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Cambridge Police to Undergo External Review Following Police Killing of Sayed Faisal

A Cambridge Police Department car sits parked in front of the Robert W. Healy Public Safety Facility.
A Cambridge Police Department car sits parked in front of the Robert W. Healy Public Safety Facility. By Jina H. Choe
By Yusuf S. Mian, Crimson Staff Writer

The Cambridge Police Department will undergo an independent external review in the aftermath of the police killing of 20-year-old Sayed Faisal in January, city officials announced in a press release Friday.

The Police Executive Research Forum, a think tank led by police chiefs across the U.S., will evaluate CPD practices and release findings to the public after the conclusion of the review. A team of seven policing experts and three non-police affiliates will lead the investigation.

Faisal, a Bangladeshi American student at the University of Massachusetts Boston, was shot and killed on Jan. 4 by CPD after officers responded to a 911 call reporting a man harming himself, the department said in a January press release. Faisal allegedly approached officers wielding a knife before he was shot, according to the press release. The shooting is currently under investigation by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office.

Faisal’s killing sparked months of protests across Cambridge and calls for reform to CPD and funding for police alternatives. City officials have pledged to reform the city’s policing practices, promising to implement body cameras for officers and fund an alternative emergency response program.

City Manager Yi-An Huang ’05 wrote in an update Sunday that the city has “moved rapidly” to adopt a body cameras program and made “significant progress” with its newly-formed Community Safety Department, hiring a coordinator and assessing emergency calls that could be rerouted.

The city is also set to release a procedural dashboard in the summer, displaying arrest, citation, and summons data to assess equity in the city’s justice system.

In the Friday press release, Huang said he hopes the external investigation will improve the city’s policing practices.

“Bringing on PERF is one of several commitments we are in the process of implementing and they have a strong record on police reform and helping departments make meaningful changes,” Huang said.

CPD Commissioner Christine A. Elow said in the release that the external review will likely include recommendations on non-lethal alternatives, emergency response for mental health crises, and crisis response.

Boston Party for Socialism and Liberation organizer Joe Tache said he feels the review is not sufficiently independent, noting that the Police Executive Research Forum’s board of directors consists entirely of police chiefs.

“It really doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Tache said of the review. “What the city can do and should do to primarily show that steps are being taken to address the injustice of Faisal’s murder is to address that case in particular.”

Tache also called for officers involved in Faisal’s killing to be named and criminally charged, and said the city should release the full unredacted police report, demands that protesters have reiterated numerous times.

The names of the officers involved and the police report will be released following completion of the District Attorney’s investigation.

Organizers are set to hold another protest outside City Hall on Monday to demand further action from the city. Cambridge officials have agreed to a Tuesday meeting with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, a group which has been actively involved in the protests over Faisal’s killing, according to a Sunday post on the group’s Instagram account.

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

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