Mayor: Racism public health crisis, proposes police reforms
BOSTON (AP) — Boston’s mayor declared racism a public health crisis on Friday, outlining a series of reforms in response to the nationwide reckoning sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh, who protesters have called on to “defund” police and remove or rename city landmarks in recent days, said he would propose transferring $12 million from the police department, or roughly 20% of its overtime budget, to fund a range of social services, including mental health counseling, housing and homelessness programs, and new public health commission efforts to address racial disparities in health care.
The moves come as protesters nationwide are calling for a reckoning with racism and police brutality in the wake of Floyd’s death at the hands of police.
The mayor also announced the creation of the Boston Police Reform Task Force to review the department’s use-of-force policies and suggest ways to improve officer training, its body camera program, and the city’s police review board.
That task force will be chaired by former U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Wayne Budd, and include representatives from the NAACP and Urban League. It is expected to produce recommendations in 60 days.
The department will no longer use the hair test for evidence of drug use in police recruits, Walsh said, something that civil rights groups have complained has negatively affected black and other minority officer candidates.
And he endorsed the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus’ “10 Point Plan” for racial justice reforms, which calls for the creation of an independent special prosecutor to review police misconduct cases statewide, a process to decertify police officers for misconduct and abuse, and limits to chokeholds and other police tactics, among other things.
“In Boston, we embrace the opportunity this moment and this movement offers us,” Walsh said in a statement. “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.”