Northampton Lawyer Who Called Police ‘Violence Workers’ Stands By Comment

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A Northampton resident who called police officers “violence workers” seven times while arguing against allowing the city’s police department to accept a donation of $13,000 worth of ammunition from Walmart is standing by her statement.

The issue came up last month when the general manager of the Walmart store in Northampton approached city officials with the offer, because the store had discontinued selling ammunition. Mayor David Narkewicz brought the proposed donation to the city council, which has the ability to approve or not approve donations to the city.

Dana Goldblatt, a city resident and lawyer, spoke against the measure during the public comment period at the beginning of the Northampton City Council meeting on December 20, arguing against the “impulse” to “rationalize” allowing the city’s police to accept free ammunition from “arms dealers.” Then she said (in full):

But I think that logic accepts as a given that first of all the current degree of militarization of Northampton police, and also the number and extent of violence workers that we need in Northampton, as opposed to other kinds of workers – social workers, crisis workers. Do we fund violence workers and we pay for guns and ammo, or we accept donations of guns and ammo, at a pretty high rate?

My question is —  because of course accepting this gift of armaments from Walmart is the natural end of the logic of having this many violence workers — is:  How many do we really need in Northampton? We don’t have citizen input into that question. I’ve never been able to get citizen input into that question. How many violence workers, as opposed to crisis workers or social workers, do we want to fund in Northampton? And the reason I want input into that is because having violence workers who are implicated in arms deals or arms donations or whatever this is, those aren’t my values. And having guns and ammunition flowing through our city at this rate like water, those are not my values. And I don’t remember ever being asked if it was O.K. with me to have this amount of violence in my city, or to have this amount of violence being perpetrated in my name. And I can’t see a way to get input into that. This isn’t an area in which the mayor’s office accepts comment, or there’s no citizen review committee of the Northampton police. There is no civilian input into how violence workers operate in Northampton.

And this body has said repeatedly that they only control, have the power of the purse. But of course if Walmart wants to supply endless guns and ammo we don’t — the power of the purse is worthless.

So, I want to know whose values these are that are being served. Because they’re not my values, and I don’t feel like they’re any of your values. I don’t feel like anyone here would say, “We need more guns and ammo in Northampton, we need more violence workers, we need less teachers, less social workers.”

And I would say that these are Walmart’s values. Walmart calls Northampton police an average of every day. Three hundred and sixty-five days a year, they call Walmart. And, if Northampton Police Department belongs to us, then we should be able to call that off in some way. We should be able to stop it. We should be able to say “Fewer police. Fewer guns. Less ammo.” And somehow we can’t. No one seems to be able to do that. And I would say that’s because the police don’t belong to us.

Contacted by the Daily Hampshire Gazette on Tuesday, January 8 about her use of the term “violence workers,” Goldblatt said:  “That’s the correct term for people who use violence as part of their job. I am not advocating for the elimination of violence workers. You have to name things if you want to be able to govern them. You can’t regulate something you can’t name.” 

Goldblatt’s comments on December 20 drew no criticism from city councilors that night. Instead, later in the meeting the proposed donation from Walmart drew sharp questions from some councilors, including a concern that Walmart might be able to take a tax deduction for the donation.

Alisa Klein, a city councilor, pressed the police chief and mayor for details about the donation before the December 20 council meeting. She said during that meeting that the proposed donation from Walmart included 80 cases of 12-gauge rounds (with each case having 10 boxes of 25 rounds each, with a total of 20,000 rounds); 35 cases of 20-gauge (8,750 rounds); one case of .44 Magnum rounds (either 1,000 or 2,000 bullets total); one case of .38 specials (about 1,000 bullets); one case of .45-automatic (600 bullets); two cases of .40-caliber bullets (a little less than 2,000 rounds); seven cases of .22-caliber long-rifle bullets (about 35,000 rounds).

Mayor Narkewicz responded that Klein’s request for detailed information about the proposed donation was “feeding into an anti-police narrative.”

But Klein said she was trying to determine “if there’s a need for a corporate donation from a somewhat questionable corporation.”

Councilors that night voted to refer the proposed donation to a subcommittee rather than voting to approve it. Walmart subsequently withdrew the proposed donation.

Outraged residents have subsequently criticized both Goldblatt and the city council, according to the Hampshire Daily Gazette.

Five residents spoke in favor of the Northampton police during the public comment period of the city council meeting Thursday, January 3.

One of them was Andy Trushaw.

“I’ve served with the Northampton Police Department for 40 years. I am not, nor ever have been, a violence worker. ‘Violence worker’ is hardly descriptive of the men and women that I’ve worked with over the years at NPD. They’re honorable, highly trained, professional, and I won’t stand by as someone stoops to call them ‘violence workers’,” Trushaw said, according to a video posted on the local cable access television station’s web site.

He continued:

“Dealing with violence is part of what police do – a very, very small part. We train for medical calls, we investigate various crimes. Police respond to calls that most people cannot even imagine. Having to advise loved ones that a family member is gone? Police have to deal with various issues and wear many hats. They’re called on to be social workers and crisis workers at a moment’s notice. For this we have to be called ‘violence workers’ by an attorney. Most officers I know would and have stopped and rendered aid for many things, without being asked to do so, because they truly care – off-duty, and on-duty. Because of their training, equipment, experience, and compassion, lives have been saved. Police are the ones people call on to begin to solve their problems — during the day, in the middle of the night, Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, when their social worker, city councilor, or lawyer can’t be contacted. And all through that, these issues, the police are expected to be, and do, respond with compassion, understanding, respect. It’s something I believe Miss Goldblatt should learn.”

Northampton is a city of about 29,000 people in western Massachusetts about 16 miles north of Springfield. The city went 80 to 11 percent for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election over Donald Trump.