April 13th Arrest at Massachusetts Avenue and Waterhouse


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.


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.


Louis A. DePasquale
City Manager


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


Press Conference: 
Held Monday, April 16, 2018


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.”


Joint Statement on Friday, May 17, 2019

Cambridge City Manager Louis DePasquale and Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville Bard, Jr. today announced that the City of Cambridge has published the results of an independent review conducted by Roderick L. Ireland, retired Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, on the April 13, 2018 arrest of a 21-year-old Harvard student

The 18-page report includes a summary of Chief Justice Ireland’s assessment, his method of evaluation, an overview of the materials reviewed, various articles and studies, legal standards, facts as reported by the responding Officers, the review, and recommendations. Chief Justice Ireland’s review concluded, “I carefully considered all of the evidence and circumstances and conclude that the officers of the Cambridge Police Department acted appropriately and I found no evidence that they used excessive force.” 

This conclusion aligned with the Cambridge Police Department’s Professional Standards Unit’s incident review, which concluded that the actions taken by the Officers “were reasonable and justified to de-escalate an unsafe situation that evening for all involved.” This was based on findings that indicated that the force used by the Cambridge Police Officers 1) complied with Department Policy #400.1 Use of Force and related policies; 2) was within state and federal legal standards; and 3) and adhered to state guidelines and training set forth in the Municipal Police Training Committee Use of Force Model and Totality Triangle.

“I want to thank Chief Justice Ireland, Commissioner Bard, and the men and women of the Cambridge Police Department for their professional and thoughtful approach to this review process,” said City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “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. I have great faith in Commissioner Bard and the men and women of the Cambridge Police Department, and I am pleased that the Department has already been at the forefront of integrating the recommendations from the report into their training and operations.”

“I greatly appreciate the community’s patience on the results of this review,” said Commissioner Bard. “As we previously stated, our intention from the outset of this incident was to ensure a thorough, complete, fair and transparent internal review process. Bringing on someone with the track record of Chief Justice Ireland to independently review this incident was critically important and I want to thank him for his commitment to extensively reviewing the information and compiling such a detailed report. I also want to thank the City Manager for his ongoing support in this matter, as well as the exhaustive efforts of Chief Andrea Brown and our Professional Standards Unit, who went to great lengths to conduct a comprehensive internal investigation on this incident.” 

Among the recommendations made in the independent review report was a commitment to training to most effectively handle incidents, particularly those involving individuals who may be in a mental health crisis. The Department has made this a long-term priority - even prior to this incident - and it continues to significantly invest in providing progressive training opportunities for its Officers, who are often the first to respond to a wide-ranging, evolving set of incidents. As part of this year’s annual in-service training program, which took place between January and April 2019, all Cambridge Police Officers participated in a new training program – ICAT (Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics) – that provides first responding police officers with the tools, skills, and options they need to successfully and safely defuse a range of critical incidents. Developed by Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), with input from hundreds of police professionals from across the United States, the Cambridge Police Department was just the second agency in Massachusetts and third in New England to initially receive the ICAT training when its Command Staff and supervisors participated in the training with select members of the community last fall. The innovative training takes the essential building blocks of critical thinking, crisis intervention, communications, and tactics, and puts them together in an integrated approach. During this year’s in-service training, all of the Department’s sworn officers also received “Police Interaction with Persons with Mental Illnesses” instruction from Dr. James Barrett, a nationally recognized expert in child and adolescent mental health and juvenile justice, who was hired this past year as the Department’s new Director of Clinical Support Services. 

These trainings have supplemented other ongoing trainings that the Department has been providing its officers for a number of years, including Youth Mental Health First Aid training (which addresses common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations), Crisis Intervention Team Training (which provides effective and appropriate response to incidents involving mental health issues), and Trauma-Informed Training (which is designed to help officers understand trauma as it relates to a victim, as well as tools and education to assist in managing their own trauma). A new implicit bias training will be offered for officers at the Cambridge Police Department and surrounding agencies on Monday, June 3 at Harvard University, as Professor Mahzarin Banaji, who is well known for her work popularizing the concept of implicit bias in regards to race, gender, sexual orientation and other factors, will lead the training. Last year, Professor Banaji facilitated a similar discussion for Cambridge residents and interested City of Cambridge employees at Cambridge Rindge and Latin. 

“As a follow-up to the issuance of this report, I look forward to building upon and advancing the conversations we have established with Harvard’s Black Students Organizing for Change,” said Commissioner Bard. “We are also committed to making Command Staff and other members of the department available to meet with interested residents in the City of Cambridge to discuss the report, its results and general inquiries about the Department, as we did in the weeks initially following the April 2018 incident.”

Those requests can be submitted to PIO@cambridgepolice.org and the Cambridge Police Department will do everything it can to accommodate inbound requests.  

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