BOSTON (CBS) – Mayor Marty Walsh addressed increased calls around the country to defund police departments. Walsh did not get into specifics, but said it’s possible money could be redirected as the city makes budget adjustments caused by lost revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Cutting the budget, just cutting the budget, doesn’t solve anything. Cutting the budget doesn’t deal with racism. Cutting the budget doesn’t deal with systemic issues, that doesn’t solve anything,” Walsh said. “When the demonstrators stop, the conversation stops. That’s not going to happen here in Boston.”
Calls for defunding police have grown during nationwide protests that followed the death of George Floyd, including a march from Nubian Square to City Hall on Wednesday evening, when protesters demanded less funding for police and more funding for social programs. The police account for about 15% of the city’s $400 million budget.
“So basically we think we should take those funds, divest them from police and invest them into things like youth jobs, the City of Boston SuccessLink program, invest into community safety programs,” said protest organizer Stephen Lafume.
The group that marched, Coalition of Black Youth, marched not to get rid of the police department but to cut its budget by 10%. The group also called to remove police from the education system and cap overtime.
“So we’re at this position where we do have the local, the local political power to make these changes and to see those changes being enacted,” said protester Queen-Shyenne Wade.
Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia, who attended the protest, said, “I grew up in Boston, and when it comes to race relations – having survived the bussing era – I know we have a lot of work to do. I don’t think a dollar is going to make a difference. But what will make a difference is how we utilize this opportunity to ensure that budget reflects our values and making sure that we’re pouring in resources into communities who have been traditionally left out. And I think that it will send a strong message in how we invest in the city whether or not we ready to really do the work around racism here.”
On Wednesday, Walsh said he is meeting with the police department as part of the city’s budget process.
“The police department constantly has to evolve and address these issues, and I think that in light of Mr. Floyd’s murder, I think it really puts a real urgency to have even a deeper look at our practices and how we handle ourselves,” Walsh said.
Walsh’s administration plans to resubmit its budget to the city council next week. The mayor said during his Wednesday press briefing the goal in Boston is not to cut police funding, but instead potentially redirect money.
Potential adjustments to the police budget come during larger discussions caused by coronavirus.
— Kristina Rex (@KristinaRex) June 10, 2020
“We’re looking at roughly a $65 million to $80 million reduction of the budget on top of what’s happening because of lost revenue here in the city. So I don’t have specifics right now,” said Walsh.
Walsh said there will not be any layoffs in the police department or other departments as they deal with the budget shortfall.