April 13th Arrest at Massachusetts Avenue and Waterhouse


4/14/2018

Preliminary Background Information Provided:
Issued Saturday, April 14, 2018

Last night at approximately 9:09 p.m., officers responded to the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Waterhouse for a disturbance. Emergency Communications stated they had received a call from a woman who stated a male had thrown his clothes in her face. Approximately six other calls were received for a male who was reportedly completely naked.


Officers located and verbally engaged the naked male standing on a traffic island in the middle of Massachusetts Avenue. It was learned from his acquaintances that he previously took narcotics, which could have a hallucinogenic effect when ingested. Numerous attempts made by officers to calm the male down were met with opposition and his hostility escalated while officers attempted to speak with him.  After he was observed clinching both of his fists and started taking steps towards officers attempting to engage with the male, officers made the tactical decision to grab his legs and bring him to the ground, however, the male resisted arrest once on the ground. Three officers from the Cambridge Police and another officer from the Transit Police were required to gain compliance from the male and place him in handcuffs to avoid further injury to himself, the responding officers or any on-lookers.

The male was subsequently transported to a local hospital for an evaluation. While in transport, he proceeded to spit a mixture of blood and saliva at an EMT. 

As a result of this incident, Selorm Ohene, 21, Cambridge, is being charged with Indecent Exposure, Disorderly Conduct, Assault, Resisting Arrest, and Assault and Battery on an Ambulance Personnel. Two Cambridge Police Officers were also treated at a local hospital to receive treatment for minor injuries and unprotected exposure to bodily fluids.

Because use of force was required in order to gain compliance from Ohene to avoid further injury to himself, the responding officers or any on-lookers, an internal review will be conducted by the department’s leadership and Professional Standards Unit, per policy of the department.

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Joint Statement Issued by City Manager and Police Commissioner & Incident Report:
Issued Saturday, April 14, 2018

I know that the Cambridge Police Department takes great pride in serving and protecting the City of Cambridge. They are committed to ensuring legitimacy and procedural justice in their policing efforts. The department conducts training to equip officers to handle all incidents in a professional manner to ensure the safety of the public and our officers at all times.

As you know, there was an arrest last night that involved use of force by our officers. I strongly believe that policing in Cambridge is not about arrests, but about helping people and working to get them the assistance they need. However, there are times when an arrest is necessary.

Police Commissioner Bard has been very responsive to my questions about this incident, and I await the outcome of the internal review and analysis of this incident by the Professional Standards Unit. I have great faith in Commissioner Bard and the men and women of Cambridge Police Department and I am confident that they will use this as an opportunity to reflect on lessons that can be learned from this incident.

I have been in close communication with Commissioner Bard all day, and the Mayor, and I wanted to share with you the following information from the Commissioner:

As a police department, our officers are rightfully required to uphold the high standards expected from the community, city leadership and police leadership. Each incident officers are involved with can have varying degrees of challenges and dynamics, which is why our officers undergo extensive and some of the most progressive training in country, particularly in the areas of Trauma-Informed Training, Crisis Intervention Training, Mental Health Training, and de-escalation techniques. 

With regards to last night’s incident, I have received preliminary questions and concerns from select members of the community. As we previously noted, use of force was required in order to effectuate the male’s arrest. The primary concern I’ve addressed this morning focuses on punches (five in total) issued by one of the involved officers after the suspect was on the ground. In a rapidly-evolving situation, as this was, the officers primary objective is to neutralize an incident to ensure the safety of the involved party(ies), officers and members of the public. Use of force was utilized to gain compliance from the involved party, who was displaying erratic behavior due to reports of his ingestion of drugs earlier in the evening. Once on the ground, officers were unable to gain compliance because the male contorted his body in a way that pinned his arms under his body and officers were unable to handcuff him. An ongoing struggle ensued. To prevent the altercation from extending and leading to further injuries, particularly since the location of the engagement was next to a busy street with oncoming traffic, the officers utilized their discretion and struck the individual in the mid-section to gain his compliance and place him in handcuffs.

Each incident our officers are involved in presents an opportunity for evaluation and determination on what alternatives can be done in the future for the most optimal outcome. When individuals are in a time of crisis — whether it’s due to drug use, mental illness or other variables — this can create great complexities in an officers response. We’ll continue to review and refine our protocols, policies and trainings as appropriate to ensure we are most effectively, sensitively and safely handling incidents to uphold the highest degree of professionalism and standard of service our community expects from its police department.

Also, linked is a redacted copy of the incident report.

Sincerely,

Louis A. DePasquale
City Manager

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Video footage obtained from a witness: 
Made available Sunday, April 15, 2018

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Press Conference: 
Held Monday, April 16, 2018


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Joint Statement on Friday, May 25, 2018

Cambridge City Manager Louis DePasquale and Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville Bard, Jr. today announced that the City of Cambridge has hired Roderick L. Ireland, former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, to conduct an independent review of the Police Department’s internal review associated with the April 13th arrest of a 21-year-old Harvard student. Chief Justice Ireland will have access to the evidence related to the arrest, including police reports, witness statements and video, as well as the personnel, policies and trainings related to the arrest, and will then conduct an independent review of the findings determined by the Cambridge Police Department’s Professional Standards Unit. 

Ireland, now a Distinguished Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, where he has taught for 40 years, served as a judge for 37 years, sitting in the Boston Juvenile Court, the Massachusetts Appeals Court, and the Supreme Judicial Court.  He was the first African-American Justice to be appointed to the Supreme Judicial Court in its then 305-year history, and its first African American Chief Justice.

A thorough internal review into the incident remains active and ongoing by the Cambridge Police Department Professional Standards Unit.  Once that internal review is completed, Chief Justice Ireland will review the findings and issue his report.  Chief Justice Ireland’s report will then be made available to the general public.  A timetable for its completion has not yet been determined, but will be communicated once the results are nearly finalized. No charges have been filed against the student.

“I have complete confidence in Commissioner Bard and the Cambridge Police Department, and I want to thank Chief Justice Ireland for his willingness to work with the City of Cambridge. His experience and credibility will add great value to the process,” said City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. 

“Our intention at the outset of this incident was to ensure a thorough, complete, fair and transparent internal review process,” said Commissioner Bard. “Having someone with a proven track record like Chief Justice Ireland reinforces those intentions and our commitment to a transparent process. We are thankful for his willingness to conduct an independent review.”






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