Our country, state, and city have gone through a national reckoning on the role of police in our community, particularly in certain communities of color who have experienced discrimination. Trust between law enforcement and neighborhoods is paramount if we want to live in safer and healthier communities. And that requires investing and encouraging open dialogue between the Boston Police Department (BPD) and the communities they serve.
We have outstanding officers who honorably dedicate their lives to public service. As an ER physician on the frontlines, Jon works with members of the BPD almost every shift and knows the challenges. Their commitment to public service is admirable and must be supported. However, there is always room for improvement within the BPD ranks, particularly in regards to addressing overtime pay, increasing diversity, improving community dialogue, and making sure that every neighborhood feels supported by the BPD.
Jon was a leader on Beacon Hill helping to pass a common-sense, bipartisan police reform bill with his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The bill established a Police Standards and Training Commission, prohibited chokeholds, restricted ‘no-knock warrants’, and created a framework to eliminate systemic racism from the criminal justice system. He also supported other criminal justice measures, including voting to fully fund both the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation and Prisoners’ Legal Services, increasing funding to the Mental Health Legal Advisors program, and voting to fund community-based reentry programs.
Jon is committed to supporting the BPD and ensuring public safety for all residents of Boston. He will also hold those officers accountable who dishonor the badge and break public trust. Jon envisions implementing a transparent, accountable, and community-oriented public safety approach that actively addresses mistrust in certain communities. As mayor, Jon will:
- Reduce over-reliance of police officers. Police are currently overburdened with the increasing number of 9-1-1 calls, a worsening mental crisis, and a rising toll of substance use disorder incidents. Jon believes in exploring ways to reduce demand for police response when not necessary and instead offer a more appropriate response.
- The Community Crisis Assistance and Diversion program. Modeled on successful police reform programs in cities like Denver and Austin, CCAD will be a 24/7 mobile crisis intervention that provides an alternative to 9-1-1. The goal is to decrease demand for police response by directing certain emergency calls to departments other than BPD. The pilot program will create CCAD teams composed of a nurse or EMT and a mental health clinician. Members of this team will be required to complete training that emphasizes de-escalation tactics, crisis intervention, and cultural competency, with an objective of resolving situations with a public health and social response. CCAD teams will respond to non-violent 9-1-1 calls and will not be armed. They will support current police infrastructure by responding to crisis situations, de-escalation situations, behavioral or mental health incidents, intoxication checks, welfare checks, death notices, and other non-violent events. The goal of this program is to provide more effective and appropriate services while reducing the risk of escalation or violence.
- 9-1-1 dispatch reform. As mayor, Jon will reform the 9-1-1 dispatch hierarchy and protocols to ensure that 9-1-1 calls are directed to the appropriate responding agency. This means having supervisors and dispatchers who are trained in recognizing non-violent, mental health, or other non-police related incidents. It also means hiring culturally competent dispatchers that reflect the diversity of our city. Examples include redirecting towing to the Boston Transportation Department and utilizing public health agencies for public health matters.
- Promote racial justice within the BPD’s culture, internal processes, and leadership selection. We have an opportunity to promote the goals of economic equity while advancing racial justice priorities within the BPD. We must take this chance to double down on increasing diversity within the department, augmenting the role of the community in the conversation around public safety, and expanding diversity across leadership positions. As mayor, Jon will:
- Focus on community engagement. Jon is dedicated to expanding the Community Engagement Bureau to increase dialogue with residents. We must invest in our community service officers who are on the ground working with neighbors. Jon believes that the partnership between community members and police is critical to building trust and providing the appropriate services. Through the Community Engagement Bureau, Jon will revamp the BPD’s external approach to engagement by listening to stakeholders and developing new community outreach procedures.
- A police force that reflects the community. Jon believes in the importance of a police force that is culturally competent and reflects the communities they police. He is committed to increasing the diversity of the BPD by recruiting and hiring more women and people of color. To aid in recruitment, Jon will work to prioritize candidates that graduate from the Boston Public Schools. Lastly, he will work to make sure that BPD leadership is also reflective of the community.
- Building trust. Trust is the pillar of good governance and public safety. We must work to build relationships and bring more voices into the public safety process. As mayor, Jon will create a Civil Conciliation Commission that brings the BPD, the BPPA, members from communities of color, and faith leaders together to develop a space for open and honest dialogue.
- Increasing transparency. Transparency is core to rebuilding trust and changing the culture of the BPD. We need a full review of internal and external processes to ensure that we increase transparency. We must foster an environment of accountability while eliminating the ‘blue wall of silence’. As mayor, Jon will:
- Implement universal use of body cameras, including during overtime. Universal use of body cameras ensures that officers comply with BPD policies and training while promoting accountability and transparency. We must ensure that our officers are abiding by body camera laws and are providing data on officer audits.
- Fully implement the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT). The OPAT is responsible for investigating complaints of police misconduct, ensuring that the BPD internal affairs review process is fair and thorough, and reviewing BPD’s existing and proposed policies and procedures. Jon will implement these reforms and enforce the recommendations of OPAT. As mayor, he will assert OPAT’s scope and make sure it has fully resourced. That includes requiring the OPAT to host at least one annual public meeting in every city council district to engage with community members. Additionally, the Civilian Review Board and the Internal Affairs Oversight Board provide an additional layer of independent oversight. Currently, all seats on both boards are appointed by the mayor. As mayor, Jon will include an additional seat on each board to be elected by a designated group of criminal justice advocacy groups.
- Re-imagine the Boston Police Budget. Re-calibrating the Boston Police Department budget is one of the best tools we have for promoting culture change and reform within the department. Jon will craft a budget that reflects our public safety priorities. He will explore shifting funding within the police department to advance the goals of reform, transparency, accountability, and community engagement. As mayor, Jon will reduce overtime through implementing data informed staffing levels. He will also seek to recruit and hire additional police to bring down overtime costs. Lastly, Jon will promote fiscal responsibility by implementing a rigorous review of the entire BPD budget to streamline operations and make the BPD more efficient.
- End recidivism and support our returning citizens. The goal of law enforcement and the criminal justice system is to guarantee the safety of our residents and rehabilitate citizens. However, our current system fails too often at rehabilitation, often continuing to punish those who have been incarcerated and setting returning citizens up to fail. As mayor, Jon will:
- Reduce recidivism and support returning citizens. Jon will tap into the full potential of the Office of Returning Citizens to maximize its impact for returning citizens. Jon will move the location of the office from its current location in the Seaport, which makes it inaccessible and prohibitive for returning citizens to get to. Jon is also committed to making sure services provide comprehensive wraparound services, including case management, to returning citizens, connecting them to housing, employment, and other services. Jon will ensure that the revamped office connects with local nonprofits to amplify the case management programs with communities of color adversely impacted by the criminal justice system.
- Resources for Returning Citizens. Jon will take a ‘Housing First’ approach toward our returning citizens by creating housing vouchers specifically set aside for returning citizens to help with the reentry process and reduce recidivism.