City Must Act Swiftly to Remedy Injustice to Boston’s George Floyd

Police Accountability, Racial Justice

Civil Rights Attorneys Representing Mother Of Terrence Coleman Call On City Leaders To Act Swiftly To Remedy Injustice To “Boston’s George Floyd”

In the wake of the George Floyd murder, cities across the country are re-examining their own police killings of Black men and women. Here in Boston, Terrence Coleman, a young Black man living with mental illness, was shot and killed by a Boston Police officer in 2016 after his mother Hope Coleman called 911 for medical assistance.  

Mr. Coleman’s death should provoke soul-searching – and concrete action – by City leaders in Boston. Police officers unnecessarily responded to a 911 call from Ms. Coleman for an ambulance to take Terrence to the hospital for medical attention. Mr. Coleman was not violent, and he was known around his South End neighborhood as a quiet and caring person. Although Ms. Coleman told the 911 operator that she did not need or want any police involvement, the Boston Police Department responded and instead of helping Mr. Coleman, a Boston police officer shot and killed him.

In 2018, Ms. Coleman filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, seeking justice for her son – and seeking reforms to the City’s policing practices to ensure no other mother will have to lose her son in the same way. Ever since then, the City has been fighting Ms. Coleman in federal court, resisting any type of reform.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has rightly called racism a public health crisis. We agree – and we applaud the Mayor’s leadership in doing so. 

Now, the City must re-evaluate the old ways of doing business. Whatever the City’s prior motivations were for fighting tooth-and-nail in federal court against a grieving mother of a young Black man shot and killed by police, that must end.  

We urge the City to resolve this litigation. Most importantly, this means making the types of reforms that Ms. Coleman has long called for:

  • de-coupling medical assistance calls from police calls, so that a mother who calls for medical assistance for her son is not met instead by armed police officers; 
  • ensuring police use de-escalation tactics; and 
  • providing police greater training in interacting with mentally ill individuals.