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Boston police suspend sergeant who bragged about hitting George Floyd demonstrators

Boston Police District B-2 station in Roxbury. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Boston Police District B-2 station in Roxbury. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

A Boston Police Department sergeant faces a 10-day suspension after he was caught on video boasting about driving into protesters during last year's demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Clifton McHale will serve eight days of the suspension starting Monday, the department announced Friday. McHale need not serve the other two days if he stays out of trouble for six months. Once the suspension is complete, he is scheduled to return to work as a supervisor in the Boston Police Department court unit.

The discipline comes after an internal affairs investigation sustained charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for the comments McHale made on video,  but the investigation determined that McHale did not hit anyone with his car.

"A thorough Internal Affairs investigation was conducted on Sergeant Clifton McHale and concluded a sustained charge for statements made by the Sergeant on a body worn camera that were unbecoming of a police officer," said a statement from Boston Police spokesman Sergeant Detective John Boyle. "The investigation, which consisted of video evidence and multiple witness interviews, determined that the Sergeant did not strike anyone with his vehicle."

The internal affairs investigation report says that McHale told investigators that he "misspoke" when he said he hit protesters with his car. After interviewing witnesses and reviewing video, the investigators determined that McHale did not strike anyone with his car.

The investigation sustains the charge of conduct unbecoming an officer because of the language McHale used while talking with other officers.

"Body-worn camera footage captures Sergeant McHale using profanity," the report reads. "This Body worn camera footage was released to the public and it did not reflect most favorably on the Department."

Carl Williams, an attorney who obtained the body camera footage while representing people arrested during the protests, called the 10 day suspension for McHale "outrageous."

"When do you say a guy shouldn't be a cop anymore?" said Williams, now a professor at Cornell Law School. "These guys are supposed to be making sure that people can protest freely. We need officers who care about our safety."

The internal investigation began after video caught McHale telling officers that he hit demonstrators with his car during the May 31 protests in Boston. Shortly after the video was published, the department said that McHale was placed on administrative desk duty.

The video, posted by the online news organization The Appeal, came from police body cameras. It shows McHale boasting about hitting protesters and at one point saying "I'm f---ing hittin' people with the car."

The video also shows McHale become subdued after other officers appeared to warn him that the body cameras were on.

"The facts of this case are indefensible," said acting Mayor Kim Janey in a statement.

City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu called for strong action.

"This lack of respect for Bostonians and their safety does not belong in our police force," Wu said in an emailed statement.

City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, who is also running for mayor, said it is critical that police officers are held accountable and investigations are transparent.

“I don’t know all the details here, but I firmly believe that those who serve this city must be held to the highest possible standard, " Essaibi George said in a statement.

The Boston Police Superior Officers Federation did not respond to requests for  comment.

This article was originally published on October 08, 2021.

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Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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