By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Keeping the heat on the heat

In case you missed it, Kevin Cullen has a first-rate column in today’s Boston Globe on the death of David Woodman following last month’s Celtics victory. Cullen speaks with a fan named John Rufo, who remains incredulous at the aggressive show of force by Boston police at the celebration. Cullen writes:

Now, you can dress this up any way you want: that Woodman had a preexisting heart condition, that it was an unfortunate accident, that it was any number of things. But the bottom line is David Woodman is dead and he died as a result of being taken into custody by some cops who didn’t like some kid mouthing off to them.

You will never convince Jim Rufo that David Woodman is dead for any other reason than that the show of force put on by police the night the Celtics won their 17th championship was something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: that if you hype police officers up for battle, if you send them into a crowd of civilians with weapons, you are asking for trouble.

Good for Cullen for keeping the heat on the police.


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13 Comments

  1. Neil Van Dyke

    There is a problem in Boston with those who see sports victories or failures as an opportunity to either riot or be entertained by the rioting of others. Neither is decent or civil behavior.While criticizing the BPD for imperfect handling of the situation, I think media should also keep the spotlight on the rioting problem and proposed solutions.Questions include whether throwing a street sign through a window should result in greater penalty if it also fuels a riot, and how to suppress rioting while not infringing on fundamental rights and mechanisms of our society.

  2. Doug

    Cullen’s column dovetails nicely with David Bernstein’s report in the latest Phoenix about the erosion of public confidence in the BPD.I thought Bernstein’s piece was especially well-reported. It reflects much of the sentiment voiced by many of my neighbors about the BPD.Doug ShugartsBrookline, MA

  3. Anonymous

    I believe the forces that were deployed to maintain orders during the recent New England championship sporting events is wildly disproportionate to the actual problem of rioting itself. So far there have been two deaths and in the game of responsibility I would say Cops 2, Forces of Disorder 0. Unfortunately, increasing police presence is the only solution that mayors of cities have at their disposals. We have become a society so uncomfortable with the idea of demonstrations and celebrations in the streets that we will go to any length to quell these. If one wants to think of the meanings of this tendency for democracy and civil life, the implications are pretty grim.

  4. Anonymous

    David Woodman wanted the bull and he got the horns. I am sure no one meant for him to die but he was drinking and mouthy in the street and ran when the police told him he was under arrest.He also did this two years ago at another sports celebration.The police did their jobs.

  5. Anonymous

    My GIRLfriends and I made similar comments as David’s about the excessive amount of police and their rioting uniforms in the Fenway area. The amount of police compared to the number of fans on the streets was outrageous. Only difference is I didnt get thrown to the ground by 9 officers. The Fenway area was not a place going crazy throwing chairs through store windows and other rioting acts. There were screaming fans cheering and celebrating civily. No matter how you say it, a smart ass comment does not make it okay to throw someone down to the ground, threaten arreseting witnesses and allow the “criminal” to stop breathing for atleast 6 seconds causing severe brain damage.

  6. Eric

    >Cops 2, Forces of Disorder 0This is why we have a problem: short memories. It's Cops 2, Forces of Disorder 1. You forget that James Grabowski, 21, was killed on the corner of St. Stephens and Symphony. Jason Stackiewicz, also 21, was seriously injured. Several others were just-plain-injured. Cars were set on fire. The entire police contingent for the Fenway/Kenmore neighborhood was ~6. Ultimately, it was Northeastern cops that kept things in control long enough to get the BFD there. All "first rate" columns like Cullen's are going to accomplish is a repeat of the 2004 disaster. Why can't we face the root problem: these idiotic yahoos who feel they can do whatever, whenever, and wherever they want without regard to consequence. It's for them the show of force does and must exist. Even *with* that police presence, they smash the town. God knows what we'd need to prevent damage and injury? The army? Some tanks?Some background for the historically challenged:http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2004/02/03/bedlam_after_win_leaves_death_injuries_destruction/

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Eric: So if the police kill non-rioting bystanders it’s OK, but if a civilian kills a rioter it’s not? In 2004, there was plenty of disorder, but Victoria Snelgrove was not taking part. That didn’t prevent her from getting shot in the eye.David Woodman mouthed off on a night when, by all accounts, there was very little disorder on the streets.

  8. Eric

    Check this account:http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2008/06/police_arrest_1.htmlI think there was more than a little, and perhaps even a fair bit of disorder going on that night, especially at Canal Street. Shouldn’t have mouthed off, shouldn’t have gotten hurt, but likely wasn’t there for Bible study, either. *Nobody* should be getting killed (or injured) on these nights. By the same token, *nobody* should be out turning cars over and smashing windows up and down the street and expecting the “boys will be boys” treatment that they seemingly get the other 364 nights a year. But the simple fact is, you can withdraw the police and hope for the best: à la 2004, or you can deploy the police and hope for the best (every year since). I think (for once) I’m taking the police.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    Eric: Sorry, but you only provide more evidence that the police were out of line. The story you point to involved rowdyism near the Garden. David Woodman died on the other side of town, near Fenway Park, where there was no trouble reported. Again, from the story you cite:”The vast majority of the revelry was exuberant but peaceful. In the bars around the Garden and Fenway Park, faithful and fair-weather fans alike high-fived, hugged, and toasted the team’s success.”

  10. Anonymous

    I’m not sure that David Woodman did anything more than mouth off in general, not directed at the police, but still, not what police wanted to hear, and they reacted as might be expected. Police took anything not absolutely obedient of their wishes as a threat, wrongly.

  11. Anonymous

    david did not run from the cops.

  12. Anonymous

    Most of you clearly didn’t know David, I did, he was a good kid.Why did it take so many officer’s to subdue one kid with a heart condition?Why did these same officer’s claim “stress” to avoid immediate investigation?Every organization has trouble with discipline. Unfortunately, this lack of discipline is dangerous within positions of public trust such as police or military members. These organizations cannot expect the “rioting” public to behave civilly, if they themselves cannot. I get it, tough position in which to work, but such is the honor with which officers must struggle and serve. Excessive force is never okay.

  13. Anonymous

    The plot thickens. I find it interesting that the only arguments that disparage David Woodman in any way, use for examples, the false bits of information that BPD immediately reported to the media.David Woodman was NO WHERE near the chaos and window breaking. He did NOT have a warrant. That being ESTABLISHED, why would anyone still stand by the ridiculous claims initially made by the cops to the media. That should not have been reported because, it is false. A known falsehood is commonly known as a lie.This opportunistic behavior reeks with strategy and guile. The Boston PD is behaving like a bunch of people with something to hide.It is that sort of blind idealism that keeps Boston vulnerable to an inadequate leadership and a mob mentality FROM Boston’s police. Let’s not forget the abusive history of the arresting officers.Egads people, are you paying attention?These cops are not our friends. They make good cops look bad. Everyone is accountable for their behavior. Just because they are cops doesn’t mean they can kill someone for a comment.I know David Woodman. I can promise that I know him more than any of you vouching for the police in question. That is the difference. I can promise that there are hundreds more that can vouch for David Woodman’s character. Can you imagine that the BPD did a terrible wrong thing that night and that a good man was killed needlessly.That is the truth.

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