BOSTON (CBS) – What do controversial calls to “defund police” mean? It’s been a rallying cry at protests over the last few days, and in Massachusetts it has political leaders taking a close look at their budgets.
In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh says he’s looking at reallocating the police budget. “I’m continuing to have conversations with my staff about what our budget will look like. I am committed to making real change,” he said.
City Councilor Julia Mejia says it does not mean shutting police down. “What we’ve been hearing from folks is, instead of funding surveillance and more cameras and facial recognition,” Mejia said, “why aren’t we finding more opportunity for youth employment, trauma informed practices?”
A similar conversation is happening in Lexington, where a town meeting member has called for a re-vote on spending to build up a law enforcement firing range. Last week, members voted to put $150,000 toward plans to expand it. At that meeting, Police Chief Mark Corr argued it’s a necessary training tool. “I know how much hurt there is in the Lexington community, but after many years, I believe strongly that training is one of the most important things that we need to improve upon,” he said.
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Town meeting member Valerie Overton said Lexington leaders should look at spending for health or educational programs instead. “The timing of the voting on that article was just profoundly insensitive,” Overton said. “People in Lexington literally went from a prayer vigil to a town meeting to approve a firing facility for police.”
Hampden Police Chief Jeff Farnsworth, who’s president of the Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association, says taking money from public safety simply does not make sense. “Somebody decides they don’t want to pay for their meal at a restaurant and they walk out, or somebody decides to take something from you, they can just take it, and who do you call? You know, that car is speeding at 50 miles per hour past your house with your children out playing. Who do you call? What do you do? It just really doesn’t work in any way, shape, or form,” Farnsworth said.