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THE CITY'S REPORT on the arrest and jail cell death of East Cambridge youth Lawrence P. Largey addresses itself to hardly a fraction of the issues involves. While the report may have provided shocking revelations for some, its conclusions or "findings of fact" are often weak and its recommendations inspecific.
Boston University Law Professor Paul J. Liacos, the author of the report, claims that his responsibility was only to investigate the possibility of "police misconduct" in the incident, which included the arrest of Thomas F. Doyle, another East Cambridge youth. Liacos was denied access to the testimony of the doctors who conducted the post-mortem examinations of Largey's body by Judge Morris N. Gould, who is presiding over the official state inquest. Consequently, Liacos rightly claims that he had "insufficient evidense" to attempt a denomination of the cause of Largey's death.
However, Lincos does not even tough upon the circumstances surrounding Largey's two autopsies and his hurried embalming-events which both Hard Times, the East Cambridge neighborhood organization, and Largey family attorneys claim were rise with police and official "misconduct." There is also no mention of widely reported police harassment during the period following the arrests Liacos recommends "disciplinary action" against four police officers, but he does not any what those sections should entail. Although Liacos claims that it would be legally questionable for him to make more detailed recommendations, the vague language he used could have been strengthened to ensure that Corcoran would treat the cases with the necessary seriousness.
Liacos finds that there was observable blood on Largy's face where he arrived at the police station, and that Largey had to be helped up the ramp to his cell by two police officers. Yet, Liacos merely accuses the Desk Commander of falling to provide "proper and timely medical examination" of Largey and Doyle. From Liacos's even findings, it was clearly a matter of rushing Largey to the hospital as quickly as possible: to do otherwise would constitute the grossest negligence.
LIACOS DEVOTES two sections of his report to criticizing the general practices of the Cambridge police. He finds widespread ignorance of basic operating procedures, as well as laxity in the registration of privately owned weapons and general neglect of records and reports. (Liacos even found that there was no official police record of Largey ever having been arrested.) Yet, Liacos leaves discipline in the heads of City Manager John H. Corcoran and Police Chief James Reagan--the two men ultimately responsible for the department whose procedures Liacos described as "lax" and "inadequate."
Liacos notes that adequate studies have been done on the Cambridge Police Department, and asserts that this is "a time for action." Yet, his report seems to presume that all of a sudden Corcoran and Reagan will correct malpractices they have left untouched for years. Liacos claims that it was not his responsibility to reform the City administration or the police department. Perhaps this is true, but basic reform is desperately needed. From what we know of Cambridge police behavior, the Largey case is not an isolated incident of "police misconduct."
And beneath all these circumstances is a spectre that has haunted the Cambridge City Council since last January: the Council's inability to fire and replace John Corcoran. Corcoran has the power to hire and fire all City employees, including the Chief of Police. The Council, in turn, has the power of fire Corcoran. It seems doubtful that any real reforms will be made unless Corcoran is replaced.
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