Mayor Walsh Declares Racism a Public Health Crisis and Reallocates BPD Overtime $

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Saying that Boston needs to be a leader in battling racism, Mayor Marty Walsh declared racism a public health crisis. He also announced that 20% or $12 million of the Boston Police Department's overtime budget will be reallocated as investments in equity and inclusion in the city.

"In Boston, we embrace the opportunity this moment and this movement offers us," said Walsh on Friday. "We stand with our Black community and communities of color to lead the change toward a more just and equitable society. With these actions, we will increase equity in public safety and public health, and launch a conversation that can produce lasting, systemic change to eliminate all the ways that racism and inequality harm our residents."

Walsh announced several other actions to immediately address the impact of racism.

He signed the "Mayor's Pledge" issued by former President Barack Obama's My Brother's Keeper Alliance. That pledge includes four main actions:

  1. Review police use of force policies
  2. Engage communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories
  3. Report review findings to the community and seek feedback
  4. Reform police use of force policies

The Mayor also declared his support for the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus' 10 Point Plan, which outlines a series of reforms at the federal, state and municipal levels. That plan was supported by local elected officials including Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA 7th), state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (2nd-Suffolk), and state Rep. Nika Elugardo (D-15th Suffolk/Norfolk).

A new task force was also created to ensure that the announcements result in immediate actions. Walsh said he wants the task force to immediately review the Boston Police's use of force policies; recommended rigorous implicit bias training for police officers; improve the current Boston Police body worn camera program; and strengthen Boston's existing police review board, known as the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel or Co-op Board. The task force is expected to provide recommendations in 60 days.

Members of the task force are:

  • Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Budd
  • Allison Cartwright, Attorney in Charge, Roxbury Public Defender's Office
  • Joseph D. Feaster, Jr., Chairman of the Board, Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts
  • Tanisha Sullivan, President, NAACP Boston Branch
  • Darrin Howell, President, DRIVE Boston Community Resources Inc. & Political Coordinator, 1199SEIU
  • Superintendent Dennis White, Chief of Staff, Boston Police Department
  • Marie St. Fleur, former MA State Representative, Boston
  • Rev. Jeffrey Brown, Associate Pastor, Historic Twelfth Baptist Church, Roxbury
  • A designee from the City Council President

The $12 million of reallocated BPD overtime budget funds will be split to the following:

  • $3 million for the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) to begin implementation of the eight strategies outlined in Boston's declaration of racism as a public health crisis,
  • $1 million to support trauma teams and counseling services at the Boston Public Health Commission
  • $2 million in new funding for community based programs and supports through City departments, such as violence intervention grants, youth programming, language and food access, immigrant advancement, the Age Strong Commission and the Human Rights Commission.
  • $2 million for additional BEST Clinicians and mental health supports at the Boston Police Department
  • $2 million to support economic development initiatives to support minority and women owned businesses and;
  • $2 million to provide additional housing supports and youth homelessness programs

Elected officials offered their thoughts on the announcements.

“It’s about time. When thousands are mobilizing to demand our city finally implement reforms to address racism and racial inequities in our systems, city leadership needs to listen and take action," said District 4 Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell. "The actions the Mayor took today are important steps. It should not have taken the brutal murders of black men and women to get movement on reforms electeds of color and community leaders have been calling for for years — but I’m glad we’re taking these steps today. Now we need transparency and accountability in how we’re implementing these reforms, and to go further to create a criminal justice system we can be proud of.”

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