Policing improvements in Cambridge: reform or rhetoric?

Fourteen years after policing in Cambridge attracted national attention, the city’s two police departments are again considering improvements to how they interact with the general public amid calls for reform.

Attempts at change by the Cambridge and Harvard University police departments share similar traits, such as soliciting reviews from outside experts and appointing committees. They also operate under some very different parameters.


In 2009, the Cambridge Police Department came under scrutiny after Sgt. James Crowley arrested Harvard University professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. on the porch of his university-owned house.

The incident and the reactions it drew provided a type of Rorschach test for race relations in America. It also prompted the appointment of a review committee and a 64-page report, “Missed Opportunities,” that answered few pertinent questions.

Cambridge officials announced in late February several measures designed to increase transparency and public safety. Meanwhile, the HUPD and its advisory board is preparing to update a previous activity report that drew fire when it revealed a disproportionate arrest rate of Blacks, The Harvard Crimson reported in 2021.

More than a decade removed from Gates’ arrest, the looming question is whether the latest round of reports and committees are performative or a prelude to long-awaited progress.

Knee-jerk reactions to specific incidents have previously lacked the needed staying power. The time for change in public safety protocols is long overdue, said Stephanie Guirand, a researcher for Cambridge-based The Black Response.

“People really want there to be a solution, rather than academic discourse,” she said.

Carmaker BMW Develops Strategy for Blockchain, AI and the Metaverse

Andre Luckow, BMW Group’s Head of Innovation and Emerging Technologies, is charged with exploring the potential of machine learning, quantum computing, and blockchain technology for the Munich-based automaker.

In 2018, the BMW Group co-founded what it called the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative to coordinate activity among its 120 business partners in its supply chain. One result is BMW’s PartChain project, designed to provide traceability of components by creating more data transparency in supply chains. Another initiative is the Catena-X Automotive Network, which aims to facilitate secure data exchange between various automotive industry players.

Luckow has held several other BMW positions in IT and research since joining the company in 2005. He also teaches at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich and Clemson University in South Carolina.

How is BMW using blockchain technology, and why is it using it now?

I’m overseeing technology programs here, and blockchain is just one of the initiatives. One of the main drivers for enterprise blockchain … is to bridge the gap between us and our suppliers.

We attempted to cover different types of use cases. The first use case we started with was the traceability use case, and the main motivation there was [that] we don’t have enough visibility about what’s actually going on in our supply chain. [For example,] if one of our suppliers didn’t do their job. In that case, we wanted to create an ecosystem in which the participants in automotive value chain can log on and easily share data.

This system is managed by a group of people, so you have a lot of transparency and verifiability. The key environment [includes] very strict controls on who gets to see the data, and what data they get to see. Obviously, if an issue arises, we can change that.



Is the use of blockchain technology common in the auto industry?

Probably not as common as it should be. A lot of people in the auto industry are trying to figure out what we want to do…

For example, we’re working on an initiative with the German government on digital identities … Being a European company in a European state, we adhere to European values. So, privacy and digital identity are completely decentralized. There’s not a centralized registry of IDs of German citizens.

[There, blockchain] provides some benefits. For example, if you rent a car, instead of showing a plastic card, you can do an identity verification and driver’s license completely digital. It’s not only digital, you can do it in a secure way and you can do it in a privacy-preserving way.

Did you have to prove to BMW that blockchain is cost effective?

Absolutely — we do this with all our initiatives. We don’t do technology for technology’s sake. There has to be a strict purpose and business need… At the end of the day, it must yield to a business case.

Generally speaking, is the auto industry slow to adopt innovative tools?

I wouldn’t say slow; they’re just very careful. …Then, when we do something, particularly with a German company, we tend to do it to perfection.

Is it difficult to prove how valuable innovation can be? 

If there’s a good idea and you have the right people and the passion to try those ideas and commit, we can always make it happen. But you always have to convince. We always find a way, and we do have success stories on blockchain. …Good ideas will survive.

Obviously, when we roll [an innovation] out to international clients, we do it on a small scale. We need to get to the state where we understand the technology and reduce the risk, until we operationalize those technologies and get to the point where the company sees the value in those technologies.

How 3M Decentralized and Reorganized its R&D Department

In early 2020, when Minnesota-based 3M Co. decentralized its research and development function, it drafted veteran employee Cordell Hardy to take on a new leadership role.

Hardy was approaching the two-decade mark with the $32 billion company; when it decentralized its model to give the presidents of its four business groups more autonomy over R&D, he became Senior Vice President of Corporate R&D Operations.

3M, which was founded in 1902, sells more than 60,000 products and operates in 70 countries. Those products range from N95 masks to orthodontic gear to the omnipresent Post-it Note. It employs about 95,000 people.

In partnership with the company’s industrial business group, R&D most recently reimagined a commercial paint sprayer with composite materials after 10 years of development. It’s faster, cleaner and lighter than conventional, all-metal models.

We spoke with Hardy about 3M’s new approach to R&D; addressing customers’ sustainability needs; and how the company tries to measure R&D impact.

How is your R&D group structured, and how many workers does it employ?

I manage a group called corporate R&D operations. This organization was created about two years ago as 3M transitioned to a new operating model. For a long time, we’ve had individual business units, divisions that sell different portfolios. …We’ve gone away from that structure to empowered business groups. Now, the business group presidents are in a lot more control of their organizations. In particular, the R&D units around the world reports solid line up through the division. The R&D teams for each of those business units…they all report globally up to the R&D head for each business.

That’s a massive structural change, wherein now global R&D leaders really are global R&D leaders, with team members individually in all of the major lab centers around the world. They truly do lead global organizations. … The risk is [that] we create silos where we erode the collaboration between the technical team members across business units, which has really been a hallmark of 3M’s success.

So, R&D operations was really created to serve as sort of the mortar between bricks, and to provide the range of shared technical services necessary to operate at an enterprise level within the countries where we have a scale of technical personnel and structure.


How many employees are on your team?

Our team numbers around 380 folks globally.


How many R&D workers overall, companywide?

The R&D headcount, and this is approximate, is around 10,000 folks.

You have to be thinking about how your customer or user is going to use the product, what workflow they engage in, and what their sustainability concerns may be.


What industry trends are having an influence on how your team operates?

The industry trends that are relevant to my team are the same that are relevant to the entire company. The emphasis on competitive product performance and value proposition is the same as it has always been. Customers buy first on that. However, a very strong trend — and I’m sure this is true for every manufacturer — is around lifecycle management and sustainability.

Since 2019, all 3M products have had a sustainability commitment. … Increasingly, our customers are looking for this. It’s one thing to say, “We produce this with few emissions or recycled materials.” And that’s great. But another trend is our products fitting into manufacturing processes or designs or usage patterns that increase the sustainability footprint for our customers themselves. That’s a different conversation. That means you have to be thinking about how your customer or user is going to use the product, what workflow they engage in, and what their sustainability concerns may be. That’s been a point of emphasis.

Have expectations for R&D changed at over the years, or has it been consistent?

That’s a fair question. I think there’s always the conversation around the metrics that are used to assess the productivity or the impact of R&D. 3M has invested in order of five or six percent of sales in R&D consistently, and [annual revenue is about] $30 billion. So, you’re talking about something on the order of $1.5 billion, $1.8 billion per year invested, which is significant relative to shareholder interest. There’s always a conversation about, “OK, what benefit do you get out of this investment? How do you measure it? How do you think about it? Are you positioning for the future?” That’s consistent.

The things that may be a little different are we the way we…think about what skillsets are important for our company as we go forward. Certainly, in the last 20 years, digitization has been a huge trend … so, we’ve had to think about what research and development looks like as you incorporate increasing digital content and digital technologies and capabilities and partnerships outside the enterprise and how you measure that, right? Digital business models look different and they scale differently. The ROI and the P&L itself looks different. For the businesses that we run that are heavily focused on software, they have a much different structure to their profit-and-loss than a business related to abrasives, for example.

We’ve had to think about what research and development looks like as you incorporate increasing digital content and digital technologies and capabilities.

Emerging International IT Architecture Programs Take Center Stage

Security architecture has recently taken center stage in the news, underscoring the role that technology and IT architecture plays in the international business ecosystem.

Fueling this trend have been cybersecurity attacks on companies, organizations and governments, which have risen sharply. One incident occurred earlier this year when a glitch in SolarWinds Inc.’s software was exploited.  Other incidents have followed involving an oil pipeline operator and national food processor. These issues were even important enough to be addressed by President Joe Biden and Russia President Vladimir Putin during their summit in Switzerland over the summer.

They highlight how technology-based business planning­ and the global economy are inextricably linked.

The need for businesses and governments to reduce this exposure is creating greater demand for the benefits (beyond the obvious ones like value) that enterprise architecture, or EA, can provide.  As such, the need for speed coupled with cost-cutting concerns has fueled the proliferation of EA software tools. And there are other changes afoot.

Steve Andriole, business technology professor at Villanova University’s School of Business, suggests that it’s also advisable to demystify the role played by enterprise architecture. He prefers the name “business technology strategy” as an alternative.

“It’s now time to strip EA down to its most basic properties – the alignment of business strategy with operational and strategic technology,” Andriole wrote in Forbes.  “We can continue to complicate all this, or just admit we’re seeking business-technology alignment through the development of a dynamic business technology strategy.”

N.E. Patriots’ Vendors Keep Donating Despite Krafts’ Questionable Ethics

No defensive line in history could stop the Patriots’ charitable giving and publicity machine.

Public records show that even as the team’s owner, Robert Kraft, stood accused of paying for sex acts in Florida in 2019 (charges that have since been dropped), the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation Inc., a grant-making organization, raised $7.3 million compared with $4.5 million in 2018. That 60 percent increase came while Kraft still faced solicitation charges. Meanwhile, a US senator redirected a Kraft campaign donation elsewhere and at least one of the foundation’s grant recipients returned money, citing the principle that would be violated in accepting it.

For companies partnering with the Patriots, it was business as usual, regardless of any ethical issues in play. The charity reported receiving contributions from 155 donors in 2019 versus 151 in 2018. As appears to be a pattern, when it comes to charitable donations, Patriots vendors are carrying the ball while the Kraft family scores points with the public.


Digital Transformation Spurs a Proliferation of College and University EA Programs

Technology architecture continues to evolve much like the software and technologies it is designed to manage. And technologists are quick to note what that could mean in the future. 

They agree that the pressure is on for enterprise and solution architects to produce results faster and more cheaply. Meanwhile, the use of multiple clouds and AI is making the role more challenging, especially for established companies operating legacy systems. The result is a shift in focus from conceptualization and planning to faster delivery and a more pragmatic approach. 

Some technologists suggest there’s now a greater demand for solutions architects than the more comprehensive approach taken by enterprise architects. Others suggest that the term “Enterprise Architecture” (EA) may be falling out of fashion. Instead, it’s now referred to as organizational design, business design, enterprise design or digital design.   

Amal Alhosban, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Michigan, Flint, said chief information officers are doing more than ever. They’re now charged with understanding the business and technology architecture. They also establish information governance structures and credibility while investing in IT. 

“All of these roles take more skills than ever,” she said. “Leadership roles are much broader today than before. The main reason is integrating the company’s departments under [enterprise resource planning].”

The Rise of Solutions Architecture 

The demand for solutions architecture has outpaced EA and grown to become one of the more popular approaches employed by engineers compared with EA.  

Unlike the broader, more holistic view of enterprise architects, solution architects target specific business problems. The resulting connection to both workflow and data flow issues have contributed to their rising popularity, according to Scott Alexander Bernard, a veteran enterprise architect and adjunct instructor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Software Research. 

“People don’t see the money in enterprise architecture right now, but they do get something from solutions architecture,” he said. “People want tangible victories and my [enterprise architecture] stuff takes time.” 

Reporter’s Commentary: Might Does Not Make Right, Even in The Fake News Era

BOSTON — Might makes right.

That’s what a small faction, not all, of corporate America believes. Recent incidents show that there’s still a willingness to go to almost any length to sanitize the truth and withhold facts from those who deserve nothing less — Americans.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recounted this month how chemical giant Monsanto did everything it could to discredit reporters and activists trying to expose how the company’s Roundup product was potentially connected to cancer and other health problems.

Germany-based Bayer AG, Monsanto’s parent company, acknowledged in May that it enlisted a public relations firm to target anyone who spread the word about the possible dangers of Roundup. Lives were at stake and former Reuters reporter Carey Gillam wrote about it in August.

Last year, CNN reported that Bloomberg News reassigned its banking reporter after the CEO of Wells Fargo & Co. complained about close coverage.

In July, New York-based Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a 33-year-old watchdog group, exposed how the parent of company of Reddit and New Yorker magazine threatened this reporter who revealed a flagrant case of corporate censorship in Austin, Texas, involving Dell Technologies Inc.

Why care? Because such incidents are antithetical to American values based on the understanding that any imbalance of power is dangerous. Checks and balances are baked into our democratic system for that very reason. Remember the role reporters played in Watergate, the Catholic priest scandal, Harvey Weinstein, Theranos Inc.?

Admiral William McRaven, former chancellor of the University of Texas System, said last year, “When you undermine the people’s right to a free press and freedom of speech and expression, then you threaten the Constitution and all for which it stands.”

Reddit readers justifiably questioned whether corporate execs actually care what is reported in regional news outlets versus national publications. Although there is little hard proof, there are valid indicators that Del execs are unusually petty and thin skinned.

For example, Dell’s chief marketing officer wrote a 2014 letter to the editor after the Austin Business Journal accurately reported that Dell’s annual users conference would lack a star keynote speaker like Bill Clinton or Elon Musk in previous years.

Dell execs even take issue with tweets posted on a reporter’s personal account with direct messages sent via Twitter — after business hours. If that’s not enough, they simply deny the reporter credentials to company events.

Predictably, companies dislike censorship stories because they make it look like the companies have something to hide, which they sometimes do. Media execs don’t like such stories either because they can make them appear less than credible, which they sometimes are.

As a result, media outlets tie severance packages to non-disclosure agreements to discourage journalists from exposing incidents that fall short of the American ideals cited by McRaven. That’s notable because might certainly does not make right.

Austin deserves better; Austinites deserve the truth.


Presidential advisor Conway aided Cambridge manslaughter defense team in 2004

Before she became a presidential aide, Kellyanne Conway was a footnote in a long-running saga in Cambridge criminal justice: She sold her polling services to Alexander Pring-Wilson, the Harvard graduate student who pleaded guilty to manslaughter for his role in the April 2003 stabbing death of a Cambridge teen.

A recently uncovered report shows that Conway, now a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, completed a survey identifying the most advantageous venue for Pring-Wilson’s trial. A 25-year-old Colorado native, he had been arrested after Cambridgeport resident Michael Colono died from stab wounds suffered during an impromptu fight on Western Avenue with an intoxicated Pring-Wilson minutes after leaving a local music club.

Pring-Wilson, who claimed self-defense, took exception to Colono mocking his drunken stagger while walking past the now-closed Pizza Ring restaurant in Riverside.

The trial was originally to start in November 2003, but a motion to move it meant a delay to September 2004. 

The 17-page Conway report, which was completed in February 2004, is notable because it’s a tangible example of how money and power can influence – or at least try to influence – the justice system. The report aimed to determine whether Pring-Wilson was more likely to get “a fair and balanced trial” in a county other than Middlesex.

Year after Cambridgeport clash on race, class, no signs Harvard took steps to address issues

A Harvard University official sparked an outcry last summer when she made condescending comments to a Cambridgeport neighbor, a young mother tending to her mixed-race toddler.

The city of Cambridge responded by spending nearly $14,000 on a series of five remedial workshops – but Harvard did not participate, and it remains unclear that the institution has done anything to prevent another collision over race and class.

On July 14, 2018, Theresa Lund, executive director of Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, took issue with the noise created by a child playing outside her apartment in Cambridgeport while her own children were napping. Lund was captured on video confronting the child’s young mother, Alyson Laliberte, and asking if Laliberte lived in one of the complex’s affordable units. At a time numerous white people had been captured on video nationwide being insensitive to issues of race and class, the incident created a social media firestorm and provided a rare glimpse into the university’s commitment to inclusiveness.

Lund was placed on leave, and the initiative’s director, Michael VanRooyen, pledged to address such bias with additional staff training. One year later, a Harvard spokeswoman said VanRooyen wasn’t available to provide details about what, if any, training was provided to staff members. VanRooyen is also chairman of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, according to his online profile.

Immediately after the incident, Lund wrote that she loved her community and was “committed to engaging in dialogue and actions about how to make it more welcoming and pleasant for all of us to live in together.” She’s now not listed on the Humanitarian Initiative’s website director. VanRooyen had tweeted in defense of Lund that the incident did “not represent who she is,” then deleted the tweet, Harvard Crimson staffer Caroline S. Engelmayer wrote.

Planning to dig

In October, Mayor Marc McGovern and city councillor Sumbul Siddiqui announced plans for “Cambridge Digs DEEP” forums with a plan to address “equity, power, privilege, diversity, inclusion and race.” In a news release, McGovern said the events represented a commitment to social justice: “We know that despite our reputation as a progressive city, Cambridge is not immune to issues of race and class.”

But McGovern also told The Harvard Crimson that the inclusion of university officials in such events was important so they could educate their employees who are in different financial situations than their neighbors. 

Even at the time, Engelmayer wrote in the Crimson, Harvard didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

Boston Herpetologist Serves As Mother Nature’s Repo Man


BEVERLY, MASSACHUSETTS — You discover a poisonous cobra in a classroom. Who you gonna call?

If you’re one of hundreds of law enforcement agencies in the Northeast, the correct answer is probably Michael Ralbovsky. Since 1996, the herpetologist in Beverly has become a favorite resource for police departments confiscating dangerous creatures in New England and the Tri-State area for more than two decades.

It all started with the capture of 24-inch venomous snake discovered at a suburban-Boston elementary school. Word spread of Ralbovsky’s skills and he’s now a behind-the-scenes expert advising about 450 departments and agencies — as a free service. As a result, he’s quietly bridged the disparate worlds of animal-rights advocacy and law enforcement, becoming a type of repo man for Mother Nature. But instead of a tow truck, Ralbovsky’s work is done with a drive to save animals’ lives while assisting in about 300 seizures per year.

Demand for his work is a testament to how exotic pet ownership endures despite the efforts of animal rights groups and lawmakers concerned with the effect on the ecosystem coupled with the treatment and dangers of keeping non-domesticated animals.

The relocation work also underscores the difficulty officials face after confiscations. Finding a home for a puppy or kitten is one thing; locating one for a bearded dragon is a whole other matter.

Ralbovsky, who estimates recovering about 900 animals during 2017 alone, capitalizes on the national contacts he’s made during the last 30 years, said Gary Rogers, president of Nassau County, N.Y.’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“If I didn’t have Mike — he’s so respected by the law enforcement community — most of these animals would be euthanized,” Rogers said. “He plays an important part up and down the East Coast.”


Animal advocates have won major battles in recent years. For example, they put an end to the breeding of killer whales used in theme parks operated by Florida-based SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. and wild-animal circus acts.

The victories provided “momentum to national and global efforts to stop subjecting animals to lifelong captivity, coercive training techniques, and unceasing travel in box cars and cages,” the Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society of the United States reported.

But a patchwork of state laws and makes it difficult to regulate and oversee ownership of wildlife. The Humane Society says there are now only four states with no, or an inadequate number of, laws restricting ownership of dangerous animals. Nineteen ban private ownership of exotic animals; 14 require owners of exotic wildlife to obtain a permit or license.

Americans with the financial means can acquire just about any type of wildlife they want and public officials are largely indifferent to the implications, Washington, D.C.-based Born Free USA CEO Prashant Khetan said.

“This is an industry that has kind of grown out of the market because people glamorize it,” he said. “This is an open market and it can exist on an open level. Most states fall into the bucket that it’s not a major problem for them.”

Inconsistent state laws haven’t helped the effort to defend animals, said DJ Schubert, wildlife biologist for the Washington, D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute.

“As far as I’m concerned the amount of wildlife trade has increased exponentially,” he said. “It’s gotten worse. People want something different.”

These are the dynamics at play and the conditions that make Ralbovsky so crucial to so many law enforcement officials.

Long Island, N.Y., has been the location for a disproportionate number of confiscations because of its proximity to Pennsylvania, which has less restrictive wildlife ownership laws. In mid-2016, Ralbovsky assisted in confiscating 130 turtles and 270 birds from a Bellmore, Long Island, home, the largest animal seizure in Nassau County history.

Complaints by Long Island residents are rising because they consider wildlife ownership to be a precursor to other crimes. Yet confiscated animals put officials in a bind because it can be expensive to relocate them, Rogers said.

“We just don’t have the resources ourselves,” he said. “Michael is the go-to guy; he’s my first stop and works out where the animals will go, to get them to a safe environment.”


Joseph Chague, president of the Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts said the first thing his department in Pittsfield does when encountering wildlife is notify the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, or MassWildlife, which would then contact Ralbovsky if warranted.

Agency officials consider whom to contact on a case-by-case basis. But if it involves a dangerous reptile, Ralbovsky is their favorite recovery expert mostly because he finds a way to relocate them, MassWildlife’s Endangered Species Program Director Thomas French said.

Ralbovsky, 59, is no stereotypical pony-tailed, tree-hugging do-gooder. Clean cut and stocky, he typically wears a dark-green uniform evocative of a park ranger. He’s soft spoken with a demeanor that turns very serious when discussing the proper treatment of wildlife.

“We don’t ever, ever put an animal back in the public trade, ever never. It goes to a science center or a zoo,” Ralbovsky told a visitor to his wood-paneled office gurgling with four aquariums. “…People don’t like snakes, they don’t like lizards, they don’t like alligators. It’s not a cute and cuddly animal.”

In 2017, Ralbovsky and his wife, Joaney Gallagher, drove more than 30 hours to relocate 17 alligators to a zoological park in Beaumont, Texas. They also donate recovered animals to university science centers, sanctuaries and zoos. Some are kept at a facility that Ralbovsky and Gallagher oversee in Beverly, a scenic coastal city 27 miles north of Boston.

Ralbovsky’s reputation as a wildlife repo man was sparked by a 1996 incident in Stoneham. He captured a poisonous, two-foot Egyptian cobra in an elementary school three months after owner and neighbor Anthony Ferrari reported it missing. Ferrari and the Alabama man who allegedly sold the snake were charged with violating federal wildlife protection laws, the Boston Globe reported at the time.

Three decades of dealing with such animals has enabled Ralbovsky to spot trends like a surge in demand for ball pythons and bearded dragons. He can put such information to good use when training 300-400 first responders each year.

“I have to have this on my belt all the time,” Ralbovsky said touching his mobile phone. “I can’t get away from it because of law enforcement. We’re getting calls constantly on identification or whatever it might be.

Ralbovsky’s relocation work might seem unassailable, but Born Free USA prefers that recovered animals be released to a U.S. animal sanctuary regardless of the goal.

“We don’t agree with keeping wild animals in captivity — even for education,” Khetan said. “These animals are being used for entertainment and that’s not something we approve of.”

Back in Beverly, Ralbovsky and Gallagher operate a 3,200-square-foot animal sanctuary in an industrial park building that’s kept low profile for security reasons.

Rescuing wildlife doesn’t pay. The couple said they spend $40,000 a year just feeding creatures such as snakes, birds, turtles and tarantulas. They raise capital with a 25-year educational program called Rainforest Reptile Shows Inc. The charity provides seized animals with a second life in a traveling exhibit for children who benefit from wildlife that suddenly find themselves homeless.

“I don’t want the animals killed,” Ralbovsky said. “What will a PD [police department] do with a rattlesnake pulled out of a house in Long Island? … They don’t know enough about the animal to realize that it has a place in this world also. People don’t understand that.”