Boston Police Funding Out of Step with Major Cities
BOSTON POLICE FUNDING OVER THE LAST DECADE: EXPLOSIVE GROWTH BUT FEW DOLLARS TO COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT OR ACCOUNTABILITY
REPORT FROM LAWYERS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS SHOWS BOSTON IS OUT OF STEP WITH OTHER MAJOR CITIES, NOT RESPONSIVE TO CALLS FOR POLICE REFORM
A report released by Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) analyzes Boston Police Department (BPD) funding over the last decade and concludes that the City has systematically failed to provide meaningful financial support for police accountability measures and community engagement activities. The report shows that the City and BPD have instead consistently prioritized traditional policing activities, even amidst recent calls for reform—a trend that LCR argues is out of step with other major cities, including New York, Chicago, Seattle, Detroit, and Atlanta.
Last year, Mayor Walsh promised a reallocation of BPD funding in line with community demands for police reform in light of the murder of Terrence Coleman, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. However, LCR’s report reveals that the amount of money eventually reallocated in the 2020 BPD budget was exceedingly small, particularly when analyzed in the context of BPD’s decade-long budget growth and consistent expansion of traditional policing activities.
Over the past decade, the BPD budget has grown by an astounding $128 million dollars. Two-thirds of that growth went to the Bureau of Field Services, which engages in traditional police enforcement activities. Meanwhile, the Bureaus of Professional Standards (dedicated to investigating police misconduct), Professional Development (providing training), and Community Engagement (building community relationship), each have total budgets of under $6 million dollars. Compared to other BPD units, these critical bureaus are woefully underfunded.
This year, BPD was awarded a budget of over $400 million dollars, making it the second highest municipal expenditure in Boston (only Boston Public Schools have a higher budget).
The report also documents how Boston trails other major cities across the country in reform. BPD’s ten-year budget growth outstrips other major cities including New York, Chicago, Seattle, Detroit, and Atlanta. Yet, BPD’s investment in police oversight and community engagement lags significantly behind. Despite having more modest police budgets, other cities dedicate significantly more resources to police accountability and community engagement efforts. The report argues that this speaks volumes about policing priorities in Boston, where critical issues highlighted by the fatal police shooting of Terrence Coleman remain unaddressed.
To fulfill the promise of reform, LCR’s report recommends that the City of Boston and BPD:
- Reallocate funding much more aggressively towards BPD bureaus charged with improving community policing, ensuring oversight, and enhancing accountability;
- Improve efforts to maximize external funding that could be used to further support these important bureaus; and
- Leverage existing oversight mechanisms, such as the civilian review board, and add additional accountability vehicles such as new oversight units for specialized functions and teams.
“This report confirms what those policed by BPD have been telling us for years: BPD is out of step with the times and with what the community needs. BPD has an overriding focus on traditional policing activities, and community engagement and accountability measures suffer as a result,” said Arielle Sharma, Staff Attorney at Lawyers for Civil Rights.
“The Commonwealth has recently taken a much-needed step towards comprehensive police reform by passing a sweeping police reform bill. We encourage Boston, and all other cities and towns, to follow that lead in reforming their own departments,” said Sophia Hall, Supervising Attorney at Lawyers for Civil Rights. “We will continue to support our communities in their call for community-responsive policing with well managed oversights that prevent police misconduct.”
“Since the murder of George Floyd, Bostonians have called for much-needed reform. It’s not about ‘defunding’ the police; it’s about right-sizing police budgets and activities. This report helps point the way towards making this vision for reform a concrete reality,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights.BPD-Budget-Analysis-2010-Present-FINAL-Feb.-25-2021