Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Wednesday said his administration was exploring reforms to ensure racial equity, including diverting some police funds to social programs, but fell short of offering specific policies.
During a press conference, Walsh said he was consulting with staff members and elected officials of color to find "permanent solutions" that would lead to systemic changes. He said he expected to release further details "over the course of the next couple days."
"In the past, what we've seen is conversations, and when the demonstrations stop, the conversations stop. That's not what we're going to do in the city of Boston," he said.
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
Walsh said reforms must be made not only to police, but also in housing, education, economic opportunity and public health.
The remarks came amid calls to defund police departments, a rallying cry for protesters who want funds to be diverted from law enforcement to social services to support communities impacted by systemic racism.
Walsh said he was discussing how to reallocate funds from police to other areas, but said he wouldn't simply cut the police budget.
"It's not just about cutting the budget. It's about how we redirect... some of the money to other areas," he said.
Walsh said this administration was working on the budget, acknowledging spending would likely be reduced by up to $80 million because of revenue lost amid the coronavirus outbreak. He said he was considering directing some police funds to training and community programs.
He said his administration has pushed to change the police department, emphasizing diversity and deescalation tactics, and that since 2013, complaints against officers had declined by 41.
Still, he said, much work remained.
"The police department has to evolve and address these issues," he said. "In light of George Floyd's murder, I think there is real urgency to have even a deeper look at our practices and how we handle ourselves."
The mayor said two of the city's top priorities were exploring systemic changes and slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Walsh announced that the city was partnering with a neighborhood health center to offer free and confidential COVID-19 testing for people who had taken part in recent protests in the wake of George Floyd's death.
The community testing initiative with the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center will take place Wednesday and Thursday in the parking lot of Washington Park Mall from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the city's Roxbury neighborhood.
The city is continuing to navigate Phase 2 of Gov. Charlie Baker's reopening plan at a time when protests across the nation -- including in the Boston area -- are calling for racial justice following the death of Floyd.
During a protest Sunday, activists marching through Boston called for the city to defund police, a rallying cry urging leaders to redirect funds from police to social programs to support black communities.
Compared to other big cities in America, Boston has one of the lowest police budgets with 11%, or $414 million, of the city’s budget going towards police, according to Walsh's office.