At this week’s Boston City Council meeting, councilors directed their attention toward realizing Mayor Marty Walsh’s police overtime budget cut of 20% by proposing a hearing to discuss strategies for achieving this goal.
According to a proposal by Councilors Kenzie Bok (District 8) and Andrea Campbell (District 4), actualizing the Mayor’s cuts will require “active management reforms, COVID-19 related savings, and procedural changes” in order to achieve a reduction in scheduled overtime hours.
“We cannot accept the status quo of running over,” said Councilor Bok, citing the City’s declining revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the strain this will already place on the City’s critical care priorities.
The councilors suggested reducing military exercises, ceasing the over-policing of black and brown communities through disproportionate stops, and other reforms that would work to rebuild public trust in the Boston Police Department.
“Overtime budget has only gone up despite commitments to decrease it,” stated Councilor Campbell, pointing to the continuous increase of police overtime over the past years.
Boston’s budget legally allows police overtime to overrun its allotted funds by $8-10 million, drawing from reserves and other unspent areas of City investments. Mayor Walsh’s reallocation of 20%, or $12 million, of police overtime funds expects to be funneled into community programs, public health, counseling services, homelessness outreach, and other services.
However, Councilors Bok and Mejia believe that achieving these savings will require a comprehensive plan that can only be accomplished through the cooperation of the Boston Police Department, and oversight by the Mayor’s Administration and the City Council.
“If we could actually hold the line on this year’s police overtime budget to the amount that the administration has budgeted, we could potentially save as much as $20 million instead of just the $12 (million),” stated Councilor Bok. “But for us to do that, the state needs to have a plan and that plan needs to be intensely monitored.”
Councilor Michael Flaherty (At-Large) agreed there was a need for a discussion around actualizing the police overtime budget. However, he urged his fellow councilors to “bridge the gap” between those who want to defund the police and those who want the option to call the police.
Councilor Flaherty pointed out the City’s recent eruption of violence over the past week and maintained that understanding police officers’ daily experience on the job is essential to the conversation on police overtime.