Has the Boston Police Fulfilled Their Duty?
Today, the police shut me down as I busked for charity. The following conversation occurred.
Policeman: You can dance here, you just can’t have [the boom box] playing. Sorry.
Me: I mean, I’m raising money for charity, but ok, that’s fine. Can you just cite whatever the regulation is so that I can look it up?
Policeman: I don’t have to cite it to you. I mean, I can write you a citation, but you don’t want that.
Me: No, I don’t want that. Pretty sure, that’d be bad for both of us.
Policeman: It wouldn’t be bad for me.
Me: That’s fine, I’ve been out here for a while anyways, and I’m tired.
With that, I shut off my music. The crowd that had formed to watch me was audibly upset all around. I apologized, explained and danced a brief encore to no music — as the police had suggested.
On my way home, I looked up the amplified sound regulations for Boston (appended below if you’d like to know). By these definitions, I was not in violation of the law to which they referred, and they could not write me a citation. More importantly, the empty threat of being able to write me a citation without knowledge to any specifics about the law for which he was threatening me with was obviously disheartening.
With the legal kinks ironed out for future reference, my mind wandered to my philosophical ends of what had happened. I had been shut down by the police in front of a crowd of people gazing in admiration. The BPD’s mission statement is as follows:
“The Boston Police Department is dedicated to working in partnership with the community to fight crime, reduce fear and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods.”
We were standing in front of a crowd who represented a sampling of the community openly expressing disgust at what the police had asked — no partnership with the community in sight. Instead of fighting crime, they chose to fight a doctor raising money for charity. Instead of reducing fear, they instilled it in me by threatening me baselessly with noise citations. And instead of improving the quality of life, based on my onlookers faces, compliments and disgust at my being shut down, I would argue they worsened it — certainly, for the beneficiaries of the charities to whom the money ultimately goes. Mission failed.
Ranting aside, I’d like to ask the police, or any public servant, who they believe they are meant to represent. They weren’t fulfilling the wishes of their constituents by shutting me down. They were accomplishing nothing. Even the police seemed to feel some remorse about it, as they were tipped off by the “Downtown Crossing ambassadors”. However, it is the police’s job to represent the people and “improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods”. Simply because they are asked to shut me down, doesn’t mean they should. So, I openly ask my assailants, do you think you fulfilled your duty to the people you serve today? And may you continue to ask yourself that everyday, just as I do in my line of work.
— — — —
City Ordinance Chapter 16, Section 26:
b. Loud amplification device or similar equipment shall mean a radio, television, phonograph, stereo, record player, tape player, cassette player, compact disc player, loud speaker, or sound amplifier which is operated in such a manner that it creates unreasonable or excessive noise.
c. Unreasonable or excessive noise shall mean
1. Noise measured in excess of 50 dBa between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., or in excess of 70 dBa at all other hours; or
2. In the absence of an applicable noise level standard or regulation of the Air Pollution Control Commission, any noise plainly audible at a distance of three hundred (300') feet or, in the case of loud amplification devices or similar equipment, noise plainly audible at a distance of one hundred (100') feet from its source by a person of normal hearing.