Photo: Belmont Police officers are coming under increasing abuse from some in the public
In the past few months, Belmont Police officers have been receiving an increasing amount of verbal abuse from some members of the public, according to Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac in a report to the Select Board.
Officers report they often receive the “middle finger” or people yell “something derogatory at them on a weekly basis,” said MacIsaac.
In one of the most blatant incidents, almost daily a person driving along Concord Avenue stops, or slows down, at the detail officer and shouts “F–k you, murderer!” or “ACAB” which, according to Board Chair Roy Epstein, “stands for something you can look up … because it’s not a nice term.”
Additionally, anti-police graffiti has been tagged in town with the aforementioned “ACAB” that was recently painted on the underpass of the commuter rail bridge at Belmont Center.
And in one case, the abuse turned physical, according to MacIsaac. On Friday afternoon, Sept. 11, a patrol sergeant responding to an emergency call was driving on Waverley when somebody threw a full cup of coffee across his windshield.
While Belmont Police have experienced the occasional incident by a member of the public, rarely has it been sustained over time and committed by several people.
The reaction from the Select Board was one of dismay that members of the community would attack public safety officers.
“I’m astonished that you think behavior like that is appropriate for a police force that is highly professional, highly courteous, and does a great job,” said Epstein.
“I understand that there is a lot of protest going on nationwide. But I think we need to make sure that we continue to treat the officers in Belmont with the appropriate level of courtesy and respect for the professional job that they deliver to the community,” said Tom Caputo of the Board.
Select Board Member Adam Dash pointed out that MacIsaac and the department have been very supportive of all those police reforms, including when in June high school students held a rally for Black Lives Matters.
“To lash out at them over something like that, it was just barking the wrong tree entirely,” said Dash.
Epstein believed that most Belmontians are supportive of the department and should take the time to demonstrate that fact.
“I would ask is for other members of the public, is when you go by a police officer, maybe you can slow down and say something nice to them, and show that they’re actually appreciated,” said Epstein.
Alex Marthews, Belmont says
Happy to have a civil conversation with you, as opposed to an immature and mocking one, any time you choose.
As I said in my original comment, what Chief MacIsaac says may well be true; but neither journalists nor citizens owe it to the police to uncritically repeat their chosen narratives as fact. Part of being an adult, surely, is to engage critically with the information around you; wouldn’t you agree?
I’m perfectly happy to agree that some police officers have been verbally abused. It would be news to me if any month went by when that didn’t happen. It may well be that Chief MacIsaac is accurately depicting his own opinion that the rate of verbal abuse of police officers is up; but whether the rate of it is up, or down, or sideways, right now, is not something anybody, police or not, knows; nobody keeps systematic records of noncriminal incidents like this.
***Alex and Danny
Christine- people like Matt and Danny would be the first ones crying if the cops decided not to show up. when they need them. For the people disrespecting our cops…grow up.
It’s a shame that our police officers are being treated this way, but I do believe that perhaps we can approach this problem with a bit more empathy. People in our country are clearly upset because they feel that our nation has historically disadvantaged and oppressed them due to uncontrollable factors like their ethnicity, race, and color of their skin. It’s enraging and it’s emotional. Immediately casting them as criminals and as “the other” that we need to fight against continues to perpetuate this narrative that our town is content with being racially divided.
Yes, the individual policemen have served us well and should not be berated. But perhaps on the receiving end, we can understand that people are upset and emotional during this time. The anger is not about the police as individuals but frustration at a system that has historically been pitted against them.
Belmont officers are doing great job
To keep Belmont safe what we will do without them
People please be nice
To the officers that protect you and your kids from
Crime robberies and vandalism
Alex Marthews, Belmont says
Your headline repeats an assertion by the police as fact. It may be true, but unless you’ve made a good faith effort to assess independently whether it is true, you shouldn’t present it as being true in the headline. It may be true, but it’s also the case that a number of stories across the country regarding discourteous treatment of police by members of the public have not held up under closer scrutiny.
Second, appealing simply for members of the public to treat police with courtesy, without also articulating that the police are obliged to treat members of the public with courtesy, risks eliding the very unequal power dynamic at work. It’s exceedingly rare nowadays for an armed officer to face serious consequences for hurting or killing a member of the public, but members of the public often face serious consequences merely for offending, or for being perceived to be resisting the will of armed officers.
We should expect police officers, like any professionals, to maintain a professional demeanor, even in the context of members of the public deciding to be discourteous to them. Disrespect to law enforcement, while discourteous, is not against the law, and law enforcement professionals should not retaliate against people who have broken no law.
Ann Neczypor says
I know personally Belmont police who have been verbally abused. You are not well informed
Daniel Vernick says
Thank you!! Such important points, Alex Marthews.
Show some respect, these men and women protect and serve you every day. I am appalled to see that the disrespect for these police officers is happening everywhere. When you need them, they show up ready and willing to do whatever it takes. What would you do if this keeps happening and they decide not to show up? RESPECT THEM!!!!!!
There are stupid people, people looking for a fight everywhere. I would bet that those haters are from out of town and just passing through. Belmont police are the best and we appreciate them. And I speak from personal experience.