Judging by recent actions, the Boston City Council is packed with members dedicated to service.
Lip service, that is.
As The Herald reported, the council is moving on an ordinance that would task police with compiling annual data on firearms trafficking, a measure aimed at cutting down on gun violence.
“We cannot continue to sit idly by while our communities are repeatedly traumatized by violence, mainly because the weapon was purchased beyond our jurisdictions” said Councilor Brian Worrell, who co-sponsored the ordinance with Council President Ed Flynn.
“This data is critical for policymakers and law enforcement to do their jobs and keep our community safe.”
Tasking police with tracking firearms sales in a bid to keep our communities safe – a worthy ask. But isn’t this the same city council that narrowly passed an operating budget in June that would have cut roughly $31 million from the police department?
Thankfully, Mayor Michelle Wu rejected the move, but it does speak to the regard in which some members of the council hold the BPD.
The budget slash was hardly unanimous, it passed by a 7-5 vote, and those who opposed it understood the concept of matching thought with action. You want a safe city – you fund the police.
“We’ve got the best police department in the country,” City Councilor Michael Flaherty said in June. “And we’ve got the best community policing model in the country. We are the envy of cities our size and bigger across this country and we’re all seeing it daily as to what’s happening to cities that are defunding the police.
Wu’s stance against gun violence also runs afoul of her own campaign plan: shifting some jobs away from Boston Police officers to civilians. The idea has bubbled up for discussion off and on since Wu took office.
Part of Wu’s Blueprint for Police Reform promoted “civilianizing” traffic enforcement. “Traffic stops are the most common interaction that residents have with the police, and they disproportionately affect Black residents. The presence of a police officer during routine traffic stops raises the risk of armed confrontation, sometimes with tragic consequences. Routine traffic enforcement — for example, stops for broken tail lights or rolling stops — should be diverted away from the police, relying instead on trained, unarmed civilian personnel.”
Any reader of the BPD incident log can quickly see how often traffic stops result in the recovery of illegal firearms. You want guns off the streets – you let police conduct traffic stops.
Then there’s Mass and Cass, a humanitarian crisis that’s brought councilors to their feet – only to have them sit down again.
Last month, the mayor urged councilors to “take swift and urgent action,” on an ordinance giving police the authority to clear out homeless encampments in the Mass and Cass zone.
Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who lost his bid to hang on to his District 5 seat, put the move on the hearing to-do list for the last week of September or first week of October.
We need more several councilors who understand what the city needs, and how to get it, and how to match deeds to words. November’s election offers voters a chance to add to their ranks.