Massachusetts: Family Questions Treatment by Local Police, as Police Chief Retires

Concord Police Chief Joseph O’Connor touted frequent “traffic stops” made by his department.
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Photo: Concord Police Department

CONCORD, MASS. – The following report was written by Toby Chaudhuri of Concord, a former White House advisor, who alleges that he and his family have been subjected to questionable treatment by the Concord Police Department:

The police chief of a sanctuary city known for its role in the American Revolution, is stepping down this month after trying to defend a “stop and show papers” tactic used on a person of color in the town’s historic center after sundown on Sept. 12. The incident was recorded on camera.

Even after discussing the incident with town officials, Concord Police Chief Joseph O’Connor touted frequent “traffic stops” made by his department. According to federal courts, New York City violated the civil rights of Black and Hispanic residents with a similar tactic known as “stop and frisk,” frequently stopping and searching people on the street.

Concord police officers in three cruisers randomly stopped and questioned Toby Chaudhuri of Concord, a former White House advisor, offering contradictory explanations as to why. Two days later, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida sent migrant flights to Massachusetts.

“The sun is rising over sundown towns and sunshine states,” said Chaudhuri. “Went for a walk and was mugged by reality. A band of officers in cruisers randomly stopped and questioned me. They didn’t let me go until I showed my papers. On the streets and at our schools, town officials are standing their ground while I’m struck by curfew and clampdown. We must end random stop-and-show-papers.”

The “stop and show papers” tactic is common in “sundown towns,” municipalities that practice forms of segregation that rank people, rewarding those at the top and punishing people at the bottom with a combination of discriminatory local laws, intimidation and abuse. The term came from sign posts that people of color had to leave by sundown and was often enforced on poor white people.

In a letter to town officials made public this week, Chaudhuri said his family was followed again last week by the Concord police. The police chief said he is looking into the matter for town officials before he leaves.

Chaudhuri, who is raising a third generation of his family in Concord, said he was also followed by officers and questioned by administrators at the beginning of the school year when he was trying to pick-up his son from kindergarten. The next day, a message went to the school community about what to do when there are “strangers” on campus along with a comprehensive equity audit survey, but Chaudhuri isn’t a stranger to the campus. He went to kindergarten at the same Alcott Elementary School.

Local administrators are withholding results from the equity audit now, complicating matters because the town is suffering from a drop in several important program result rankings where it used to shine. Serious crimes like fraud targeting the elderly and vulnerable are on the rise, according to the police chief, and financial and school rankings raising costs for everyone are placing it lower than its neighbors.

Town Manager Kerry Lafleur and School Superintendent Laurie Hunter are proposing major municipal budget increases this week that could reinforce systemic biases behind “stop and show papers” policies without proper support for current employees, students or citizens. Town leaders fear the increased spending could come from $5.9 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds and raise unfair tax burdens on working families while only the wealthiest and most educated receive benefits.

Below is a letter that was sent to Chief O'Connor by Toby Chaudhuri.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Police Chief Joseph O’Connor
219 Walden Street
Concord, Mass. 01742

Dear Chief O’Connor — Hope you’re well!

Haven’t received replies to my reports or requests since Oct. 27, following our discussion about the disturbing events after sundown on Sept. 12 in Concord Center and on the first week of kindergarten at Alcott School.

Respect your decision to step down amid conversations with local officials about these incidents, but am concerned because our line of communication broke after your illness during this time. Now I’m stuck alone trying to create solutions for everyone with a stake in these matters while symptoms of the core problem worsen for my family.

Insult was added to injury as recently as Nov. 26, as reported, when an idle officer in a Concord police cruiser singled out my family and me again for an excessive period in our town’s historic center. The officer followed us from Monument Square, through Millbook Tarry all the way to Milldam Square, looking to make another "traffic stop" when, in fact, we were abiding by the law and simply trying to get home safely after supper.

My invitation to meet with the local police union steward and talk about what’s needed to achieve better results for everyone still stands, but we can no longer afford delay and indecision. The people and the policies that got us into this mess are losing the credibility needed to get us out. And our resources — human and financial — are not limitless. Choices must be made. ’Tis now the season.

Let’s arrange an emergency meeting this week with the chair of the Select Board, Town Manager, School Superintendent and town overseers, so there’s a better understanding of what’s happening and concrete next steps before we reinforce any greater risks for all —

To fix things, our policies must benefit all people, not just a select few. Our system of self-governance works when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone gives their fair share and everyone plays by the same rules. Take care. Talk soon.

Yours truly,

Toby Chaudhuri
of 100 Keyes Road
at Concord’s Historic Center

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