The issue of police details for construction on Boston streets brings out strong feelings. People have written me to say the system is a waste of money. Others say the police are being unfairly targeted.
I held a hearing so we could have a clear presentation of the facts, and I approached it with an open mind. Too often people arrive at the comfort of opinion without going through the discomfort of examining the evidence. Following the hearing, I came to the conclusion that there is no compelling reason to end police details now — but there are ways we can improve the system.
Eliminating police details in Boston will not save residents a significant amount of money. Their cost, paid by utility companies and passed on to customers, comprises a small portion of costs factored into utility rates, and it’s spread out over many years.
On safety, there is clearly a benefit to having a uniformed police officer on a street; it’s just common sense.
The area of my greatest concern is performance and accountability.
We learned officers are never required to take a detail assignment. Assignments are posted, and then chosen by officers who can fit them into their schedule. Details on high-traffic roads are posted first to ensure they are taken, but there is no priority given to details in certain areas of the city.
Many have told my office about seeing police details in areas of the city that are considered safe, but spotty or no details in areas of the city which aren’t safe. This raises questions about the way we allocate details given the much touted benefits to public safety.
I feel we can do better. We should examine how to prioritize assignment of details in high crime areas to enhance public safety. This may require changes to the ordinance or to the police contract, since assignments are voluntary.
The debate has been polarized into “Get rid of police details” or “Don’t touch them — they’re perfect.” There is another option: Continue this public-private partnership that puts officers on the street, while making certain law enforcement resources are deployed where they are needed most.
Reasonable people may disagree with my conclusions, but let us continue the dialogue. It is the only way we will solve problems in our city.
Every American has the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. Last Friday, U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan tried to take those rights away from Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner. Engaging in “trial by media,” Sullivan released prejudicial evidence and tried to convict Councilor Turner in the public’s mind before he has his day in court.
Even Councilor Turner’s critics know him as a man who works tirelessly for his district and against the moneyed interests that run too much of this city. We have worked with him to stop subprime mortgage evictions, reform CORI laws, block Boston University’s dangerous biolab, and to end the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have watched him get angry and take personal risks fighting injustice, but we have never seen him sell out.
Dorchester People for Peace wholeheartedly supports Councilor Turner’s efforts to clear his name and continue his lifelong career of public service. We also encourage the U.S. Attorney’s office to undertake a comprehensive, entrapment-free investigation of liquor licensing and the buying of political influence in Boston.