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ISSUES   |   REIMAGINING POLICE & COMMUNITY SAFETY

REIMAGINING POLICE & COMMUNITY SAFETY

POLICE IN BOSTON

 

Everyone, in every neighborhood, should be able to grow up and live their lives feeling safe. As a Black man and the father of four young children, John cares deeply about ending the cycles of violence and trauma that too many Bostonians experience. But improved public safety is not as simple as increasing police presence or defunding the police. Making dynamic structural changes that address the root causes of violence, like poverty and inequality, as well as helping survivors of violence heal, is crucial to creating a healthier and safer Boston. 

John got into public service as a teenager, after seeing how a lack of resources and a surge in violent crime was hurting his neighborhood in Roxbury. As a youth organizer at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), John witnessed the devastating impacts that the drug epidemic had on his community, and saw firsthand how the over-policing associated with the war on drugs affected his neighbors. He was dedicated to fixing these issues by creating positive opportunities, and as a leader at DSNI helped to develop innovative community programs to end violence and support residents coping with trauma throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

John’s record:

  • John helped to develop innovative community programs to end violence and support residents coping with trauma in his community throughout the 1990s and 2000s. 

  • He worked hand in hand with his neighbors to advocate for better community policing and criminal justice reform. 

  • John worked with the Boston Police Reform Taskforce to develop comprehensive police reform measures that were adopted by Mayor Walsh in 2020. 

John knows that true police reform requires transparency, a reimagination of responsibility, and representation.

There are various opinions about the impact of policing in our communities. Many residents have had harmful experiences with police, while others find police a reliable resource in their neighborhood. We have to take appropriate measures so that all Boston residents feel they will receive respectful treatment during interactions with the police in situations where it is appropriate for law enforcement to intervene. While police are necessary in certain situations, community care entities such as the Boston Emergency Services Team (BEST) are better equipped to address crises related to mental health, homelessness, and substance abuse. Although the Boston Police Department (BPD) works closely with BEST, it’s time for us to provide more appropriate resources for people in these sorts of situations as opposed to a one-size-fits-all response. 

As Mayor, with the help of all stakeholders, John will create a new, City-run Safe and Healthy Communities (SHC) Agency to provide an appropriate non-law enforcement response to mental and public health crises and behavioral issues in our schools and our neighborhoods.

Within John’s first 100 days as Mayor of Boston he will present a plan, budget proposal, and implementation timeline for creation of this new Safe and Healthy Communities Agency to the public.

  • The SHC Agency will be made up of professionals, highly trained on safety measures, to respond to calls relating to mental health issues, public health issues, and behavioral health issues in schools and the community.

  • They will be equipped to de-escalate conflict and to immediately connect residents with medical care, mental health treatment, emergency housing, substance use treatment, medical treatment, and trauma support. 

  • This non-law enforcement agency will work closely with BPD to determine appropriate responses to 911 calls, and coordinate with the Office of Recovery Services, the Boston Public Health Commission, Boston Public Schools (BPS), the Boston Housing Authority, and the Office of Housing Stability.

  • Members of the SHC Agency will replace the BPD Resource Officers in BPS.

  • Adding professionally trained experts to our emergency response system will expand the continuum of resources available to BPD and the community, allowing the reallocation of funding to community organizations that do work around public safety, mental health, and social services.

 

The new Safe and Healthy Communities Agency will help to dismantle the cycles of negative police interaction and court involvement that perpetuate poverty, trauma, fractured families, recidivism, and violence.

  • Mental and public health professionals will divert individuals in crisis away from emergency rooms and criminal justice settings, and provide a plan to access appropriate social, mental, and behavioral health resources.

  • This reallocation of responsibilities will allow Boston to narrow the scope of calls that police are expected to respond to, and formalize that in their contracts.

  • The reallocation of funding will allow for more investment and partnership with community organizations that do work around public safety, mental health, and social services to create better opportunities for young people, offer equitable access to mental health services in our communities, and help people who are struggling with substance use.

  • We will recruit and hire professionals with deep experience providing services for those in need of social, mental, and behavioral health resources, and work to train local residents who have lived experience to establish trust and connectivity to communities.

  • By replacing School Resource Officers, working closely with Boston Public Schools, and establishing a presence in local schools, we can destigmatize and build value around these mental and behavioral resources at an early stage, and Response Team members can form strong relationships with students as they grow up and encounter potential struggles.

 

As mayor, John will accelerate efforts to transform the Boston Police Department by increasing transparency and representation to build trust and accountability. John believes the first step is to fully implement the recommendations of the Boston Police Reform Task Force

  • Create an independent Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT) with full investigatory and subpoena power, i.e. the ability to call witnesses and to compel the discovery of documents.

    • Mayor Walsh signed the ordinance to officially form OPAT in January 2021.

    • John will seek to immediately fill all positions in OPAT, as well as the position on the Civilian Review Board and Internal Affairs Oversight Panel.

    • In addition to the semi-annual reports, annual reports, and public reporting on the website, John commits to holding twice annual town hall community meetings to provide updates to residents and discuss progress made.

  • Formalize and expand the BPD’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through the creation of a Diversity & Inclusion unit.

    • Appoint a Chief Diversity Officer and Diversity Recruitment Officer who reports directly to the Police Commissioner.

    • The D&I Unit will advise on all matters related to: recruitment, hiring, retention, promotion, discipline, termination of BIPOC officers, BPD culture, anti-racist and implicit bias training, and Minority Officer Reports of Discrimination.

    • Building on the success of the Police Cadet program, which John helped to reinstate as Chief of Economic Development in the Walsh administration, he will set clear and aggressive goals for hiring people of color and women in all ranks of the BPD.

    • The D&I Unit will also analyze existing pipeline programs and create new partnerships connecting the BPD to BPS and local community college students in order to dismantle the school to prison pipeline.

    • The D&I Unit will conduct an annual review of the BPD’s progress to analyze hiring and promotion, retention, and termination data and data related to equitable policing.

    • Assign two additional points on examinations to BPS, METCO, or Boston Compact graduates and/or residents of the City of Boston who have lived in the City for no less than five years.

    • Explore ways to create resources for the City of Boston to provide and promote a free Civil Service Test that would remove financial barriers and increase participation. 

    • Overhaul the entire racial equity training program by building out new programming and requiring participation from everyone — all recruits, sworn officers, and civilian employees.

    • Establish a Task Force to Implement Racial Equity Ideas, which will be responsible for developing metrics to measure BPD progress toward putting these recommendations into practice, assessing BPD’s progress via these metrics, and devising strategies to integrate these recommendations.

  • Expand the BPD’s adoption of the body-worn camera program and continue to ban the use of biometrics and facial recognition software.

    • Expand the body-worn camera program to include all BPD uniformed officers.

    • Increase the retention period for body-worn camera footage to at least six months. If the subject, officer, or officer supervisor flag the footage, BPD should retain the footage for three years.

    • Develop clear procedures and consequences for violations of body-worn camera policy. 

    • Maintain the BPD ban on biometrics and facial recognition technology in the body-worn camera program.

  • Develop use of force and disciplinary policies that articulate clear consequences for violations, hold the BPD accountable to the public, and minimize the risk of repeated violations.

    • Establish a public dashboard and track data on use of force data, including weapons discharges and arrest-related deaths.

A HUMAN-CENTERED APPROACH TO COMMUNITY SAFETY 

 

Although John has worked hand-in-hand over the years with neighbors to help deliver improved community policing that has led to trust-building between officers and residents, much more needs to be done.

Improving public safety starts with creating better opportunities for people in Boston’s neighborhoods---through education, youth programs, access to employment, and community investment.

Dismantling school-to-prison pipelines and increasing support for families dealing with trauma will help to end the cycles of violence that many communities have endured for far too long, particularly in Black and Brown communities.

The COVID-19 crisis has caused emotional anguish and economic despair for many people, leading to a spike in violent crime. That is why a robust recovery from COVID-19 must include support for survivors of trauma and renewed focus on violence interruption. 

As Mayor, John will approach comprehensive community safety through a stronger culture of collaboration across four strategy areas:

 

Prevention, engagement, and empowerment of Boston’s youth to lift them up and provide positive opportunities.

  • John will expand summer learning and working opportunities for Boston’s youth, increasing opportunities for over 11,000 teens to earn meaningful summer work and experience relevant to youth’s career goals through local employers. This will be possible through additional investment in Boston's Summer Youth Jobs Program and SuccessLink, stronger partnership with the Boston PIC, as well as additional resources for mentoring, after school programs, BCYF activities, and the BCYF streetworker program. 

  • Continue Enhancing Potential, Inspiring Change (EPIC), a partnership led by the Mayor’s Public Safety Initiative with John Hancock and the Boys & Girls Club of Boston’s Youth Connect program. It is aimed at heading off youth violence by providing clinical case management and positive youth development opportunities for 50 of the most at-risk boys and girls ages 11 to 14.

  • Coordinate additional outreach and services via early childcare, community health centers, hospitals, and education systems to identify those at risk early, and deploy support services for individuals and families. 

  • Continue and expand the City’s Professional Pathways, an initiative which places high-risk youth in six-month, paid internships in different departments across Boston city government to provide young people with a viable career opportunity within city government.

 

Early-stage intervention for high-risk youth through community networks and neighborhood stakeholders.

  • Create working groups with residents in every neighborhood to look at the root causes of violence, and identify opportunities for targeted interventions. 

  • The City of Boston's programs will continue to work directly with gang-involved youth. These include the BPHC Violence Intervention & Prevention Program, Peace Walks, National Night Out, Coffee with a Cop.  

  • Invest more in SOAR Boston (which stands for Street Outreach, Advocacy and Response), which brings an evidence-based approach to reduce recidivism, intervene in violent activity, and create pathways for active gang-involved youth and young adults in the city.

  • Continue support for the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative, which intervenes with teens likely to use firearms.

  • Clergy and religious leaders will be engaged leaders through the continuation of Operation Homefront to work directly with families and schools of gang-related youth and students.

 

Expand access to resources to heal trauma and end the cycle of violence.

  • Increase trauma supports available for survivors of violence.

  • Increase investment in the Office of Recovery Services in order to divert more people struggling with substance use disorder into treatment, and away from the criminal justice system. 

  • Increase investment in the Office of Returning Citizens, to increase life skills and employment opportunities for people who are formerly incarcerated, and reduce recidivism. 

  • Look at the disproportionate impact that violence has on people of color, immigrants, women, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, with an emphasis on improving supports for survivors of racial violence, hate crimes, sexual assault, and domestic violence. 

 

Expand re-entry programs to support second chances for returning citizens.

  • Once individuals have served his or her sentences they need an opportunity to start life anew in order to avoid engaging in further criminal activity. Without access to adequate housing, employment, and social emotional supports, it can be challenging to move forward in positive ways. 

  • Support and expand programs such as Haley House and Boston University’s Prison Education program.

  • Invest further in the City’s Office of Returning Citizens, which provides T passes, phones, employment and housing assistance, as well as peer support.

 

All efforts to improve community safety must be developed through collaborative partnership between residents, youth groups, City government, law enforcement, the faith community, and especially, survivors of violence. As someone with many years of experience in economic development, John also knows that a strong, just, and inclusive economy is essential to ending crime and improving public safety. 

A MESSAGE FROM JOHN

Just as this campaign is a community effort, this policy plan has been informed by a diverse group of residents, policy makers, and community organizations who reflect Boston's ingenuity, passion, and future. In this policy you will see your voice reflected and your neighborhood priorities front and center. I am incredibly grateful for the hours, data, and guidance leant to support this effort. I welcome continued feedback and suggestions from all corners of the city, because I know that policies are most successful when led by the community.
 
Now, more than ever, I have the opportunity to bring all voices to the table to create a Boston that brings prosperity and justice for everyone.Together we can create a Boston where nobody is left behind.
 
Thank you for reading and helping to shape Boston's future, I look forward to working with you.