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Life's Rich Pageant

The Boston Cop Slide Fail Video Has Been Investigated Thoroughly, But I Have More Questions

10:18 AM EDT on August 3, 2023

BOSTON, MA - November 11: City Hall plaza under construction on November 11, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photo: Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images; Inset: Still from @LiveBoston617 video

The plaza outside Boston City Hall has been a flashpoint for protests before. Black Lives Matter protests were held there in 2020. White opponents of public school busing swarmed the site in several protests in 1976, where lawyer Ted Landsmark was assaulted with an American flag—a moment captured in a famous photograph, The Soiling of Old Glory. In 2018, protesters camped out at the plaza to call for a renovation of the dated, shadeless plaza, which looked more like a parking lot than a public space outside City Hall.

Last November, a new version of that plaza opened. The renovation added some trees, subtracted some staircases, and installed a playground that Boston city official Amy Mahler called “kinder-brutalist.” That playground received its first bit of notoriety earlier this week when a video of a Boston police officer trying and failing to use its slide went viral.

Oh, no. The video description absolutely did not prepare me for how violently this police officer would come down the slide. I do not want to make fun of this poor guy, as I believe the rest of the internet has taken care of that by now. I was quite amused by the news coverage Boston media gave to the incident, however. Boston 25 News—“Your local station,” per the tagline—actually asked the mayor about the incident. Michelle Wu said that “everything has a chance to be viral these days,” and then added:

“I don’t know what the circumstances were or what happened," said Mayor Wu. “But, I will definitely check in and make sure the officer is ok. If it looks like there needs to more signage that this is for children or something, we can do that, too.”

Imagine getting hurt at your job while doing something stupid, and then video of that goes viral, and then the damn mayor goes on the news and says she’s going to check on your boo-boo later and maybe install some signs at a playground to protect you. NBC Boston noted the playground “is labeled telling adults not to use the playground equipment,” so perhaps the mayor doesn't need to look into that one. The Boston Globe reported that the cop used his own insurance for care, lost no time on the job, and has since returned to work. Officer Slidey McFail is not under investigation; I would agree that he has suffered enough, even if it’s probably against job rules to go down a child's slide in such a way that all your shit falls off your police belt. The paper also reported that a version of the video was posted by some ex-NHLer Barstool guy, who then deleted it while saying he was “begged” to take it down.

The best reporting on this story did come from TV, as it happened. CBS Boston put its investigative reporters on the case; a station anchor said the video “raises questions.” I must admit to being impressed by both this allocation of resources and the resulting work product. The I-Team asked some darn good questions, perhaps because chief investigative correspondent Cheryl Fiandaca was on the case. She reported that other Boston cops were the ones filming the cop going down the slide, and presumably the ones who were hooting with laughter in the video that gave their coworker his moment of viral infamy. The cops had no comment on why the officer went down the slide. Like an ESPN basketball reporter on a podcast, CBS Boston hinted that they had secret information (in this case, the identity of the officer) but would not be revealing it.

This was all great reporting, just top-notch stuff, and it really added to my enjoyment of the viral video. I still had more questions, especially after seeing a photo of the full City Hall slide. Twitter user @listenupnerds apparently has first-hand experience with the slide, as he added that the cop is “wearing a nylon shirt and polyester pants. everyone i’ve seen go down the slide in synthetic fibers is MOVING.” (This point reminded me of my playground as a kid, where there was one of those classic Cold War-era rocket ship slides. We’d get wax paper from someone’s house and use that to get extra speed on the slide. I did not realize I could’ve just worn polyester or nylon for the same effect.)

Convincing as @listenupnerds’ perspective was, I wanted to get an expert’s take on the slide, as well. So I reached out to the three companies involved in the design, per the Boston City Hall website. Sasaki, a Boston design firm, led the project. Shawmut Design and Construction was the construction manager. Skanska USA was in charge of project management. Only one of them got back to me, but I felt like I was a member of the I-Team when Chris McKniff replied to my email: “Skanska Integrated Solutions was the City’s Project Manager for this project and had no involvement in the design or construction of the slide. Sasaki was the designer and Kompan was the playground manufacturer and installer.” The reply was quick, too. I highly recommend Skanska Integrated Solutions for all your project management needs, provided you have a City Hall plaza you need to renovate. Fast slides, fast responses.

That email gave me the name of the playground manufacturer, which seemed important. I hoped that Kompan would be able to answer some questions about the slide. How was this slide chosen for the site? How does the company ensure its slides are safe? How are slides tested to figure out the age range for one? Can you really go faster if you slide down in a polyester suit? How much faster than if you did it on a piece of wax paper? Will the company be hiring off-duty cops to go down future slides to make sure it can handle a police officer having a little fun on the job? Standard stuff.

“We design, manufacture, and install more than 1,000 playground or fitness sites every month somewhere across 90 countries,” Kompan says on its website. The company was founded by Danish artist Tom Lindhardt, who began designing play equipment in 1970 after seeing how much fun kids had climbing on his sculptures.

All very cool! But Kompan has not answered my queries, which means that the mystery continues for now. I hope the I-Team is investigating, too.

Update, 8/4/23 10:20 a.m.: After publication of this story, Skanska contacted Defector to say that Sasaki was not the designer of the slide. The company was also not able to confirm if Kompan was indeed the slide manufacturer. I still recommend Skanska for your project management needs, but am now wary of their ability to remember previous projects. Shouldn’t be a problem for you if you hire them, though.

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