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Walsh files proposal he says would help add diversity to Boston’s police force

A pedestrian shut their umbrella as they walked past a row of Boston Police motorcycles parked outside of the Convention Center.
A pedestrian shut their umbrella as they walked past a row of Boston Police motorcycles parked outside of the Convention Center.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File 2019

In an attempt to further diversify Boston police, Mayor Martin J. Walsh is pushing for the state’s civil service system that governs the department’s hirings to include a preference for prospective officers who graduated from the city’s high schools.

The home-rule petition, which the City Council is scheduled to discuss at its Wednesday meeting, would need both council and State House approval to become a reality. The measure is one of the recommendations made by a task force formed earlier this year after Walsh declared racism to be a public health crisis in the city. The panel was tasked with reviewing Boston police rules and guidelines.

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Existing civil service rules provide preferences for veterans, disabled veterans, the widows of veterans, and the widowed mothers of veterans, according to the mayor. Walsh’s proposal would create a new preference for city residents who graduated from high schools in Boston, including charter and parochial ones, or residents who graduated from schools through the Metco program, a voluntary school integration initiative.

“Boston is committed to systemic change to ensure the Boston Police Department promotes equity and justice for all Boston residents, and we are moving swiftly to enact the Boston Police Reform Task Force’s recommendations.” said Walsh in a statement.

He continued, “This home-rule petition will give Boston school graduates the opportunity to join the Boston Police Department, and provide a pathway for more of our residents to serve their communities.”

The Globe reported earlier this year that the department has failed to keep up with the shifting demographics of the city in recent years, with the city’s force becoming slightly more white as the city’s population has become less so.

In a Tuesday statement, Walsh’s office emphasized the mayor’s 2015 reinstatement of the department’s police cadet program, which that office said “has successfully grown Boston’s pipeline of diverse talent.” In June, 108 new Boston police graduated from the department’s academy. City authorities said about 21 percent of the class was Black, about 15 percent Latinx, and 4 percent Asian. The class included 32 female graduates.

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The civil service system, adopted in the 1800s, was originally intended to thwart patronage in government hiring. But critics say it prioritizes certain candidates, such as military veterans, with no regard for other demographics, leading to a wide pool of white male candidates.

In fact, last year, then-City Council President Andrea Campbell called for overhauling and possibly eliminating the city’s use of the civil service system to fill public safety jobs, saying the process thwarts the hiring of women and people of color in police and fire departments. Campbell, a vocal proponent of police reform, is now running for mayor.

Vernal Coleman and Milton J. Valencia of the Globe staff contributed to this report.



Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.