Defund the police, or defang the gangs?
THE “DEFUND THE POLICE” slogan, born out of anguish and anger over police killing of unarmed black men, has existed uneasily alongside another painful reality: the predominantly black neighborhoods that advocates say are too often the scenes of unwarranted police brutality are also home to much of the urban gun violence that terrorizes whole communities.
Those twin truths have collided this week in Boston, where Acting Mayor Kim Janey unveiled a new city budget yesterday and where outrage continues over the shooting death of a 73-year-old Dorchester woman who became the innocent victim of gun violence while sitting on her front porch last Saturday.
Janey, as president of the City Council last year, was part of an effort pushing for a 10 percent cut in the roughly $400 million police budget. Now, as the city’s interim leader, she is proposing a far more modest $4 million cut in next year’s police budget.
Last November, Rep. James Clyburn, the longtime black South Carolina congressman who helped deliver that state’s Democratic primary victory to Joe Biden, single-handedly resurrecting his moribund campaign, said the “defund the police” slogan cost Democrats congressional seats in the election. Clyburn, a veteran of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, said he had conversations with late Congressman John Lewis about the parallels between the new catchphrase and the embrace by some of the cry, “burn, baby, burn,” during the 1965 unrest in Watts.
Yesterday, Rev. Eugene Rivers, a leader of the clergy-police effort in the 1990s to quell rampant gang violence in Boston, seemed to endorse that view. He called the idea of supporting either police reform or more attention to public safety in neighborhoods a “false dichotomy.”
Rivers said he would be organizing a forum for Boston mayoral candidates to discuss their position on policing issues. “This horrific act must shock us into engaging in a serious, evidenced-based discussion of policing policy,” Rivers said of Saturday’s killing of Delois Brown as she sat on her Olney Street porch.
“There’s this idea somehow that Black people can’t walk and chew gum,” Rivers said at a press conference alongside other clergy. “We’re against the bad cops and we’re for good cops and better funding is better than no funding.”
Janey seems to be trying to straddle that divide. She named the first director of Boston’s new Office of Police Accountability and Transparency on the same day she proposed a 2022 budget that trims police overtime by a small amount while also funding 30 additional officers in the 2,200-member police force.
Michael Cox, director of Black and Pink Massachusetts, a group that favors prison abolition, told the Globe his organization was “deeply disappointed” in Janey’s spending plan and wanted to see a 10 percent cut in the police budget. “We had high hopes for her,” Cox said. “Now all of sudden she’s mayor and it seems her calculus has changed, and we hope she can revisit that and meet the will of the people.”
But the “will of the people” may not be exactly in line with what the loudest voices are calling for.
A national poll conducted earlier this month by Vox and the liberal think tank Data for Progress showed strong support for police reform — and for regular police presence in US communities.
A report being released today by a criminal justice advocacy group alleges that New Bedford police stopped, frisked, or questioned black people at rates significantly higher than whites in the city over the last five years, with 10 officers involved in nearly half of the incidents.
Reports like that, alongside the surge in shootings in many US cities and low rate of solving homicides, underscore the observation of some criminal justice experts that minority communities suffer from both over-policing and under-policing at the same time. That’s a complicated problem to address, and not something easily reduced to a slogan on a bumper sticker.
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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Former Boston police officer Patrick Rose Sr., who continued to serve for more than two decades after an internal affairs investigation concluded he likely sexually abused a minor, was also the subject of a state Department of Social Services investigation that reached the same conclusion. (Boston Globe)
Stephanie Everett, an attorney and former Beacon Hill aide, is named the head of Boston’s Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, and her first task is reviewing the case of a police union official accused of sexual misconduct. (WGBH)
Pittsfield approves a new set of zoning policies to guide development downtown, allowing businesses to seek permits faster, with less hassle. (Berkshire Eagle)
Many municipalities are looking to make remote participation in public meetings permanent. (Salem News)
Methuen is one of two communities piloting COVID-19 contact tracing through smart phones. (Eagle-Tribune)
What you need to know if you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine about the pause on its use. (MassLive) If the pause heightens vaccine hesitancy, could it sicken — or even kill — more people than it saves? (New York Times)
It’s a wide open race for Boston mayor. A new poll indicates Michelle Wu and acting Mayor Kim Janey are at the top with 19 and 18 percent, respectively. The rest of the candidates are in single digits and nearly half of voters are undecided. (WBUR)
Redistricting is slowed by a delay in getting US Census data. (Salem News)
A candidate for the select board in Williamstown praises local police for catching his 14-year-old son stealing lawn signs belonging to his opponent. (Berkshire Eagle)
Cannabis Control Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan is resigning from the commission at the end of the month, four months before her term is set to end. (State House News Service)
In response to a lawsuit, Worcester will change its system for election school committee members at-large. (Telegram & Gazette)
ArcLight Cinemas, which opened a 14-screen movie theater at the Hub on Causeway complex near North Station only months before the pandemic struck, says it will not reopen. (Boston Globe)
The RMV extends the grace period for expired stickers through May after the vendor attacked by malware still hasn’t gotten the system running again, after it went offline March 30. (MassLive)
Westwood police are asking a clerk magistrate to issue charges against a Milton police officer who lives in the town over a run-in she had over the Black Lives Matter movement with a 14-year-old friend of her son’s who was at her house for sleepover. (Boston Globe)PASSINGS
Francisco Marty, a doctor at Brigham & Women’s Hospital who specialized in infectious diseases in cancer and transplant patients and led a clinical trial into the anti-COVID drug remdesivir, dies at 53 from a fall in the Dominican Republic. (MassLive)