Chiefs Responsible for More Than 1,000 False Arrests
The arrest of Harvard history professor Henry Louis Gates in his home in Cambridge sparked a nationwide discussion about police misconduct.
Now, the Cambridge Police Department along with the City of Cambridge have announced an “independent” panel to “get us to a place where we are building stronger community partnerships,” according to Cambridge Police Chief Robert C. Haas.
The credibility of an independent panel of experts on possible police misconduct is shattered by the inclusion of at least two of the twelve members of the panel, Charles H. Ramsey and Terrance Gainer, who served as Police Chief and Executive Assistant Chief in Washington, D.C. Their tenure was marred by massive police misconduct and false arrests. Their direct responsibility for the police actions in Washington, D.C. are highlighted by the federal courts refusal to grant them qualified immunity in class action lawsuits involving more than 1,000 people, all of whom were arrested solely because they were engaged in, or were bystanders to, free speech activities in the nation’s capital.
If the City of Cambridge desires to have the panel have any credibility and standing, it should review the selection of its members.
Here are the facts:
In Becker, et al. v. D.C., et al, Ramsey and Gainer conducted the mass false arrest in April, 2000 of nearly 700 people who were then held on buses and/or hog-tied on a police gym floor in stress and duress positions for 24+ hours.The Magistrate Judge who has issued findings on the police’s motions in this matter referred to the police’s claim that there was a lawful basis for the arrests as “fanciful” and “ludicrous.”
Barham, et al. v. Ramsey, et al. involves the similar trap and mass false arrest in September, 2002 of nearly 400 people in D.C.’s Pershing Park who were also subject to a mass political sweep and tied-up for 24+ hours on a police gym floor. Here too, Ramsey was on the scene and was directly responsible for the mass arrest. This case has also recently revealed a massive cover-up involving the D.C. police department and the Office of the Attorney General in the loss, withholding and destruction of key evidence. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has referred to it as the “civil counterpart of the Ted Stevens case,” and it has been the subject of substantial press coverage.
The Council for the District of Columbia held an investigation into the conduct of Chief Ramsey and the MPD, including the Pershing Park arrests. Its report, issued in March 2004, included the following findings:
- “Chief Ramsey is responsible for the arrests at Pershing Park, though he initially testified before the Judiciary Committee that he was not a part of that decision.”
- “The investigation and release of the final report were marked by evasions and misstatements by senior officials including Chief Ramsey, giving rise to the appearance of an attempt to cover up Chief Ramsey’s role in ordering the Pershing Park arrests.”
- “At the direction of Chief Ramsey and in violation of MPD general orders, changes were made to the investigative report [about the Pershing Park arrests] after it was completed by the Office of Professional Responsibility. The changes served to weaken criticism of the Department and alter the nature of the arrests.”
Ironically, prosecution documents revealed that, in connection with the April 2000 arrests, Chief Ramsey’s officers provided false sworn statements that the hundreds of arrestees had engaged in “disorderly conduct,” the very same charge given Prof. Gates.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), is a not-for-profit legal and educational organization which, among other things, seeks to ensure constitutional accountability within police practices. The PCJF is counsel on numerous constitutional rights cases, including the Becker and Barham class actions. It also uncovered that under Chief Ramsey, the DC police were running a domestic spying operation in which officers were sent on long term assignments infiltrating political organizations by posing as activists, going into meetings and homes, in the absence of any allegations of criminal activity. The PCJF is counsel on the Mills v. District of Columbia litigation in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently ruled that D.C.’s unprecedented military-style police checkpoint program was unconstitutional.