I’m writing this letter in response to the hearing that City Councilor-at-Large Sam Yoon held on Nov. 13, 2008, and his letter to the Bay State Banner on the same topic (“Closer look reveals no reason to end details,” Letters to the Editor, Nov. 27, 2008). I have two major concerns with police details.
My first concern is the maximum amount of time police officers can work these details safely. It was noted during Councilor Yoon’s hearing that police officers can work a maximum of 90 hours a week — that’s 40 hours of regular shift and 50 hours of details. I believe it is unsafe for a police officer to work 80 or 90 hours a week and make split-second decisions when deadly force is involved. I don’t have statistics, but when I worked more than 12 hours a day, my productivity and judgement suffered. Add the long hours and the stress associated with the duties of police officers and you have the makings of a disaster.
My second concern is the voluntary assignment of these details. It was noted during the hearing that some construction sites have no police present at all because there weren’t sufficient volunteers. What will happen if the state receives the large stimulus package that President Obama is proposing to get people back to work, spurring new construction, and there aren’t enough volunteers to staff the sites?
I believe that the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should phase out police details. The health of police officers will improve from less stress, and their performance will, too. Also, the majority of serious crimes committed in the City of Boston are in the evening hours, when there are very few police details.
We in Boston’s African communities would like to know why there is a discrepancy in the justice system and the way our local news coverage is handled with regard to white and black politicians accused of misconduct.
We all watched while former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and City Councilor Chuck Turner were being harassed by local news, both of their houses surrounded by the FBI in the early morning hours as if they were flight risks. They were hauled into court in handcuffs. Numerous pictures were shown on television with Councilor Turner’s zipper on his pants down, leaving him with little dignity. There is currently a commercial airing on a local television network that shows both Wilkerson and Turner as wrongdoers.
Boston’s black community has long had a legacy of activism and advocating for dignity and respect. The media has managed to make Wilkerson and Turner into political pariahs, within their own constituencies as well as in other communities.
We in the black communities across the Commonwealth are left to wonder why Thomas Finneran, who broke the public’s trust by lying in federal court regarding his involvement in the redistricting of minority communities in Boston, is still hosting a radio talk show in this city. We never saw the FBI surrounding his home, frightening his wife and family. Despite charges of serious ethics violations, Salvatore F. DiMasi is allowed to resign his post as speaker of the House with dignity, almost being relegated to folk hero status in his legislative district. Again, no one is surrounding his home in the early morning hours, and we do not see him being taken away in handcuffs.
If we are to proceed with the democratic ideals that Massachusetts once adhered to, we must treat everyone with the same amount of respect and dignity. These amenities should be afforded to African American public policy makers as well.
Sandra L. Washington