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See the Full Findings of a New Report on Worcester PD

By Tom Marino | March 19, 2024
Last Updated: April 26, 2024

WORCESTER – An independent report by a non-profit research and analysis organization, CNA, which was hired to review the department, found that the Worcester Police Department (WPD) has a, “dearth of diversity” and that significant differences exist between how members of the department and members of the public view the department.  It also found a slim majority of department personell do not feel they are treated fairly by its leadership, a significant majority do not believe there is institutional racism in the department, and a majority believe the department’s disciplinary action process benefits individuals favored by city officials or command staff.

The conclusion of the report has 34 findings, each accompanied by a reccomendation. The report itself is 72 pages, with three apendix sections that and references that extend it to 115 pages.

The report, “Racial Equity Audit of the Worcester Police Department,” examines aspects such as the department’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies, recruitment, promotion policies, community engagement, use of force, and professional standards within the WPD.

The report, was initiated by executive order by then-City Manager Ed Augustus in Feb. 2021. The report was released by the City of Worcester on Friday, March 15, along with the City Council agenda. The report is dated January 2024. A representative of City Manager Eric Batista’s office says the report was being reviewed since it was received.

The report will be presented to city council during its meeting on Tuesday, March 19, inside the Esther Howland (South) Chamber at Worcester City Hall,  starting at 6:30 PM. The meeting is available on Zoom or a local public access channel. The report is item 8.39 B on the meeting agenda.

The report recommendations on creating a civilian review board, removing the WPD from the civil serice system, and creating a citizen advisory council are covered here.

Each of the findings and reccomendations have written descriptions, which are not included below. The full report, including the Batista’s letter introducing the report to city council, can be found, and viewable online, here.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

  • Finding 1: The WPD currently does not have a published strategy to guide its DEi efforts.
    • Recommendation 1.1: The WPD, in collaboration with the City of Worcester and community members, should develop a robust and specific DEi plan.
  • Finding 2: The WPD has created a Policy Review Committee to integrate officer feedback, but there remains opportunity to better integrate feedback from officers in the field.
    • Recommendation 2.1: The WPD should consider adopting new feedback systems that enable more officers to contribute their insights regarding department policies, procedures, and practices related to DEI.
  • Finding 3: The WPD’s ongoing engagement with Worcester’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) offers opportunities to better address DEi issues.
    • Recommendation 3.1: The WPD leadership should prioritize enhancing collaboration and communication with the HRC.
  • Finding 4: Community members expressed concerns that the WPD has not sufficiently acknowledged how institutional policing practices that have impacted communities of color may be negatively affecting community trust in law enforcement.
    • Recommendation 4.1: The WPD should publicly recognize the findings of this audit’s data analysis that identify disparities, and it should take steps to acknowledge past incidents involving communities of color.

Recruitment, Hiring, and Promotions

  • Finding 5: The WPD’s workforce has limited diversity and does not have a robust or specific plan to hire for diversity within the department.
    • Recommendation 5.1: The WPD should amend its recruitment plan to strategically increase diversity.
  • Finding 6: The WPD’s current recruitment policy does not reflect the department’s intention to create a diverse workforce.
    • Recommendation 6.1: The WPD should amend its recruitment policy to articulate its commitment to actively diversifying its workforce through targeted outreach efforts.
  • Finding 7: The City’s promotion process has historically advanced individuals at WPD who do not reflect diversity.
    • Recommendation 7.1: The City, in consultation with WPD’s stakeholders, should amend its promotion process to identify diverse leaders, offer more mentorship opportunities, and explore candidates from other departments.
  • Finding 8: Both WPD staff and community members raised concerns that the WPD’s current promotion process may be lacking.
    • Recommendation 8.1: The City, in consultation with WPD stakeholders, should consider removal from the Massachusetts civil service system, enabling the department to tailor its hiring and promotion policies more effectively in order to advance equity and diversity.
    • Recommendation 8.2: The City, in consultation with WPD stakeholders ,should consider revising promotions criteria to give additional weight to experience and other valued characteristics.

Policies and Procedures

  • Finding 9: The audit team was unable to complete several analyses on racial disparities for use of force, traffic stops, and pedestrian stops or field contacts because of a lack of adequate data containing racial demographics.
    • Recommendation 9.1: The WPD should enhance its ability to gather data that identifies racial or ethnic disparities in such areas as use of force, traffic stops, pedestrian stops, and field contacts.
  • Finding 10: Individuals from Black and Hispanic communities face a higher rate of arrests compared to their White counterparts.
    • Recommendation 10.1: Create a robust data collection system to inform the development ofa plan aimed at addressing disparities in arrests within Black and Hispanic communities.
  • Finding 11: The WP D’s data highlight a disproportionate level of arrests among youth of color.
    • Recommendation 11.1: The department should collaborate with local stakeholders to establish new arrest-diversion strategies for youth.
    • Recommendation 11.2: The WPD should amend its policy to reflect the adoption of effective diversion strategies and alternatives to arrest.
  • Finding 12: The WPD’s policy on juvenile arrests is 19 years old and lacks important language regarding the protection ofjuvenile privacy.
    • Recommendation 12.1: The WPD should review this policy and discuss potential revisions that would address privacy concerns associated with juvenile arrests.
  • Finding 13: The WPD could enhance inclusivity by establishing digital platforms through which the community could engage in policy review and offer feedback.
    • Recommendation 13 .1: The WPD should consider expanding its efforts to share policies with the public by posting draft policies on its website for public comment.
  • Finding 14: There are varying opinions among WPD officers regarding the value of crisis intervention team 40-hour training; however, expanding the program to include all officers has the potential to enhance community interactions.
    • Recommendation 14.1: The WPD should create a plan expand CIT training to all of its officers.
    • Recommendation 14.2: The WPD should integrate community feedback into the expansion of its crisis intervention training curriculum.
  • Finding 15: WPD has opportunities to improve delivery of trainings that enable officers to address community needs appropriately.
    • Recommendation 15.1: The WPD should collaborate with staff to enhance and expand scenario-based exercises.
    • Recommendation 15.2: The WPD should involve a diverse range of community members in the scenario-based training sessions.
  • Finding 16: Opportunities exist for the WPD to continue to improve the department’s field training officer (FTO) program.
    • Recommendation 16.1: The WPD should continue to revamp its field-training program using nationally recognized self-evaluation approaches and formalize the program in WPD policy.
  • Finding 17: WPD officers have concerns about the officer wellness program and feel that it needs improvement to align with best practice.
    • Recommendation 17.1: The WPD should conduct a comprehensive review of its officer wellness support and develop a plan to expand the availability of support services for its rank and file.

Community-oriented policing engagement and practices

  • Finding 18: The WPD does not have a clear plan to guide its community policing strategy.
    • Recommendation 18.1: The NRT, in collaboration with otherWPD members, should develop a formal plan for improving community engagement for the department.
  • Finding 19: Although the WPD is actively engaged in numerous youth-engagement efforts and partnerships, it lacks a formal plan to guide those engagements.3
    • Recommendation 19.1: To strengthen its engagement with at-risk youth, the WPD should develop a plan to strategically expand initiatives and partnerships that are aimed at achieving this goal.
  • Finding 20: The roles of the diversity and LGBTQ officers could be expanded.
    • Recommendation 20.1: The WPD should elevate the roles of diversity and LGBTQ officers to develop a plan to lead comprehensive diversity and inclusion initiatives across the department.
  • Finding 21: The role of community engagement could be expanded to all sworn WPD officers.
    • Recommendation 21.1: The WPD should expand the involvement in community engagement activities and events to all officers.
  • Finding 2 2: The WPD has an active social media presence and has the opportunity to leverage its platform to promote their diversity efforts in its community engagements..
    • Recommendation 22.1: The WPD should build upon its existing social media presence while also incorporating content that highlights its commitment to creating an inclusive department and community.
  • Finding 23: Worcester community members have concerns about some WPD members’ social media use, and the WPD’s social media policy provides insufficient guidance for officers.
    • Recommendation 23.1: The WPD should consider amending its social media policy and providing additional training, within the confines outlined in the constitution, to offer guidance for department review of off-duty use of social media.
  • Finding 24: Community members continue to express concerns about the WPD’s attitudes about, and treatment of, citizens during daily interactions..
    • Recommendation 24.1: The WPD should expand its fair and impartial and community oriented policing training curriculum for all officers in collaboration with the community.
    • Recommendation 24.2: The WPD should explore innovative approaches to improving supervision activities and training programs that effectively identify inappropriate behaviors and areas for enhancement.
  • Finding 25: There are no active formal mechanisms to regularly gather community input on WPD policing strategies, priorities, operations, and current practices.
    • Recommendation 25.1: The City and the WPD should establish a CAC at the commander level to address specific local issues in the community.
    • Recommendation 25.2: The WPD should ensure that the selection process is transparent and completed by an outside party.
  • Findings 26: Despite WPD’s efforts to conduct outreach and engagement, the community members continue to express WPD is not meeting expectations in garnering community input regarding the development and implementation of the body-worn camera program.
    • Recommendation 26.1: The WPD should continue efforts toward conducting a thorough community review of its BWC policy and program that includes community stakeholders. It should also establish a structured framework for conducting mandatory annual assessments of the BWC program.
  • Finding 27: The WPD has the opportunity to restructure their community meetings to be more collaborative.
    • Recommendation 27.1: The WPD should create new opportunities to involve communities collaboratively through its community meetings.
  • Finding 28: The WPD has a challenge overcoming language barriers with local immigrant groups.
    • recommendation 28.1: The WPD should commit to improving language translation services to enhance communication with all immigrant groups residing in Worcester.
    • Recommendation 28.2: The WPD should collaborate with the City’s Diversity and Inclusion office to review and revise the existing cultural sensitivity training to reflect current issues

Use of Force

  • Finding 29: The WPD collects relatively little information about use-of-force incidents and does not collect data on the race of involved community members. This hinders useful analysis of these data and does not allow for developing an understanding of any disparities in use-of-force incidents.
    • Recommendation 29.1: The WPD should update its use-of-force database to add additional fields, capturing demographic data about the involved community member (age, sex, and race), a unique identifier (e.g., name) for each involved community member, and additional details about the incident (as described above).
  • Finding 30: The WPD does not have a procedure to systematically assess use-of-force incidents, examine any racial or geographical disparities in these incidents, and develop strategies to rectify these disparities.
    • Recommendation 30.1: The WPD should enhance its data-reporting processes to identify potential disparities and follow up with any necessary policy or training needs.
  • Finding 31: The WPD publishes its use-of-force data on the City of Worcester’s website; however, it does not disclose any information regarding racial or ethnic demographics.
    • Recommendation 31.1: The WPD should report racial demographic information online.

Complaints and Professional Strandards

  • Finding 32: Both WPD staff and community stakeholders perceived bias and favoritism in how complaints and disciplinary actions are handled.
    • Recommendation 32.1: The WPD should engage in formal conversations with the City of Worcester to discuss the establishment of a civilian oversight body.
  • Finding 33: The WPD’s current BOPS database does not collect fields that would allow for more detailed analyses of the complaint process.
    • Recommendation 33.1: The BOPS should expand on the data that it collects related to racial disparities, enabling it to conduct more extensive analyses.
  • Finding 34: The WPD’s complaint process does not require community members to be involved in the review ofBWC footage.
    • Recommendation 34.1: To enhance transparency, the WPD should incorporate the review of BWC footage into its formal policy and process for reviewing and resolving complaints.

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