Stories from real people in the community
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“We strongly condemn these disturbing comments that contradict collaborative policing efforts throughout the commonwealth’s communities, support the town of Arlington’s investigation, and believe that Lt. Pedrini should not hold a leadership role at the Association (Massachusetts Police Association).”
— Governor Charlie Baker
“Imagine a school teacher expressing her desires to hit young children. Actually, she publishes her feelings in an educational magazine. “Rude kids should be hit! Hit ‘em when they step out of line,” she says. After parents hear of this, the principal places the teacher on paid leave. The principal meets with the school superintendent and concerned parents. After a time, the superintendent explains the teacher will not be fired because the teachers union might not approve. The teacher is reprimanded, writes a promise that she’ll never act on her desires, takes some perfunctory sensitivity training and several “I’m-sorry-I-scared-you-guys” meetings with the other teachers and only one with a small group of students and parents. The principal in charge doesn’t believe that the teacher would ever hit children because “I’ve known her since I was a kid.”
The teacher is labelled ‘reformed’ by the superintendent and principal; she is placed back in school as a lunch room supervisor – with full pay and benefits. Additional information surfaces. A previous principal, the teacher’s former boss, emailed the superintendent saying, “I wouldn’t trust her with my kids, any kids, no matter what she says.”
The parents are upset. Their kids are scared to go to school. The community is very concerned about the “hit ‘em” teacher because the powers-that-be are saying that everything is okay when it is so clearly not. So, the parents go to a school board meeting when the superintendent is going to get an award for “doing a good job”. At the meeting, the citizens are told that they can’t speak about the teacher. “We’re here to praise our superintendent,” the board tells the people. “We’ve invested our reputations and egos into our superintendent, we can’t not support him,” is the tacit message. “We just want this problem to go away,” says the school board chair.
Undaunted, the parents address the board about the “hit ‘em” teacher. It’s contentious. Evidence is presented that the teacher frequents corporal punishment social media groups since being ‘reformed’. “It’s not our job to hear it,” the board says. “Go talk to our excellent superintendent about it.” Parents are yelling. People are crying. Again and again, the public tries to impress upon the board that a teacher advocating hitting children is not okay, that such a situation is dangerous. The board’s silence is deafening.
And the school superintendent gets his award.
The above words are complete fiction. The story is meant to get attention and spark deep reflection. I apologize to those who may feel that the words are unfair. Nonetheless, with a few substitutions, we could be talking about racism, Lt. Pedrini, our Police Department, the Town Manager, and the Select Board.
Lt. Richard Pedrini is a person like any of us. I am sure he loves his family, country, colleagues, and neighbors. And they love him. Further, I am sure that Lt. Pedrini has done great good for our world. How could he not in his chosen profession? However, he has expressed racist, xenophobic, sexist, bigoted, views. Given his convictions, he cannot provide the public safety that we require. It is inappropriate for Lt. Pedrini to be a police officer in Arlington, Massachusetts.
I must add one more thing. I am a privileged white male in a peaceful town, the last person who might feel threatened. I am afraid of being targeted by upset police officers; I am frightened that members of our community may send me hate mail or worse. However, I cannot imagine how a person of color, a woman, or any other non-white, non-christian, non-heterosexual person might feel at this time. I would be ashamed of myself if I did not speak out when there are those so terrified that they cannot. ”
— Forrest Snyder, Arlington Resident
“My family has been fortunate to have welcomed a young man from El Salvador into our family. His skin is brown, his English is broken but he has the most amazing heart and unbreakable spirit I have ever seen in my life. Last Spring, after work in Davis Square, he found a wallet while he was waiting for the bus. He wasn’t sure what to do with it. He wanted to turn it into the police but that was too scary, too risky for him, so he brought it home. After I heard what happened and the moral confusion he felt about not being able to bring it directly to the police, I told him that he would be safe entering a police station in Somerville or talking to a police officer. I explained that Somerville was a sanctuary town and had a deep commitment to their immigrant population. I told him that he wouldn’t be arrested, detained or mistreated if he walked into a police station in Somerville to return a found wallet.. He understood, and then asked about Arlington. He asked if he was safe in Arlington. He wondered if he would be safe entering a police station in Arlington to return a found wallet. I paused, not sure how to answer that anymore. Before Lt. Pedrini’s racist comments, before the town’s mistaken decision to put him through a toothless restorative justice plan with no real consequences, before the Select Board was completely and inexcusably silent while the community questioned what was happening. Before I would have said “yes”. But that was before. I said “no, not anymore.”
— Elizabeth Dray, Director Arlington-Teosinte Sister City Project, Arlington Resident
“Having learned from our recent experience, though, I could not advocate for restorative justice for a personnel matter of this nature in the future. My observation is that restorative justice in a case like this somewhat weaken the privacy protections of traditional personnel proceedings while simultaneously creating unrealistic expectations about just how public the process can be… I have struggled with my emotions, and I keep returning to the same place. I am angry. I don’t anger easily, but I am angry that a high-ranking officer of the Arlington Police Department saw fit to so sully the uniform of the APD by sounding racist dog whistles, making intemperate calls to violence, and flouting the very policies and practices that this board, Town Meeting, other town leadership and residents, and his very own colleagues on the Arlington Police Department have done so much to promote.”
— Joe Curro, Arlington Select Board Member, 9/10/19 Select Board meeting
“I’m a specialist in transitional justice. I’ve conducted research in, taught, and published about Truth and Reconciliation Commissions–the model for restorative justice–for nearly 20 years. First, despite amazingly feelgood attitudes toward restorative justice (which are basically the product of a good PR job), these processes have not been the successes that they are touted to be. They often produce exactly the same kind of frustration and anger as they do here in Arlington, and are heavily criticized by many in the field as a poor substitute for more robust processes of justice and accountability. Second, the specific restorative justice process used in Arlington seems to be especially flawed. If it doesn’t include everyone impacted who wants to be involved, it’s not restorative justice. If the process is not public and transparent, it’s not restorative justice. Confidentiality (apparently a product of the involvement of the Select Board?) has no place except to protect members of vulnerable populations such as minors when they testify. Finally, restorative justice is supposed to restore voice to those who have been silenced. So I was with Joe Curro’s comments until he advocated silencing in the form of “turning down the volume.” People turn up the volume when they feel they’re not being heard. The solution is to hear them.” Rosalind Shaw, Arlington resident
“I have been emphasizing to the Town Manager and Select Board that everything I have seen and heard has addressed the immigrant and black/Latino communities and occasionally people in recovery from substance abuse, as the injured parties in this case. And first I take huge issue with any claim that those parties have been in any real way included in any process to handle this. But second people with trauma histories, histories of domestic violence, and any experience of mental illness are also very much injured parties here and I have over and over explained why and how and how that is very personally impacting not just me but a number of people I know, and that the lack of even acknowledgement of that is so completely unacceptable when I have been clearly saying that to everyone from moment one.
I also shared with them situations that occur which are relevant, both my encounters with the police and with other people. Recently a couple of guys pulled up in front of my building on Mass Ave in a white moving van with no markings and got out and left it running…the fumes were bothering me so when one of them came back I said something about not leaving it running more than 5 min or it was against the law, and he laughed and said, no police here to care, and that made me angry and I said I care and I will call the police. He and his partner were Latino and I would put money on their being from Central America, and he said, no cops, cops “bang,bang” pretending to shoot a gun and to have been shot in the chest. I said the cops here aren’t going to shoot anyone, relax, but I won’t call them but please can you turn off the truck? And his response was word is cops in Arlington are definitely to be avoided because they could shoot. ..That is not the first time this summer someone has said something like that to me. ” Kim Kay Holt, Arlington resident