Editorial: Policing Jackson Square

Police officers perform an incredibly difficult job. They put their lives on the line just by wearing the badge. They make dozens of potentially life-changing judgment calls every day. They try to keep order while respecting and protecting civil liberties in a free society that can and does throw just about anything at them.

Officers often don’t get enough praise for doing this hard work the right way. And often they don’t do a good enough job of explaining the inevitable times that they do it the wrong way.

The policing in Jackson Square, one of the city’s toughest crime hot spots, is a case in point.

Earlier this year, a string of insanely reckless Wild West shootings hit the area, killing no one only by sheer luck. The Boston Police Department and Boston Housing Authority police instituted a crackdown, a warrant sweep and an innovative idea for a police substation in Bromley-Heath.

By no coincidence at all, there hasn’t been a single shooting since then. There has been some natural community friction with the crackdown, but the fact is, it worked and there is no sign of anyone going to jail who doesn’t belong there. The police deserve enormous credit for their actions, which probably saved lives.

On the other side of the coin, there is last year’s police abuse case in the Stop & Shop parking lot. Officers wrongly accused a grocery-shopping schoolteacher of buying drugs, verbally abused him with homophobic slurs, and reportedly choked him.

We find it profoundly disturbing that an innocent man who had done nothing overtly illegal was grabbed and bullied by police in a dark parking lot. It was clearly a bad judgment call, and one the police should explain to the community so it doesn’t happen again. But given the litigious and adversarial nature of our system, we’ll probably never know the full truth.

JP, like all of Boston, remains quite safe statistically, and that is because our cops are pros who do a great job a great majority of the time. We encourage everyone to thank the police for protection we take for granted, delivered with grace under pressure. And we encourage police to be more open about their mistakes, because it will only make the public respect them more.

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