Cambridge Exploring Reforms, Including Bodycams, After 20-Year-Old Fatally Shot by Police

The Cambridge Police Department has found no "egregious misconduct or significant policy, training, equipment, or disciplinary violations" in the shooting of Arif Sayed Faisal on Jan. 4

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After a police shooting left a 20-year-old dead in Cambridge last month and the community clamoring for answers, officers will eventually be given body-worn cameras, the city manager said Tuesday.

But he and the police chief are not planning to release the name of the officer who shot Arif Sayed Faisal on Jan. 4, as protesters and others in the community have called for.

"While I understand the call for blanket transparency in all fatal police shootings, I believe that making a determination based on each case is reasonable," City Manager Yi-An Huang said in a statement posted online Tuesday night.

Also Tuesday, Police Commissioner Christine Elow announced in a statement that the preliminary review of Faisal's shooting in Cambridgeport found no "egregious misconduct or significant policy, training, equipment, or disciplinary violations," and that the officer, a seven-year veteran of the force, has never been the subject of a complaint in Cambridge.

Community members are calling for answers after a young man was killed by police in Cambridge.

The officer remains on paid leave, and the department's review process will conclude when the Middlesex District Attorney's Office finishes its own independent investigation into the shooting, which is ongoing.

"We are deeply committed to constantly evaluating, learning, and improving following every experience, particularly critical incidents," Elow said, noting that her department is reviewing its policies, rules and procedures — including providing bodycams — and will partner with an outside organization to learn from the Jan. 4 shooting.

Several protests have been held since Faisal's shooting, with friends and family of the UMass Boston computer engineering student calling for answers on why he was shot and accountability for the officers involved.

Along with requiring bodycams, which Haung didn't give a specific timeline for, the city manager on Tuesday announced several changes that the city is looking into:

  • Provide alternatives to police for emergency calls
  • New less-lethal options for officers
  • A "procedural justice dashboard"
  • Bringing on an independent consultant to review police training and policies
  • Bolstering mental health resources and outreach in Cambridge
  • Continued discussion with the community on improvements

"Sayed Faisal’s death is unquestionably a tragedy. I am fully committed to making changes going forward, including acting with urgency on the actions recommended by the [City] Council," Huang said in his statement.

Syed Faisal was shot by a Cambridge police officer. Now his loved ones are searching for answers.

He addressed the calls to make public the name of the officer who shot Faisal, saying that officers have a right to privacy and that their names are typically released when there "is a high probability of criminal charges." But he acknowledged the need for more transparency on that policy and committed to working with Elow on developing it.

Authorities have said that Faisal was armed with a 12-inch knife and refused to put it down, advancing on officers with the weapon after a chase through Cambridgeport on the afternoon of Jan. 4.

"In an attempt to deescalate the situation, one of the officers discharged a less-than-lethal sponge round," Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan has said. "That round was unsuccessful in stopping Mr. Faisal and he continued to advance to the officers."

An officer fired his gun, wounding Faisal. He died from his injuries after being taken to a hospital, authorities have said.

Faisal, who was known as Prince by his family, was an only child who was never violent and had never been involved with law enforcement before, his parents have said in a statement released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Days after the shooting, protesters at a rally outside Cambridge City Hall organized by the Bangladesh Association of New England held signs saying "Justice for Faisal" and "Faisal needed help not bullets," while his friends and teachers remembered his friendliness, his positive outlook and his intelligence.

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