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Cambridge Police Department

Highly militarized and deeply integrated with other local, state, and federal policing agencies, the Cambridge Police Department has a long and documented history of illegal search and seizures, racial profiling, and the use of 'confidential informants' to set up drug arrests.

Militarization and Integration with Other Policing Agencies

The Cambridge Police Department has its own "Tactical Operations" division, which includes a Special Response Team (SRT) (CPD's version of a SWAT team) and a Tactical Patrol Force (TPF), responsible for "riots, protests, and any other situation where citizen unrest may result." Cambridge police have participated in militarized "Urban Shield" trainings organized by the US Department of Homeland Security. (For more about Urban Shield, see entry on Boston Police.) The City of Cambridge is one of nine municipalities which belong to Metropolitan Boston Homeland Security Region. Through MBHSR, police forces in these nine municipalities participate in coordinated intelligence gathering and sharing under the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC). The Cambridge Police Department is also a member of the Greater Boston Police Council, an organization set up in the 1970s explicitly to connect police departments in the greater Boston urban core to repress the movement against the Vietnam War, and which continues to militarize police departments. Although the Cambridge Police Department is not a member of NEMLEC, another "law enforcement council" set up for the same purpose, CPD has been known to participate in NEMLEC's joint activities.

History of Racism and Violence

Court cases in Massachusetts clearly document the Cambridge Police Department's history of engaging in illegal search and seizure, racial profiling, and the use of 'confidential informants' to set up drug arrests. (See for example: Commonwealth v. Valdez, 2000 Mass. Super. ; Commonwealth v. Meneus, 476 Mass. 231 ; Commonwealth v. Maurice, 2013 Mass. Super.)

In 2002, Cambridge Police stopped Palestinian activist Jaoudat Abouazza and searched his car--ostensibly because of an elapsed vehicle registration--before detaining him after finding flyers announcing a protest for an upcoming demonstration against a Day of Israel Celebration. Abouazza was later taken into custody by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS, later replaced by ICE) and placed in the Bristol County Detention Center, under the infamous Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson. In INS detention, Abouazza was beaten, tortured, and subjected to repeated interrogations by federal officials who showed him flyers and pictures of political associates and asked questions about them (see here for more about this and other repression cases connected with the New England Committee to Defend Palestine). According to an article published in the Harvard Crimson, Abouazza's arrest was cited by Harvard University Police as a reason for extraordinary security measures imposed on the Harvard University commencement in June of 2002, including the installation of metal detectors and the presence of "members of federal agencies and the National Guard." ("Arrest Caused Commencement Lock Down," by Jenifer L. Steinhardt, the Crimson, November 12, 2002)

In 2018, a video was publicized showing Cambridge Police tackling and punching a Black Harvard student after a call expressing concern about the student had been made to Harvard University Health Services. In the words of an open letter published by the Harvard Black Law Students Association, "He was surrounded by at least four Cambridge Police Department (CPD) officers who, without provocation, lunged at him, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. While on the ground, at least one officer repeatedly punched the student in his torso as he screamed for help." Cambridge's Police Commissioner and City Manager issued a joint statement defending this act of police violence, including CPD's repeated punching of the student as he lay on the ground.

Participation in "Counterterrorism" Trainings in Israel

Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas and Cambridge Police Lt. Stephen Ahearn are also known to have participated in a 2008 “counterterrorism seminar” in Israel, as part of an all-expenses-paid delegation of US law enforcement to Israel sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). (This trip became the subject of a Cambridge City Council hearing in 2011.) Cambridge Police Deputy Superintendent Paul Ames participated in the ADL "Northeast Public Safety Executive Terrorism Training in Israel" in 2010. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sponsors these and other similar expenses-paid delegations to Israel for high-ranking New England police, ICE, FBI, and other security officials, where these officials meet with Israeli military, police, and intelligence agencies, with whom they train and exchange tactics including surveillance, racial profiling, crowd control, and the containment of protests.

(For more information on policing in Massachusetts, see entry on Boston Police.)

125 6th St, Cambridge, MA 02142

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