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‘Contempt of cop’ arrest ruled contempt of rights

A Worcester Federal Court jury awarded a settlement to a woman who filed a federal rights claim against Worcester Police Officer Jeremy Smith, charging him with false arrest and assault and battery.

The plaintiff, Wakeelah Cocroft, of Chicago, was a passenger in a car driven by her sister, who was pulled over into a gas station by Officer Smith and charged with speeding. The police officer ordered the driver to stay in her car, while he went to his vehicle. Cocroft went in to the gas station and paid $5 for fuel, which she began to pump into her sister’s car.

The police officer returned from his car to order Cocroft back into her sister’s car. Cocroft explained that she thought the officer had only ordered her sister to stay in the car, and added that she had certain rights. Officer Smith replied that if she said another word, he would arrest her. Cocroft replied that he did not have to talk to her in that manner, whereupon Officer Smith grabbed Cocroft from behind, shoved her face-down into the concrete, put his knee into her back, and handcuffed her.

Cocroft’s sister dialed 911. Cocroft was injured from the arrest and was treated, in police custody, at UMass Memorial Hospital.

The Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights governs arrest procedures, and grants us protection from arrest, search and seizure absent of probable cause of evidence that a crime has been or is being committed.

The judge denied Officer Smith’s request for immunity.

Praying for an end to deportations

In advance of President Obama’s visit with Pope Francis last week, U.S. Latino activists traveled to the Vatican to seek an intercession from the Pope to halt the deportations of immigrants, which have separated families, and have exceeded two million during Obama’s presidency.

Juan José Gutiérrez, an immigration-reform activist from southern California, received the help of the archdiocese of Los Angeles to coordinate the meeting with Pope Francis.

Among the 14-member contingency that travelled to Rome was a 10-year-old girl whose father had been detained in an immigration detention center since last year following a DUI arrest. The publicity surrounding the advocates’ meeting enabled the girl’s relatives to raise the bail money needed to release her father from prison.

Grove Hall text polling pilot project

How many times have you and your neighbors hoped that the new building going up in your area would house something that you could use? How many times has that building come up and housed what you had wanted?

If you are a resident of the Grove Hall area, you are now able to shorten the distance between what you want and what you get by using a new text-polling program to vote for what businesses you want to see in the Wonder Building.

Participants in the poll can use their cell phones to choose their favorite among the businesses listed in the survey. If participants do not like the choices or if they have a better idea, they can text that too.

Ed Gaskin, executive director of Grove Hall Main Streets, is working with the Department of Neighborhood Development to coordinate the text polling, which is provided by mobile survey company Textizen.

Laptops distributed to BPS students

On March 20, Mayor Martin Walsh was at the Mildred Avenue School in Mattapan to announce that Boston Public Schools will provide Google Chromebook notebook computers for students to use in the classroom. Students will be able to save their work on the Google Drive, so they may continue their work after school by using their login ID and password on another computer.

These computers are provided as a loan/lease to be repaid by BPS. This program provides approximately one computer for every six students

Some of the Google Chromebooks have already been used to aid students in taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers that was piloted this Monday in 70 Boston schools. This is a computer-based test, and the results of this test will be used to finalize the exam before it is used for scoring purposes.

Zoo New England plans for new children’s zoo

Zoo New England plans to expand George Robert White Fund Children’s Zoo.

“In this day and age when so many, including children, are focused on computer screens and mobile devices, it’s important not to lose the connection to nature and our critical role in ensuring the planet remains a healthy, thriving place for generations to come,” said John Linehan, president and CEO of Zoo New England.

The new expansion will be named Nature’s Neighborhoods. Nature’s Neighborhoods will be a space where children can learn, through activity and observation, of the jobs that various animals, including humans, serve in the ecosystem as a whole.

Featured animal exhibits will include red pandas, North American river otters, prairie dogs and many more.