My friend Lisz Rea wrote a blog about this incident regrading the cop and professor in Boston http://www.restorativejustice.org/RJOB/harvard-scholar-versus-cambridge-police and I wrote this comment in response:

Thank you for the great commentary Lisa!  President Obama provided a wonderful service by modeling how conflicting people can communicate and come to understand each other better.  As painful as this incident was, it had positive results in teaching people to communicate, and also in addressing racial and class bias in our country.  Conflicts are inevitable in life, but how we respond to them (i.e., by fighting more or trying to communicate) is within our power to control.  This situation too shows how conflict can also lead to deeper understanding between people.

I also agree with you and NPR’s Michel Martin that prejudices influence the justice system.  Not only do individuals in the system have prejudices that prevent them from seeing people as human beings just like they are, but the system as a whole, also has prejudices against whole groups of people.

Besides racial prejudices, I think there is ample evidence that poor people are often automatically judged negatively by the justice system.  Poor people are frequently considered losers who didn’t work hard enough to do better, and they are to blame for all their problems.

Also many of the labels that some of us use when describing people in the system, i.e., “cases” offender” “victim” “inmate” “convict,” dehumanize individuals, and put them into categories that do not honor their value as people.

An incarcerated man who recently took a restorative justice facilitator training program in a Hawai’i prison, said that he found the training to be an “inspiration that has caused me to look at life in a different way.  Because now I can call myself a human being instead of just a convict.”

All people have some value.  People who have hurt others especially need opportunities to learn and appreciate that others, and themselves, have good qualities.  People who have been hurt too need opportunities to heal.  These are things that restorative justice recognizes and something that our current system tends to ignore.

Restorative justice sees people has having worth and being entitled to a voice in what they need when they have been hurt or have hurt others.  Restorative processes respect people, which is exactly how we want people to treat each other.  President Obama nicely modeled this too.