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Cambridge Officials Pledge Policing Reforms After Sayed Faisal Police Killing

Cambridge city officials pledged reforms to policing practices in response to the killing of Sayed Faisal in January.
Cambridge city officials pledged reforms to policing practices in response to the killing of Sayed Faisal in January. By Ryan H. Doan-Nguyen
By Yusuf S. Mian, Crimson Staff Writer

Cambridge city officials pledged reforms to the city’s policing practices in a set of statements released Tuesday in response to the killing of Sayed Faisal in January.

The killing of Faisal by a Cambridge Police Department officer sparked ten Boston-area protests and a city-wide reckoning on policing. Faisal, who was a 20-year-old Bangladeshi American at the University of Massachusetts Boston, was shot and killed by a CPD officer after he allegedly approached officers wielding a knife.

Tuesday’s release included specific promises from City Manager Yi-An Huang ’05 to equip CPD officers with body cameras, create an alternative emergency response program independent of the police, and “evaluate additional less lethal options.”

The City Council voted earlier this month on a policy order to initiate the process of obtaining body cameras. CPD Spokesperson Jeremy C. Warnick wrote in an email that CPD is looking to “fast-track” the “implementation as quickly as possible.”

All present councilors voted in support of the order with the exception of Quinton Y. Zondervan, who has previously spoken out against the implementation of body cameras, citing privacy concerns.

“The problem is the guns, not the body cameras,” Zondervan said in a Feb. 6 City Council meeting that was conducted virtually after a protest broke out in City Hall.

The funding of an alternative emergency response program is an ongoing demand from protesters. Last year, City Council put forward $3 million in funding for a Community Safety Department, which would respond to some 911 calls, such as emergencies involving mental health crises, substance use disorder, and unhoused residents. Some advocates have also called on Cambridge to fund Holistic Emergency Alternative Response Team, a police alternative independent of the city’s emergency services.

Though protesters have repeatedly called for the release of the unredacted police report and for the officers involved in Faisal’s killing to be named, fired, and prosecuted, Huang reiterated that the names of the officers would not be released until the investigation by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office concludes.

“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,” Huang wrote in the Tuesday release.

In a statement, CPD Commissioner Christine A. Elow wrote that CPD “has not identified any egregious misconduct or significant policy, training, equipment, or disciplinary violations.” The officer who shot Faisal is currently on paid administrative leave.

Suhail P. Purkar, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation who has been involved in several recent protests, wrote in an email that Huang’s latest commitments do not go far enough.

“It is disappointing and shameful that he didn’t agree to a single demand from the community,” Purkar wrote.

Purkar wrote he will continue to advocate for the demands demonstrators have continually voiced at protests.

“This movement is only growing and more people are joining in the hundreds,” Purkar added. “We will win Justice for Faisal and ensure this never happens again in Cambridge.”

—Staff writer Yusuf S. Mian can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @yusuf_mian2.

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