Botched Police Investigation in East Boston Reinforces Racial Disparities

Immigrant Rights, Police Accountability, Racial Justice

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) urges the City of Boston and the Boston Police Department (BPD) to investigate the disappearance of Reina Carolina Morales Rojas. To provide zealous police protection to all residents regardless of race, class, or national origin, the City needs to conduct an independent audit surrounding issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and unconscious bias in the City’s public safety agencies.

BPD waited more than six weeks before going public with the disappearance of Reina, an immigrant woman of color and mother of two. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials in Cohasset, a predominantly white and affluent community, went public within days in a similar investigation concerning a missing white mother. 

Reina’s botched investigation is unfortunate and unsurprising. The bottom line is that Boston’s public safety agencies have failed to close alarming racial disparities. 

For example, BPD failed to properly address a hate crime perpetrated by two white women against a Latina woman and her daughter for speaking Spanish in public. Like Reina, the hate crime victims were overlooked and ignored in East Boston. It took LCR’s involvement and sustained advocacy for law enforcement officials to investigate the hate crime. 

Boston’s public safety agencies also need to build cultural and linguistic capacity to effectively serve Boston’s diverse population. LCR has long advocated for more inclusive hiring and promotion practices in Boston’s public safety agencies, but BPD has long failed to reflect the community that it serves. BPD remains overwhelmingly white, far out of step with the diversity of Boston residents. 

LCR calls on the City and BPD to meaningfully investigate Reina’s disappearance along with:

  • Hiring a third-party monitor to conduct an independent audit surrounding issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and unconscious bias across public safety agencies. This audit should produce recommendations and measure periodic progress on the provision of services.
  • Imposing strict standards for DEI and unconscious bias training across public safety agencies.
  • Engaging with underrepresented public safety workers to better understand the problems they face on the ground and devise solutions that will affect change.
  • Encouraging public safety agencies to hire with an eye towards diversity, including racial, cultural, linguistic, and gender diversity.
  • Developing meaningful partnerships with community-based organizations and other stakeholders that can advise on these issues and other public safety concerns on a regular basis. 

The status quo is unacceptable, especially for communities of color, and a “business as usual” approach will not protect Reina or victims of hate crimes. 

LCR urges city leadership to consider these solutions so that we can begin addressing the diversity-related issues affecting our public safety agencies and their provision of services.