(Photo courtesy of Tastery Reed) “Tastery Reed is a graduate of the UMass Lowell criminal justice program.”
UMass Lowell has had a rising criminal justice program that has been revered as one of the best in New England for a few years now. A testament to that is UMass Lowell alum Tastery Reed, who presently works in police accountability for Boston. “Out of all state schools… UMass Lowell has one of the better programs,” says Reed.
He did his undergraduate studies at Bunker Hill Community College and the University of New Haven, receiving his bachelor’s in 2013. He moved on to graduate school at UMass Lowell doing online classes while working as a fraud investigator looking into public assistance fraud.
Reed received his master’s degree in the Homeland Security program, starting in 2016 and graduating in 2018. He took courses that involved counterterrorism and emergency management, as well as writing a fifty-page capstone thesis paper on border security. He was also in the Criminal Justice Honors Society.
He did all this while working a full-time job. “I’ve always worked while I was in school… I worked in Government Center and having to drive all the way out to UMass Lowell during the week was tough. I did all my courses online, I always had a place I could go and study. I kind of already had a plan… on these days I’m going to go here, I’m going to stay these hours, work on these classes,” says Reed.
Investigating fraud seems to have little to do with Homeland Security, but Reed says, “[w]hen we started talking about terrorism and terrorist financing, that’s when I was able to put what I did for work into play… some of the databases law enforcement uses, I used.”
He highlights the differences between class curriculum and working in the criminal justice field, saying that some things taught in school won’t be used. However, he does say, “a majority of the classes gave you some type of overview…I think it all plays a role because… you’re not going to be in one job all your life, you’re going to continue moving up; and as you move up, that’s when your academics are going to start playing a role.”
Reed is also a certified life coach: he helps college students with prospective careers. He works for a program called Hope at Bunker Hill Community College, which, in his words, “help[s] break barriers that students are facing, specifically males, whether that’s the criminal justice system or finances. I helped one student get a full scholarship to the University of Tennessee and that student was originally in a gang. We turned that around.”
When Reed started school, he wanted to do crime scene investigation work, especially because police accountability was not prevalent during his undergraduate years. An example he gave as to what inspired him to pursue police accountability was the story of Boston native Sean Ellis, whom Reed is closely related to. Ellis was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1993 and was just recently exonerated.
Now, Reed works in the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT), which is a separate department from the Boston Police Department (BPD). “Police reform… with the things going on with George Floyd and the cases that happened in Memphis, a lot of different government agencies started opening up and developing new organizations to investigate,” says Reed.
The department “exists to investigate complaints of police misconduct,” according to its website. It was created in January 2021 by a law signed by then mayor Marty Walsh. According to a presentation made by Reed, OPAT is an “independent agency armed with subpoena power to investigate complaints against [the] Boston Police Department both through two boards: civilian review board and an internal affairs
oversight panel.” After seven years as a fraud investigator, Reed was hired as the first black male investigator.
“My job, I cover specifically the City of Boston, Suffolk County, so anytime a Boston Police Officer does something within the City of Boston, I have jurisdiction over that,” says Reed. Additionally, he will also travel to conferences occasionally and give presentations on police accountability and ethics to police chiefs and other people in police management. “I try to focus on criminal justice issues… police reform specifically, since I investigate police misconduct… where we were and where we’re going with it in the future and try to include the youth as well.”
“Not all police officers are bad, there are just a few problematic officers,” Reed says. He is certain that the work he is doing now is best fit for him and also plays an important role in the future of criminal justice. It is people like him who are making real efforts to not only reform the justice system, but get the next generation involved in such an important field of work.