Boston police officer Edward Barrett, the off-duty cop seen attacking a pedestrian in a viral video, is being allowed to work during an internal investigation because he is not a “threat,” Commissioner William Evans said Tuesday during an appearance on Boston Public Radio.
“I’ve talked to his supervisors. They say for the most part he’s a quiet kid, minds his own business, and they were a little surprised with what happened there,” Evans said.
That “quiet kid,” Edward Barrett, is a 20-year veteran of the Boston Police Department who, on May 24, was caught on camera forcing his knee in the back of a pedestrian he had chased down, telling the pedestrian he was under arrest, then making a 911 call in which he falsely accused the pedestrian of cracking his car window.
In the video, Barrett claims the man had jaywalked, then hit his car window with an umbrella so hard it cracked. The pedestrian claims he was in a crosswalk when Barrett cut him off, so he tapped on Barrett’s window.
Several on-duty police officers arrived on scene after Barrett called 911, but they released the pedestrian with no charges. The police report confirms that while there was a mark on Barrett’s window, it “was able to be wiped from the surface of the glass.”
However, the report makes no mention that Barrett chased down and attacked the pedestrian, told the pedestrian he was under arrest, falsely reported that his window was cracked, or even that he was a police officer.
The responding officers covered up the attack but got caught because the video went viral. Stephen Harlowe, the man who shot the video, said the responding officers refused to take statements or contact information from witnesses to Barrett’s attack.
“We asked the officers, ‘Do you want our information? There are a bunch of witnesses including an international person. He is flying back today, but he wants to give you his information.’ They said, ‘I am not putting it in my report.’ He absolutely did not want our info,” Harlowe told The Boston Herald.
During his Boston Public Radio appearance, Evans said Barrett was right to “confront” the pedestrian if he thought his vehicle was damaged, but said the department was investigating whether Barrett “acted in an unprofessional manner” or “used excessive force.”
After the video was published, The Boston Globe learned Barrett’s identity and reported that he has been the subject of two excessive force complaints, one in 2005 and one in 2006.
Evans was asked on Boston Public Radio why Barrett was being allowed to stay on active duty while he was investigated over the recent road rage incident.
Evans changed the subject to Barrett’s two older excessive force complaints, saying they happened over 10 years ago. He also pointed out that the department did not sustain either complaint.
However, it’s unclear what the police department did to investigate these complaints, because it has not released Barrett’s internal affairs records. We requested a copy of his IA file on May 26, and state law requires government agencies to turn over public records within 10 days, but the department has not responded to our request.
Moreover, the Boston police internal affairs division has a history of conducting shoddy, inefficient investigations, so the fact that neither complaint was sustained does not mean that neither was valid.
But most importantly, it’s not clear why the fact that these past complaints weren’t sustained means Barrett should remain on duty while being investigated for a more recent incident. Still, that’s what Evans concluded.
“He doesn’t have a history of any type of excessive force,” Evans said. “A lot of our instances, unless they really rise to a level that we think he’s a threat, we don’t pull him off.”
Evans said he would not criticize Barrett’s violent behavior at this time due to the ongoing investigation.
“I’m not gonna convict him on the radio here. We all have a right to due process,” Evans said.
In fact, most workers in Massachusetts do not have a right to due process in the workplace because of the at-will employment doctrine. Police officers and other government employees have special legal privileges that guarantee them the right to due process when they are the subject of disciplinary action at work.
Evans has complained in the past about how the disciplinary action he metes out is often overturned, so it seems disingenuous for him to invoke this system to justify not speaking out against violent police in his department.
The due process that most people are entitled to is due process of law, which only comes into play when someone is charged with a crime. But since Evans has already decided Barrett isn’t a threat even though he’s supposedly waiting on the results of the internal investigation, it seems unlikely Barrett will have any need for that sort of due process in the near future.