaherty, told the public in June 2019 that Lt. Pedrini’s service weapon was returned to him on April 15th. The controversy arose because at a meeting of the Diversity Task Group on May 13th, someone in attendance asked Flaherty if Lt. Pedrini’s gun had been returned to him, and Flaherty responded that he did not yet have his gun. Flaherty went on to state that he needed to complete a few more steps in the restorative justice process, which she estimated would take about a month, and that his gun would be returned to him when he had completed those steps. This clear discrepancy is a cause for concern and raises a serious question about why Acting Chief Flaherty felt the need to lie to the group.
I heard a lawyer sent the Town an open letter, what is that about?
In August 2019 a civil rights lawyer, Howard Friedman, penned an open letter to the Town Manager expressing concern that among other things, Lt Pedrini’s released record does not make note of a suspension he received as a result of the death of a person in custody due in part to Lt. Pedrini’s negligence.
I heard the TM and Acting Chief of police say Pedrini has a clean record. Does he?
Records released through a Freedom of Information request (FOIA), revealed that Lt. Pedrini had multiple incidents on his record, two of them with lawsuits attached. One incident involved a town resident who claimed he behaved in a threatening manner towards her and he has been subject to multiple restraining orders and responsible for at least one Town lawsuit. His involvement in a negligence case outlined in an open letter to the Town Manager from a civil rights attorney also brings Pedrini’s “record” into question. None of these incidents were brought forth to the public or to the community participants in his restorative justice circle when decisions were being made on how to respond to his Sentinel articles. In fact at the at a meeting of the Diversity Task Group on May 13th, Acting Chief Julie Flaherty asserted that Lt. Pedrini had a “clean record.”
WHAT PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS ARE AVAILABLE REGARDING THE LT. R. PEDRINI CASE?
The following public records were obtained as a result of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.