Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Position Paper on the Number of Police Lawsuit

Safe Citizens Position Paper

August 22, 2006

The City of Boston is experiencing a significant increase in crime. As reported in The Boston Globe of July 26, 2006 the number of killings in 2005 was at a 10 year high, and in 2006 the homicide rate is ahead of 2005. A group of concerned citizens and neighborhood activists has, this date, filed a complaint in Suffolk Superior Court against Boston’s Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the Boston City Council for failure to staff the Boston Police Department at the staffing level required by the city’s owned Municipal Code of Ordinances.

As one tool in the city’s effort to control the escalating rate of shootings and homicides in Boston, 12 residents have put into formal request what residents around the city, and members of many crime watches and churches have been asking for, that there be more police on the streets of Boston and more detectives to work on the unacceptably low rate of solving crimes.

On January 31, 1979 an Ordinance 11-1.6 was passed by the City Council. In accordance with Section 17D of the Boston City Charter the Ordinance went into effect on the 16th day following. This Ordinance reads as follows:

11-1.6 Minimum Number of Police Officers on the Boston Police Department.

On or before July 1, 1979, the size of the Boston Police Department shall be increased by the employment of a sufficient number of patrolmen so as to bring the force to strength of not less than two thousand three hundred (2,300) Police Officers. On or before July 1, 1980, the size of the Boston Police Department shall be increased by the employment of a sufficient number of patrolmen so as to bring the force to strength of not less than two thousand five hundred (2,500). Thereafter, additional officers shall be hired from time to time as needed so as to insure that the number of Police Officers on the force shall, at no time, be less than two thousand five hundred (2,500).

(Ord. 1979 c. 2)

Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 43, section 4 states that “Ordinances, resolutions, orders or other regulations of a city or of any authorized body or official thereof, existing at the time when such city adopts a plan of government set forth in this chapter, shall continue in full force and effect until repealed, modified or superseded.”

Every year the Mayor of Boston proposes a city budget to the City Council. The City Council holds hearings on the budget, and votes to approve the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. On or around May 17, 2006 Christopher Fox, who is the Boston Police Department's Chief of Technology and Administration, testified at a City Council budget hearing that the BPD had 1,962 sworn police officers on the force and another 130 either entering or about to graduate from the academy, for a total of 2,092. Of those, 337 were "missing in service," that is, out injured, serving in the military, in the academy, or otherwise unable to perform.

During those City Council hearings on the Boston Police Department's budget for FY07 in May, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Councilor Rob Consalvo, asked the BPD command staff what they thought the appropriate staffing level of officers should be. They responded by declining to offer their own estimate for proper staffing and instead said that they would work with whatever number of officers that the Mayor and the City Council was willing to fund. The Mayor's budget then being reviewed called for a staffing level of 2,100 officers, up only 8 officers from the 2,092 at the May hearings. This first budget of 2,100 officers included 2 classes of recruits totaling 70 new officers.

Violence in the city continues to escalate at the highest rate in over ten years. Yet the Mayor was not ready to provide for a substantive increase in policing to meet the needs of the city. Constant media coverage and the clamoring of residents for more police presence forced the Mayor to find additional resources in his revised budget. Seventy additional recruits were added to the budget in its final version, which was approved by the City Council on June 28, 2006. The budget also includes a provision for adding 45 officers from the Municipal Police Department as a result of its merger with the BPD in January 2007. However, the overall budget does not address the loss of 24 Municipal Police positions not merged, the fact that the FY06 attrition rate was double the rate that has been budgeted for FY07, nor does it address the loss of funding from the Boston Housing Authority for 35 officers. The federal government's funding of the BHA which was used to pay for policing terminates in October of this year.

Many community meetings across the city discuss how to deal with the rising violent crime rate. An increased police presence and a better clearance rate are just two of the tools discussed as solutions. Like many residents, the proponents in this action in Superior Court recognize that there are other tools that are effective means for addressing the violence in the city as well. Such efforts as increasing the number of street workers, providing more summer jobs, reviewing the MCAS emphasis in order to cut down on the number of high school dropouts, providing more drug treatment centers, extending after-school programs, increasing the job training programs for high school graduates, stepping up the offensive to get guns off the streets, and providing drug and anti-gang units in each police precinct are complementing efforts to increasing the police presence.

This group of residents felt that requiring the City of Boston to abide by its own ordinances is a direct means that a resident can undertake to help stop the violence in the city. And the residents are not alone in their reactions. The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association and the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society both advocated for additional officers during the budget hearings in May. City Council President Michael F. Flaherty called for an increase of 350 officers, after being reelected president of the council in January of this year. City Councilor Michael Ross, Chairman of the Special Committee on Youth Violent Crime Prevention, called for additional police in his committee’s report, noting that more police on the street means lower levels of violence. Former Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole was often reported as saying that the Boston Police Department needs 200 more officers in order to perform its job properly.

With an attrition rate in FY06 higher than the rate addition, the city needs to be more proactive in its approach to staffing. For example, inter-agency hiring would be one method of quickly adding to the police force at minimal cost of training time in the academy. At the City Council hearings, the Police Dept. heads acknowledged that a position on the BPD would be an envy of officers from around the state, and outside, who would especially be attracted to it by one of the highest pay scales on any department in the area. Hiring from outside the BPD would require the approval of the police chief from the officer’s town and would require that the officer relocate to the City of Boston.

On June 12, 2006 a letter was written to the Mayor of Boston and the members of the City Council signed by some of the plaintiffs reminding them of the requirements of Chapter 11, Section 1.6 and requested that they address the increasing violence in the City. The letter indicated judicial redress would be a possible remedy if no response or action was taken. Despite being reminded of the requirements of City Ordinance 11-1.6, the Mayor of Boston and the City Council have not provided the required number of Police Officers to the citizens of Boston. The City of Boston has not adequately budgeted for providing the residents of Boston with required public safety, protecting the citizenry, and safeguarding the public order.

Proponents of this court action against the city for enforcement of its ordinances seek to have the Mayor and the City Council provide a specific plan to increase the number of police officers over the next couple of years in order to provide the staffing levels prescribed in city ordinance 11-1.6. In addition, the proponents seek to reopen the discussions of staffing levels in the FY07 budget, in order to put in place more officers at a time when violence is currently on the increase.

2 comments:

Robinlow said...

They have less police in the force so the police can have an excuse of "not enough manpower" when it comes to poor response time and high crime rate.

There used to be a time where Boston used to be once of the safest cities in the US.

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