Cambridge's Police Review and Advisory Board has the ability to investigate complaints about police misconduct. In the aftermath of the Henry Louis Gates incident, some Cambridge residents are asking why it hasn’t exercised that right.

Cambridge's Police Review and Advisory Board has the ability to investigate complaints about police misconduct. In the aftermath of the Henry Louis Gates incident, some Cambridge residents are asking why it hasn’t exercised that right.


On Wednesday, the board met inside City Hall after local activists gathered outside in support of the Harvard professor.


“The torrent of racist vitriol targeting Prof. Gates, as well as the absolute racist arrogance displayed by the Cambridge Police Department in demanding that Pres. Obama and Gov. Patrick apologize for expressing support for Prof. Gates, cannot go unanswered,” read a portion of a statement from members of the “Bail Out the People Movement.”


Police Review and Advisory Board Chairman Martin Betts said the Anti-Violence Project of Massachusetts, located at 138 Chandler St. in Boston, has sent a letter to city announcing its intent to file a formal complaint about Gates’ arrest by Sgt. James Crowley.


Betts said the letter is not available at the moment for public review. Joseph Johnson, an investigator for the board, said next steps, according to the city’s ordinance, include a preliminary investigation of the complaint, followed by a decision whether to launch a full investigation and hold a hearing if needed.


If the board finds a violation, it will make a recommendation to the city manager as to what action, if any, should be taken.


“Any citizen can issue a complaint against police misconduct,” he said. “But we cannot do anything until the board gets all the facts.”


The Police Review and Advisory Board was created by city ordinance, consists of five civilian residents, and “acts as the representative of the community in reviewing policies, practices and procedures of the police department.” according to the Web site.


Police officers can also file complaints. Other members of the board include Martin Small, Richard Peters, Susan Melucci and Cambridge Police Lieutenant Christine Elow.


During Wednesday’s meeting, many residents urged an investigation of police operations in the city.


“The real problem is the policing of the citizens of Cambridge,” said Elie Yarden. “Our police are not trained to deal with the problems of a racist society.”


Lawrence Adkins, president of the Riverside Neighborhood Association, who has been critical of the review board in the past, said that members need more distinct guidelines and more public outreach.


“Things have to change,” he said. “This incident has brought out that we’re not doing our job. The work here needs to be better defined.”


Betts assured the crowd that the board is willing to follow through and evaluate any complaints that come their way, specifically in the midst of the Gates controversy.


“All of a sudden we’ve been pushed into the limelight,” he said. “This isn’t going to be the end of this. The past two weeks have been very strange, to say the least.”


Wicked Local Cambridge


Editor's note: The following video was not created by WIcked Local Cambridge.