Boston Cop Who Bragged About Running Down Protesters Back On Full Duty
He's awaiting discipline, but will not be fired
The Boston Police sergeant who was caught bragging on camera about running down protesters during the George Floyd demonstrations on May 31, 2020 has been reinstated to full active duty.
Video of Sergeant Clifton McHale boasting about hitting protesters was brought to light by my exclusive reporting at The Appeal in December 2020. The clip was part of a trove of 66 hours of bodycam footage from the protests passed to me by attorney Carl Williams.
“It makes you wonder what a Boston Police officer has to do to get fired,” Williams said Wednesday after I told him of McHale’s reinstatement. "How in an unprecedented time of calls for police accountability can this be happening?"
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“I’m fucking hitting people with the car”
In the video, embedded below, McHale tells another officer whose bodycam is turned on about how he just used his police vehicle to attack demonstrators.
“Dude, dude, dude, I fuckin’ drove down Tremont—there was an unmarked state police cruiser they were all gathered around," McHale says. “So then I had a fucker keep coming, fucking running, I’m fucking hitting people with the car, did you hear me, I was like, ‘get the fuck—’”
The officer with the camera walks away for a minute after pushing McHale away, and when he returns, McHale unconvincingly claims he was just kidding.
That exchange was one of the most jarring moments in my report and caused an uproar.
“I’m a member of law enforcement now as an elected district attorney, and I’m not proud of that when I see that,” Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins told me at the time.
McHale was suspended after I published the video, then assigned to desk duty in the Spring.
“He’s not getting fired”
According to Boston Police Department spokesman Sergeant Detective John Boyle, McHale is still awaiting discipline. Whatever consequences are coming, however, they’ll have to wait—the Boston Marathon is Monday and the department is too busy to hand out punishment, Boyle said.
Nonetheless, McHale will eventually face some form of punishment. Boyle said there will be some consequences, though he was unsure what the internal investigation, which recently concluded, had found.
“Pending discipline means that something was sustained,” Boyle said. “But he’s not getting fired.”
History of misconduct
It’s not McHale’s first investigation for misconduct. In 2005, he was investigated over allegations of sexual assault against an intoxicated woman while he was in uniform.
As the Boston Globe reported:
McHale was a 32-year-old uniformed officer working a paid detail at The Purple Shamrock near Faneuil Hall on July 17, 2005, when he offered a woman he’d met a ride to her hotel in his unmarked police cruiser, according to past media reports.
But rather than driving the woman directly to the hotel, McHale stopped in an alleyway, according to an internal police investigation.
The woman later told police that she’d passed out, and when she came to, McHale was assaulting her.
McHale refused to admit wrongdoing, but accepted a one year unpaid suspension as a result of that investigation.
The blue wall
Four demonstrators who were attacked by BPD on May 31 filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on June 14 against the city of Boston and three Boston police officers.
The suit takes aim at the so-called “blue wall” of silence that protects officers from the consequences of their actions.
On May 14, 2021, Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey acknowledged that a “blue wall” of silence existed in the Boston Police Department, which prevented police officers from reporting misconduct by fellow officers. This policy or custom existed in the early 1990s and continued into 2021. Acting Mayor Janey said, “officers were intimidated into silence for fear of retaliation” during an investigation in 2021.
Because of this “blue wall” police officers in Boston felt free to use unreasonable and excessive force on protesters because they expected fellow officers would not report any misconduct and they knew that the police department would accept the word of a police officer over the word of a civilian.
“A clarion call to defund the police”
For all the anger at the city’s police department for their actions during the protests and in general, McHale’s full reinstatement makes clear that some things aren’t going to change anytime soon.
To Williams, the treatment of McHale is symptomatic of a larger problem.
“When a supervising officer, a sergeant in the Boston Police Department, laughs about attacking Boston's youth with a police vehicle and escapes accountability, it is a clarion call to defund the police,” Williams told me. “Instead the city is out here defending this violent police behavior.”
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The guy explains in pretty useful detail where he commited the assault with a vehicle. Has anyone searched for the people he ran over? They'd have a decent chance of winning a suit, and even getting around qualified immunity - he's saying the magic words constituting gross negligence.
I want to know how he made sergeant after a one year unpaid suspension for SEXUAL ASSAULT IN A POLICE CAR. Why can’t we expect law enforcement officers have some sense of decency?