'We Turn A Blind Eye': Boston's Police Remain Largely White

Boston city leaders long have vowed to diversify the police department so it looks more like the community it serves — but they've made almost no change in two decades. @WBUR

3/3/2021 11:04:00 AM

Boston city leaders long have vowed to diversify the police department so it looks more like the community it serves — but they've made almost no change in two decades. WBUR

Advocates say huge barriers remain to bringing in more officers of color, and some say city leaders have failed to back up their promises with meaningful action. City officials acknowledge more work needs to be done, but say their efforts to bring in more officers of color are slowly paying off.

raised questions about 20-year-old domestic violence allegations. Superintendent-in-Chief Gregory Long, who is white, is leading the department while lawyers investigate the allegations.A group of minority officers and local ministers have called on White to be reinstated while the investigation continues, and one minister has

called White's treatment a “racial double standard.”Jeff Lopes, a Boston officer who leads the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, said they saw some progress under Gross’ leadership in getting more officers of color into specialized units and other important roles. Gross' command staff was roughly 50% people of color, but many ranks remain overwhelmingly white.

A 1974 consent decree forced the department to diversify, and the percentage of minority officers climbed from 12% in 1981 to 25% a decade later. A judge lifted the consent decree in 2004, when more than 40% of patrol officers were Black, Hispanic or Asian. Today, the patrol force is around 38% people of color. headtopics.com

Advocates say hiring processes remain a roadblock to bringing in more minority officers.Some argue there won't be significant progress without overhauling or opting out entirely of the civil service system, under which military veterans — who are overwhelmingly white in Massachusetts — get a hiring preference over others.

The city has taken steps in recent years aimed at addressing the issue, like reinstating a cadet program in order to get a more diverse pool of officer candidates. In December, the city council passed a measure to give a hiring preference to Boston high school graduates in the hopes of boosting diversity. But the proposal still needs to be approved by state lawmakers.

The city says its efforts are paying off. The current group of cadets are about two-thirds Black or Hispanic, said Michael Gaskins, the department’s diversity recruitment officer. The last several recruit classes were about 35% to 45% people of color, which Gaskins said is up from previous years. Roughly 54% of police applicants in 2019 were minorities, up from 51% two years earlier.

Gaskins said it “will take a little bit of time to catch up," but said they are committed to hiring officers reflective of the community they serve.“We would like more change but we are happy with our progress and the incremental changes that have been made thus far. But we are not done,” Gaskins said. headtopics.com

Some question the city's commitment to diversity while it continues in court to fight a group of Black officers officers who said a lieutenants' promotional exam discriminated against minorities. A federal judge found the 2008 exam had a disparate impact on minority candidates and last year ruled the officers are entitled to back pay. The city is appealing.

In this Jan. 17, 2021, file photo, Boston police officers stand in a street in the Beacon Hill neighborhood near the Statehouse in Boston as a precaution against demonstrations following the breach of the U.S. Capitol earlier in the month.(Michael Dwyer/AP File)

A spokesman for Mayor Marty Walsh, Nick Martin, declined to comment on the case because it is ongoing. But Martin said the mayor, who's been tapped to be President Joe Biden's labor secretary, worked diligently with Gross to work toward diversifying the police force.

“Is there more progress to be made? Of course. But it would be a disservice to the hard work of the community, the Mayor, and the Police Department not to acknowledge all of the progress that’s occurred under this administration,” Martin said.Sophia Hall, an attorney who has represented applicants in cases against the department, said candidates of color continue to get passed over for reasons that appear to be arbitrary or “just flat out discriminatory." headtopics.com

Last year, the state’s Civil Service Commissionfound the department unfairly bypassed a Black applicantover a case, which was ultimately dismissed. Meanwhile, the department hhttps://www.wbur.org/news/2021/02/04/boston-police-commissioner-leave-abuse-allegationsired three other candidates — who were all white — with multiple and more recent criminal offenses on their record, the commission found.

The commission ordered that man be put at the top of the list of potential hires. He entered the police academy at the end of November.Gaskins said there’s no data to support the idea that there are racial biases in hiring decisions. Read more: NPR »

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WBUR You 'reporters' have trouble reading statistics. 45% White (Non-Hispanic) + White (Hispanic) (8.06%) =53% white citizens policed by a 65% white police force. NOT A HUGE DISPARITY. ~13% difference!! But everything is about race over at NPR. RaceBaiting divisive narrative WBUR Duh WBUR Why would AA’s want to be part of a police force that’s systematically racist against their own people?

WBUR They did what they said. They look like the people that they actually serve. WOKE yet? WBUR 'Diversity' means nothing if the brown cops are boolay bootlicks for 'white' supremacy. WBUR You can make the police dept. as 'diverse' as you want and have brown folks who carry the water for 'white' supremacy be even racist than the already racist police dept.

WBUR Are they turning blacks away or are they not applying. WBUR How can you expect city leaders to make ppl apply for hard jobs they don't want? Do you want to be a cop at 40 years of age? WBUR oh, no that's accurate. The community the department serves is rich and white. Not an accident it has not changed. They don't actually see they have a problem - just another 'mission accomplished' badge. Blind but not color blind.

WBUR You can’t make people want to be police. WBUR WBUR This is divisive and deceitful. 2020 showed 65% of Boston police were white while 52% of residents were white. Not sure if you actually read the article you shared, but they’ve also made changes that has increased the number of minority cadets.

WBUR Well, you know, these things take time.... WBUR Lol 😂 incompetence or lack of will 🤷🏻‍♀️ two decades is a while two centuries is an even longer while WBUR How are they going to have Klan meetings when there are black cops in the room? WBUR Gotta tell ya, spent my first 20 yrs in Boston, and almost 40 yrs later, looks a lot like I left it. Smh.

WBUR Because they are liars WBUR You need to tell them. WBUR