Boston Police Department, or BPD, officers are under investigation following the publication of body camera footage from a protest that spanned from May 31 to June 1. The footage was published Dec. 18 through the online news outlet The Appeal and depicts officers shoving and pepper-spraying protesters, as well as talking about striking protestors with a car. The footage also shows a Northeastern University Police Department, or NUPD, officer talking with BPD officers in a video where an off-screen voice says, “start spraying the [expletive].”
Shannon Nargi, a Northeastern spokesperson, noted in an email statement that NUPD officers occasionally work in partnership with the BPD to help with larger events.
“The video footage that was recently released is very concerning, and university officials are thoroughly reviewing the footage to ascertain all of the facts,” Nargi wrote. “It is important to note that there is currently no evidence of NUPD officers being involved in any misconduct.”
Attorney Carl Williams, who represents several protesters arrested that night in cases against the BPD, originally obtained more than 60 hours of footage from the Suffolk County district attorney’s office. He later gave this footage to The Appeal. In the videos, multiple BPD officers are shown pepper-spraying and threatening protestors as well as using batons to knock them down.
Thousands of protestors gathered this summer in Boston after the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black Minnesota resident who died after an officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes. Advocates nationwide are demanding extensive police reform and defunding of police.
In one video, a BPD officer tells his colleague that he was hitting protestors with his police cruiser at Boston Common. After his colleague warns him that the body-camera is turned on, the first officer denies hitting people.
Another clip depicts an officer shaking an aerosol can in front of a camera. “You need to start spraying more!” he tells his colleague. He later points at someone in the distance and adds, “I want to hit this [expletive]… I got a little left, I want to hit this kid.”
Attorney General Maura Healy tweeted Dec. 18 that the videos were “disturbing and inexcusable.” Police Commissioner William G. Gross ordered an investigation following the videos’ publication, and has since put one officer on leave. The Suffolk district attorney’s office is also investigating BPD officers.
Northeastern officials reviewing the videos have not found evidence of NUPD officers committing offenses. Despite cries for transparency, the Boston Police Department has not released the entirety of the body-cam footage.