The Boston mayoral race has turned ugly in recent days for City Councilor Andrea Campbell, with the city’s largest police union targeting the candidate in a nasty Twitter exchange, prompting some local leaders to accuse the labor group of racism and bullying.
Meanwhile, a veteran Black developer and sometime political activist with business ties to the sister of acting Mayor Kim Janey called for Campbell to drop out of the contest, saying “now that we have a Black female in the seat, what is the purpose of changing?”
Taken together, the two incidents underscored the increasingly heated race, with six candidates seeking the top job at City Hall. Three major candidates are Black: Campbell, Janey, and the city’s former economic development chief, John Barros.
Several politicians came to Campbell’s defense after the spat with the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association. “The level of disrespect and disregard toward women of color needs to stop. This bullying is uncalled for and unprofessional,’' said Councilor Julia Mejia.
Campbell’s fight with the association began Wednesday, when the union tweeted out a link to a Boston Herald story insinuating that Campbell, a staunch police reform advocate, was holding up nearly $1.2 million in Boston Police Department grants designed to combat gun violence and gang activity.
Campbell, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, said in a statement Monday that the grants were still under review as she, Boston police, and Janey’s administration all recognize “troubling racial disparities that exist in our policing and agree that the City must have a plan to eradicate them, including shifting practices in the [Boston Regional Intelligence Center] and use of the gang database.”
“All this can happen while ensuring adequate neighborhood coverage which will require the department to shift culture and structure,” she said.
Campbell’s Twitter response last week was much more heated: She hit back at the police union, referencing the ongoing legal and political scandal involving Patrick M. Rose Sr., a former BPPA union head who climbed the ranks of the labor group despite being credibly accused of molesting a child in the 1990s, when he was a patrolman. Rose is now jailed and awaiting trial on charges of raping multiple children over decades. Rose has pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing through his lawyer.
“Last I checked, we were still waiting to hear from @BostonPatrolmen on why they enabled and elevated an accused child molester,” Campbell tweeted Thursday, in response to the union’s opening salvo. “Until then, don’t @ me.”
The union did just that, however, responding with a thinly veiled reference to the criminal charges pending against Campbell’s brother, Alvin Campbell, who stands accused of kidnapping and raping multiple women while posing as an Uber driver. Alvin Campbell has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.
“There’s a lil’ saying about people who live in glass houses which seems incredibly appropriate at this time,” the patrolmen’s union tweeted at Andrea Campbell. “And, if I were you, when the topic of discussion turns to enabling criminals, you and your credibility would be best served by recusing yourself or @ nobody. #Hypocrisy”
The councilor said after her brother was arrested that she was “extremely heartbroken and saddened and devastated by these allegations” and that her thoughts were with the first woman who “had the courage to come forward.”
Meanwhile, Richard Taylor, in an e-mail to some Campbell supporters last week, urged them to back Campbell for Suffolk district attorney, should the county’s current top prosecutor, Rachael Rollins, become the US attorney.
Taylor said such a move “is probably the ONLY window for a ‘credible’ exit for Campbell.” Adding to the intrigue: Taylor is partnering with Kai Grant, who is Janey’s sister, to develop a mixed-use project on a city-owned lot in Roxbury’s Nubian Square.
Taylor’s letter was first reported by Commonwealth Magazine.
Campbell’s campaign manager has dismissed the notion of her considering another public office, calling it “both misinformed and insulting.”
The public exchange with the patrolmen’s union, however, has emerged as the far more explosive incident, drawing condemnation from numerous public officials.
The online fight arose from a dispute regarding two grants. One would provide $850,000 to the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, or BRIC, to upgrade its anti-crime efforts. That measure was filed with the council in February 2020.
Another grant, for $300,000, would fund a partnership between the Boston Police Department’s youth violence strike force and the State Police gang unit. That matter was filed with the council in December.
Both of those measures are still before the council’s public safety committee.
The city’s gang database and BRIC have drawn criticism in recent months. Last fall, Campbell said that city officials should be looking at how the database is compiled, suggesting police use an “arbitrary point system” to determine whether someone is suspected of gang involvement.
Others have questioned BRIC’s working relationship with federal immigration authorities. The center’s director defended it last summer, saying Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn’t have access to data that sits within the Boston Police Department, and advocated for funding that would allow the center to hire more analysts.
The Rev. Willie Bodrick, senior pastor at Twelfth Baptist Church, called the tweets from the union “deeply disappointing,’' especially given the national conversation on police reform and the recent arrest of the former union president.
“As a Black man in this community, to see a Black woman be disrespected in that way was very problematic,” Bodrick said.
There’s a lil’ saying about people who live in glass houses which seems incredibly appropriate at this time. And, if I were you, when the topic of discussion turns to enabling criminals, you and your credibility would be best served by recusing yourself or @ nobody. #Hypocrisy https://t.co/zzmG0dnEKB— Boston Police Patrolmen's Association (BPPA) (@BostonPatrolmen) April 29, 2021
The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Union tweet containing the apparent reference to Alvin Campbell prompted sharp criticism, including from US Representative Ayanna Pressley, who said on Twitter that the BPPA’s “racism and vitriol” directed at women lawmakers of color is “absolutely unacceptable.”
“Unfortunately, every elected official of color in MA knows their Twitter playbook — and the threats that follow — all too well,” she said.
The racism & vitriol directed at women of color in office by the BPPA is absolutely unacceptable. Full stop.— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) April 30, 2021
Unfortunately, every elected official of color in MA knows their Twitter playbook - and the threats that follow - all too well. pic.twitter.com/aLjRuw0zmo
Janey agreed with Pressley, calling the BPPA tweets at Campbell “vicious personal attacks.”
“BPPA needs to stop them right now,” she said on Twitter.
Councilor Lydia Edwards said as soon as she saw the April 29 tweet from the union, apparently targeting Campbell’s personal life, she called her colleague and expressed her outrage on Twitter.
“I was just so angry that they were talking about her character, or any aspect of her life, that had nothing to do with policy,” Edwards said. “It was so nasty, and so disgusting. It’s not like this came from an individual officer. It came from a union representing police officers in Boston, and that is why I’m particularly disgusted.”
Councilor Ricardo Arroyo told the union to delete its account.
Tim Logan of Globe staff contributed to this report.
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