Almost a year after a federal lawsuit against the town police department set off a chain of scandals and resignations, Williamstown, Massachusetts municipal elections are coming up May 11th. WAMC has the second part of our series of candidate profiles.
Anthony Boskovich, 68, is a former civil rights trial lawyer running against Jeffrey Johnson for the open three-year seat on town’s select board.
“I essentially sued cops for a living," said the candidate. "And over that period of time, I came to learn policing pretty well, I know good policing when I see it. I know bad policing when I see it. I know good police administration when I see it. And I know bad police administration. So as I lived here, you know, you can't take your eye off the ball when you've got a three decade career. And so I watched police and police interactions, and I was really impressed with what I saw on the street.”
He says he questioned the veracity of the bombshell lawsuit filed by Sergeant Scott McGowan against the Williamstown Police Department last summer since it was made public.
“I did have some questions and concerns about the internal operation of the department," said Boskovich. "But I thought that what was going on the street was, was excellent. And then the town blew up.”
McGowan’s allegations included the revelation that a picture of Hitler had hung in a Williamstown Police Department locker, and that a staffer at the station had used the N-word while a Black college student toured the facility. The lawsuit came on the heels of the national Black Lives Matter movement, and led to an outpouring of often tense conversations about systemic racism and negative experiences with law enforcement in Williamstown.
“I started getting calls from people who were saying, you know, I feel like I'm being shouted down," said Boskovich. "I don't dare say anything. Because if I do, you know, I'm going to get shouted down, and I feel like I'm being branded as a racist. And as I heard all of these things, and also, I heard from business owners who said they were afraid to say anything, because the town, actually, groups in town have a history of boycott. And I said, you know, this is a 50 year dream for me to come here. And I can't stand it that this town is ripping itself apart. So I said, I've got to run.”
In light of the more recent revelation involving the Williamstown Police Department illegally searching the records of its critics from the initial scandal, first reported by WAMC, Boskovich says he blames the administration more than individual officers.
“There’s an old saying that an old boss of mine used to say, inspect what you expect, and they didn't do that,” he said.
The candidate also has doubts about claims of racist discrimination from community members from Williamstown law enforcement.
“If somebody is saying that they don't feel safe, it's not for me or anybody to question it," said Boskovich. "All right, you have that feeling of insecurity. And it's real. And you have to assume that that feeling of insecurity is real. What needs to happen, in my view, is when somebody expresses that, is to speak to the person and listen. Why aren't you feeling safe? What have you seen that isn't, you know, in the community, or whatever, that, do you think, is the genesis of those feelings? Is it something that you have seen here? Is it something that has happened to you here? Is this something, because Williamstown has a lot of people who move in because of the college, is this a feeling, you know, that you have brought with you from, you know, from where you've come before, so it's a sense of distrust that you've brought in because of past experiences?”
Boskovich says beyond confronting divisiveness in Williamstown, his other goals as a select board member would be to address classism in the community and work on expanding housing.
Boskovich faces Jeffrey Johnson for an open seat with a three-year term on the select board.