Mayor Walsh Declares Racism a Public Health Crisis in Boston

He also committed to reallocate police overtime funding to invest in equity and inclusion across the city

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Mayor Marty Walsh on Friday declared racism a public health crisis in the city of Boston and immediately redirected $3 million in police overtime funds to help address the issue.

He said that as part of his proposed 2021 budget that will be submitted on Monday he will reallocate 20%, or $12 million, of the Boston Police Department's overtime budget to invest in equity and inclusion across the city.

Boston Mayor Walsh recommending to move 20 percent of the Boston Police Departments' overtime budget to social services.

"What I'm announcing today is the beginning, it's not the end," the mayor said. "This has to be a collective effort across government and the community. I'm calling on every Bostonian, every official, to be part of the solution."

Walsh said he has also signed the "Mayor's Pledge," which among other things calls for a review and reform of police use of force policies. And he declared his support for the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus' "10 Point Plan" outlining a series of reforms at the municipal, state and federal levels.

Amid calls for police reform, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced Friday that racism is a public health crisis in the city.

“It’s about time," City Councilor Andrea Campbell said of Walsh's announcement. "When thousands are mobilizing to demand our City finally implement reforms to address racism and racial inequities in our systems, City leadership needs to listen and take action. The actions the Mayor took today are important steps. It should not have taken the brutal murders of black men and women to get movement on reforms electeds of color and community leaders have been calling for for years — but I’m glad we’re taking these steps today."

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh introduced a prayer vigil outside Boston City Hall to address the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and the unrest it inspired around the country.

The mayor announced Friday that he has created a new task force chaired by former U.S. Attorney Wayne Budd to ensure that commitments he is making translate to immediate action. He said this group will be charged with reviewing Boston police use of force policies, improving the body camera program and recommending bias training for police officers.

"In Boston, we embrace the opportunity this moment and this movement offers us," Walsh said. "We stand with our Black community and communities of color to lead the change toward a more just and equitable society. With these actions, we will increase equity in public safety and public health, and launch a conversation that can produce lasting, systemic change to eliminate all the ways that racism and inequality harm our residents."

The Boston Police Department had announced on Thursday that it was updating its use of force policy in accordance with the #8CantWait campaign.

Boston police officers will be specifically required to de-escalate situations and banned, except when deadly force is required, from putting people into neck restraints under the updated use-of-force policies, according to a statement from the department.

As protesters nationwide call for change in police techniques in the wake of George Floyd's death, the Boston Police Department announced Thursday that it has updated its use-of-force policies to bring them in line with reformers' #8CantWait campaign.

Walsh's announcement Friday 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.

The mayor said previously that 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.

But he said Friday that "the new normal" is not going to be what was experienced in the past.

"It's incumbent on me and incumbent on all of us to move forward," Walsh said. "Too often we've seen the shooting of a Black man and we have protests and we turn the page. This is different... This is a unique moment in time."

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