Amnesty International condemns racial profiling (FCN, 09-30-2004)
(FinalCall.com) – On Nov. 4, Douglas Greer, the principal of the Robert M. Hughes Academy Charter School, found himself lying face down in a pool of his own blood, handcuffed and beaten badly by officers of the Springfield Police Department.
Allegedly, Mr. Greer had a diabetic seizure, and may have sat unconscious in his car in the parking lot of a gas station/convenience store for over an hour. A store clerk called the police and they responded with shotguns, breaking the windows of the car and dragging him out through the window. The car doors were never locked.
Attorney Perman Glenn III told The Final Call on November 18 that charges of assault and battery had been filed against four police officers in Springfield District Court. Mr. Glenn also said that a letter had been sent to the Washington office of the Department of Justice, but he would not reveal the letter’s content.
“We intend to get justice for Douglas Greer,” Minister Yusef Muhammad, of Muhammad’s Mosque No. 13 in Boston, assured the community at a press conference and again at a follow-up meeting of concerned members of the community.
Min. Yusef said Mr. Greer sustained injuries including cuts and scrapes to the face that required 18 stitches, swollen hands, arms and legs.
A story in “The Nation Speaks” newsletter, which is published by Muhammad’s Mosque No. 13, said the students at Mr. Greer’s charter school out-performed students in other schools in their standardized test scores.
“By all accounts, he is a model citizen and a highly respected educator,” the mosque newsletter stated.
Community activist Chelan Brown explained at the press conference that the children loved and respected Mr. Greer.
“And if it can happen to him, it can happen to anybody,” Ms. Brown added. “How do we ask the youth to look up to the police, when they treat the most respected members of our community this way?” she asked.
The chairwoman of the Hughes Academy Charter School board of trustees, Carol Aranjo said that all of the faculty and administration backed their principal 100 percent. “This is a miscarriage of justice, Ms. Aranjo insisted.
Springfield Mayor Charles Ryan called the incident “troubling” and called for an investigation.
On Nov. 15, the five-member, state-appointed Finance Control Board voted to place the four officers on administrative duty. Mayor Ryan’s spokeswoman Michele Weber said, “There is no comment on anything,” when contacted by The Final Call.
Mayor Ryan is a member of the control board, and has the responsibilities of running the city’s day-to-day operations.
The lawyer for the four White officers, Kevin Coyle, told The Republican, Springfield’s daily newspaper, that placing the officers on administrative duty was not in the purview of the board. The mayor answered back to reporters, saying the board had control over all city employees.
But Min. Yusef said there has to be better community control over the 450 officers of the Springfield police department, 10 percent of which is Black and five percent Latino. “I have called for the creation of a police civilian control board,” he stressed. “People are arguing the issue of good officers and bad officers, and have become stuck on that concept. What we are talking about is having control over policy.”
Police Chief Paula C. Meara did not respond to phone calls. Nor has Councilman Brian Williams, chairman of the Springfield City Council Civil rights and Race relations Committee.
“We have been talking about a civilian control board for years, and the city keeps saying the Police Commission serves that function. I would rather see some kind of board that is elected on a district-by-district basis,” State Representative Benjamin Swan said during a telephone interview.
He is somewhat dismayed at the lack of a more proactive response by the Black community over the beating of Mr. Greer. “I don’t think the community is galvanized yet around a strategy for handling the case of Principal Greer. We haven’t all sat down to discuss a common strategy and I think that is very important at this time,” offered Rep. Swan.