This summer, Boston has seen a sharp increase in gun violence – with communities of color hardest hit. The impact of this violence on our communities is devastating and long-lasting. In particular, children who grow up surrounded by violence often suffer lifelong consequences.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice urges the City of Boston to dramatically step up efforts to address this crisis, starting with a greater focus on community policing and diversity.
As Boston Magazine recently reported – in an article featuring Boston as a “shooters’ paradise” – the City’s abysmal arrest rate in shooting cases is directly linked to the disparate treatment that communities of color experience at the hands of the Boston Police Department (BPD). Simply put, when residents do not trust police, they are less likely to cooperate with investigations. Our Supreme Judicial Court has similarly recognized that BPD subjects people of color to “the recurring indignity of being racially profiled,” and that racial profiling erodes trust in law enforcement.
A more diverse police force would also help overcome these barriers and increase public safety. Yet the City continues to stymie efforts to diversify its police department – fighting anti-discrimination efforts and bypassing qualified applicants of color. The result is a police force that does not look like the communities it serves, which severely undermines the trust and respect that are essential for effective law enforcement.
For Boston’s communities of color – and particularly the children growing up in our communities – to thrive, the City can and must do better to stem the tide of gun violence. A sustained and forceful commitment to diversifying BPD would be a good first step.