Boston Police Sergeant Who Bragged About Running Down Protesters Back on Duty

Clifton McHale is assigned to a desk as an investigation continues into his actions last May

Despite being under investigation after admitting on camera that he used a police vehicle as a weapon to run down protesters during an anti-racism demonstration last May, Boston Police Sergeant Clifton McHale is back in the squad room. 

"Sgt. McHale is on desk duty," Boston Police Department spokesman Sergeant Detective John Boyle told me in an email. "Each investigation is unique, but it is normal practice."

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I broke the story on McHale's bragging about attacking protesters for The Appeal last December, part of my exclusive article on the Boston Police Department's treatment of protesters on the night of May 31. 

My report, which relied on 66 hours of body cam footage from that night provided by attorney Carl Williams, included a clip showing McHale bragging about running down demonstrators. 

"Dude, dude, dude, I fuckin’ drove down Tremont—there was an unmarked state police cruiser they were all gathered around," McHale tells an officer wearing a body camera. “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—'"

At this point, the officer walks away. McHale then reverses himself, claiming he was just kidding. You can watch the entire exchange here:

This isn’t the first time McHale has been under investigation for his actions while on duty. On December 31, The Boston Globe revealed McHale was investigated for allegations of sexual assault in 2005. 

As the Globe reported, McHale "was accused in 2005 of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman while in uniform in a police vehicle and agreed to serve a one-year, unpaid suspension following an investigation."

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 took a year unpaid suspension after an internal investigation, but denied any wrongdoing. 

There's been a lot of upheaval in Boston city politics and in the police department already in 2021. Mayor Marty Walsh left his post for the Biden Administration, where he serves as Secretary of Labor; a number of City Councilors including Andrea Campbell, Michelle Wu, and acting Mayor Kim Janey are vying for his position in this year's municipal elections.

Gross retired on January 29. His replacement, Dennis White, served for three days before being put on leave pending an investigation for domestic abuse. Gregor Long is now acting commissioner. 

The department is facing additional scrutiny over its handling of allegations that former Boston police union president Patrick M. Rose Sr. is a pedophile who was protected for decades by other officers in the force. 

Williams, the attorney who provided the hours of video from May 31 that formed the backbone of my December reporting, told me that McHale's constant skirting of the consequences of his actions is part of the problem. Even with fresh faces at the top in the police department and at City Hall, the underlying issues continue.

"With new leadership in the city of Boston there is some hope for a change in the violent culture and practice of the Boston Police Department," Williams said. "There could even be hope for some accountability but with the reinstatement of Sgt. Clifton McHale it is looking like the same old story. And that is a story of impunity for the police."

It’s been a while, so here are a few updates on what I’ve been up to:

At Business Insider, I wrote about investor Marc Andreessen and how his desire to reshape media into tech-friendly PR is part of a bigger effort by Silicon Valley to do away with confrontational reporting.

Andreessen is following an established playbook from rich men who want constant public adulation and power but refuse to tolerate criticism or deviation from their preferred narrative. Billionaires using their clout and power to agitate for better coverage in the press is a longstanding practice of the wealthy and powerful. The ultrarich have long meddled with the media and attempted to shape newsrooms to the benefit of the elite.

I profiled the St. Louis Board of Aldermen race for The Appeal.

Although all members of St. Louis’s current Board of Alders are Democrats, the municipal government can be hostile to policies that put working people first, such as allocating federal funding for the city and ensuring public safety is taken care of in an equitable manner, Green said. She cited the fight this year over police use of spy planes that roiled the board—it voted 15-14 to give preliminary approval to the deal—as an example of how close the margins are. (The plan didn’t move forward in part because of a failure to secure funding.) Green also said the resistance to the board’s more left-leaning members’ agenda that centers city residents comes even as voters increasingly support federal candidates that back similar policies. That means the future is bright for ideas about city government that put people first, she told The Appeal.

And I took on new Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo’s lies about public safety.

While Acevedo’s public image may line up with the “good cop” cliché he’s made central to his personal brand, a review of his recent public statements show that Miami’s new police chief regularly plays fast and loose with the facts when it comes to addressing public safety. 

Finally, at Blue Tent, I reviewed how Democrats can try to make gains in Alaska, the Dakotas, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, North Carolina, and Texas. You can find those articles here.

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Thanks for reading. More coming on the Boston Police Department—and other topics.