Experts Cite Collaboration as Key Tool in Eliminating Racial Disparities in Justice System

Collaboration is key to improving race relations in Massachusetts and beyond, particularly in regard to the treatment of underrepresented minorities in the criminal justice system. That was the prevailing opinion among a distinguished group of judges, academics, law enforcement officials, and community leaders who convened on Friday at the Fenway Center for a wide-ranging meeting on race and criminal justice in America today.

“We’re all going to have to work together in order to have a bright and positive future,” said William Gross, the superintendent-in-chief of the Boston Police Department, whose sentiments were echoed by fellow panelists throughout the discussion. “Once we recognize we have the same needs and concerns, then we can really have justice for all.”

Gross was one of nine experts who took a hard look at the intersection of race and justice during the three-and-a-half-hour event, which was sponsored by the Justice George Lewis Ruffin Society in conjunction with the BPD and Northeastern’s College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Named in honor of the nation’s first African American judge, the Ruffin Society aims to promote the advancement of minorities within the field of criminal justice. The group’s president, Roderick Ireland, moderated the event.

“We think race and criminal justice is a topic of critical importance,” said Ireland, former chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court and current Distinguished Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern. “It impacts each and every one of us in different ways.”

He put the meeting in context, citing a March Gallup poll in which 42 percent of respondents said they worry a “great deal” about race relations in the United States, a record-high since the polling firm began tracking the matter in 2001. “The bottom line is that race relations, one of the top concerns in the 1950s and 1960s, has returned as a major issue this decade,” Ireland said, quoting from the report.

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