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DOJ Opens Another 'Pattern or Practice' Probe in MA

After years of complaints about brutality by a police department described by a federal judge as having "a culture of impunity," the Justice Department opened a "pattern or practice" investigation into the Worcester, Ma., police department, Courthouse News reports. The probe in Worcester, Massachusetts' second-largest city, comes just months after the DOJ concluded a similar investigation in the state's third-largest city, Springfield. “We find significant justification to investigate” whether the problem in Worcester is limited to a few bad cops or amounts to a systemic issue within the department, said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The department said it will investigate discriminatory enforcement based on race and sex and look for patterns of excessive force. At least 210 people have signed a public petition to have the DOJ investigate the department. The petition notes that Worcester settled 27 police misconduct lawsuits for a total of $4 million between 2010 and 2020, with another 15 cases pending. Hector Pineiro, a civil rights lawyer, accused Worcester officers in 2018 of regularly beating people up, conducting illegal searches and fabricating evidence. After fighting requests by the local Telegram & Gazette newspaper for police records, the department had to pay more than $100,000 in legal fees and $5,000 in punitive damages. The DOJ's earlier case in Springfield resulted in a consent decree requiring the city’s nearly 500 officers to report all uses of force, including punches and kicks, and to intervene to prevent excessive force by other officers. The department must also create an Excessive Force Investigation Team.


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