Boston mayor Marty Walsh declared racism a “public health crisis” on Friday, and announced a proposal to transfer funds from the police department’s overtime budget to social services.
Walsh said $3 million would be immediately transferred from overtime for city police to the Boston Public Health Commission. The mayor will also propose that the City Council divert 20 percent of the polices’s overtime budget, or around $12 million, to other programs.
“We’re determined to accelerate our work toward systemic change to renew our nation and our city’s promise of equal opportunity and justice for every person,” Walsh said at a press conference. “We’re not going to let this moment or this movement pass us by….I pledged to make Boston a national leader in this work and we are following through on our pledge.”
However, Walsh also praised the city police department, noting that use of force complaints dropped by 50 percent from 2013 to 2019. Over the same period, the crime rate dropped by 30 percent and the number of arrests dropped by one third.
“They have made this progress…by lifting people up, not locking people up,” Walsh said. “They, too, want to be a part of the solution, and they continue to deserve our respect and gratitude.”
Calls have grown to “defund” police forces across the country following the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed during arrest by Minneapolis officers. Massive demonstrations protesting Floyd’s death have spread across the country, devolving into riots and looting in some cities, including Boston.
At the same time, African Americans have also seen a higher mortality rate from coronavirus infections than in the general population.