Union draws fire for Campbell attack
Elected officials rally around D4 councilor
City Councilor and mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell said Sunday that the recent personal attack against her on social media by the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association is part of a larger trend of racial and gender hostility that goes “beyond unprofessional.” Campbell said that the police union’s attacks on women and elected officials of color should worry its rank-and-file members and alarm the public.
“It’s a pattern that we’re seeing from this particular union, where they come out with personal attacks — particularly directed towards women, electeds of color — that are racist, that are sexist,” Campbell told GBH News.
“We all should be questioning the credibility of this particular bargaining unit,” she added. “I’ve been asking, at what point do the rank-and-file members of this union challenge the rhetoric of the leadership … and ask questions about whether or not the union’s leadership aligns with their values?”
Her comments to GBH News were the first she’s made since she and the police union sparred on social media last week and the union implied that Campbell bore some responsibility for her brother Alvin Campbell’s alleged sexual assault crimes.
The controversy began after the Boston Herald reported that despite a rash of recent shootings, Campbell was holding up $1.2 million in additional police funds because she is reluctant to allow more money for police until racial disparities are addressed.
The BPPA published a tweet with the Herald story and a direct reference to Campbell.
“$1.2 million in BPD grants being held up by [Andrea Campbell] and the Rev. Eugene Rivers, a longtime anti-violence advocate in Boston’s Four Corners neighborhood is justifiably astonished given the recent explosion of violence in our city,” the union tweeted on April 28.
In response, on April 29, Campbell called out the group for its social media silence on the issue of Patrick Rose Sr., the former officer and union head who had a substantiated child assault complaint in the 1990s but kept his job and eventually became head of the patrolmen’s association before retiring in 2018.
“Last I checked we were still waiting to hear from [the BPPA] on why they enabled and elevated an accused child molester. Until then don’t @ me,” Campbell retorted.
The union then fired back that Campbell ought to excuse herself from conversations about “enabling” criminals.
“There’s a lil’ saying about people who live in glass houses which seems incredibly appropriate at this time. And, if I were you, when the topic of discussion turns to enabling criminals, you and your credibility would be best served by recusing yourself or @ nobody. #Hypocrisy,” the union’s tweet said.
Several of Campbell’s mayoral opponents, including acting Mayor Kim Janey and fellow City Councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George, chided the police union for its response.
Wu tweeted that ”the ongoing disrespect and personal attacks on public officials and community members are intolerable.”
“Change is coming to this department next year,” Wu added.
Wu was commenting on a tweet from Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., that said “the racism & vitriol directed at women of color in office by the BPPA is absolutely unacceptable.”
In a statement to GBH News, Essaibi George said “petty and personal attacks” have no place in tough conversations among adults.
“We may disagree with each other, but we should not disrespect one another like this,” Essaibi George said. “We can have debate without taking cheap shots simply meant to embarrass and hurt someone.”
John Barros, another mayoral candidate, told GBH News in a statement that the union “clearly stepped over the line.”
“Attacking the family of a sitting city councilor has no place in Boston,” Barros said. “All families and victims deserve our support.”
The incident comes as the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, which represents beat cops in contract negotiations with the city, grapples with new levels of scrutiny and wrestles with a potential loss of influence as the political dynamics in the city shift.
Several councilors — who are members of the most diverse city council in Boston’s history — have expressed a desire to change the long-standing contract agreement between Boston and its police department in order to address the ballooning police overtime budget.
All six candidates for Boston mayor, who also identify as people of color, have expressed appetites for police reform. Five of the six have said they want to shift funds from the police to other services and service providers to save the city money and narrow the scope of police work.
The police union’s Twitter account, which regularly includes posts lauding the sacrifices of fallen officers and celebrating the seizure of guns and suspects, has been peppered the last several months with adversarial posts directed at the Boston City Council about the reallocation of police resources, many of which tag councilors’ Twitter handles.
Campbell told GBH News on Sunday that she has no second thoughts about her part of the exchange.
“What is abundantly clear to everyone, not just from the Rose case but other incidents coming out of the police department, is that we have a department that is sorely lacking in being transparent and holding folks accountable,” Campbell said.
“Many have called out not just how astonishing and horrific these allegations are but the need for this department to do better when it comes to transparency and accountability,” she added. “The union was, I think, the only major stakeholder to be absolutely silent. I was calling that out, and I would do it again.”
The BPPA did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.
Saraya Wintersmith covers Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan for GBH News 89.7.