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Community Update from City Manager Huang

City Seal

It has been a heavy and heart-breaking start to 2023 for Cambridge. The shooting and death of Arif Sayed Faisal by a Cambridge Police officer have weighed painfully on our community. Over the years, I have shared in our collective grief from the tragic deaths of Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tyre Nichols, and so many others. As a nation, we are wrestling with how to fix policing, and Faisal’s death highlights that even in Cambridge, we have more work to accomplish.

I started as Cambridge’s City Manager six months ago, and I follow the direction set by the nine-person City Council. Over the past month, I have been in frequent conversations with the Mayor, Vice-Mayor, and Councilors as we have worked to chart a path forward. Police Commissioner Christine Elow and I represented the City at a four-hour community meeting on January 12, where we heard the pain, grief, and demands of many people across the city. The Council has also held more than six hours of public meetings where we reviewed our police department’s training, policies, and practices. Following these discussions, the Council proposed a set of recommended actions and continues to review and debate additional policy directions. It has been an active and engaged conversation across City government.

Sayed Faisal’s death is unquestionably a tragedy. I am fully committed to making changes going forward, including acting with urgency on the actions recommended by the Council.

As we implement the recommendations, I want to communicate our commitments so far to the Council and our community. We will implement body cameras. We will use alternative responses to emergency calls outside of the police department. We will evaluate additional less lethal options. We will deliver a procedural justice dashboard. We will hire a credible, independent consultant to review and make recommendations across our police department’s training, policies, and practices and the full report will be made public. We will seek to strengthen the City’s mental health resources and enhance our outreach to underserved communities. And we will continue to be in dialogue with the Council and the community on how we can keep improving.

There is a great deal of work to do in the aftermath of this tragedy. I have spent a lot of time with Police Commissioner Elow and I know that she is the right leader for our great city in this difficult moment. She is deeply rooted in our community, open-minded, and committed to change. She has my full support and trust.

The Middlesex District Attorney is conducting an independent investigation, and all the evidence, reports, and findings will be made public. I am committed to taking action if any wrongdoing is found. 

Since Sayed Faisal’s death, I have heard protestors and many community members call for the involved officer’s name to be released. In cases with clear and egregious misconduct, as in the recent case in Memphis, we would take immediate action. But I hope that we can recognize that our police officers sometimes face complex, difficult, and dangerous situations – and that there are cases where we can’t make an immediate judgment. In most investigations, suspects' names are not released to the public until there is a high probability of criminal charges. That right to privacy during an investigation is also a fair standard for our officers. While I understand the call for blanket transparency in all fatal police shootings, I believe that making a determination based on each case is reasonable.

I also recognize Cambridge needs a clearer and more transparent policy addressing this topic. Therefore, I have asked Commissioner Elow to provide a summary of the internal administrative review process within the police department and the preliminary determination based on our available evidence. At this point in the administrative investigation, the department has not identified significant violations, and we are prepared to re-assess based on additional evidence that emerges from the District Attorney’s independent investigation. I will further work with the Commissioner to develop a more formal policy here and this will also be part of the third-party review of our policies and procedures.

This last month has been difficult for all of us. We are witnessing a national crisis regarding police legitimacy, and Cambridge is not immune to that scrutiny. We will provide periodic updates on the status of these commitments, and I will continue to work with the Council and Commissioner Elow to make meaningful changes in our police department and our City to better serve everyone in our community.

Yi-An Huang
City Manager


Page was posted on 2/14/2023 9:56 PM
Page was last modified on 7/24/2023 9:48 PM
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