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City’s police culture can be changed without a hit to public safety

Re “Real police reform in Boston starts now” (Editorial, Nov. 17): There is no doubt that police reform in Boston can be accomplished without any decrease in public safety. Indeed, reform could well improve public safety. Corporations do it all the time. Many companies are dedicated to constantly changing, and constantly improving their results. There is no reason public agencies can’t do the same.

Of course, the Boston Police Department is different in one important respect: It has union representation that seems more dedicated to the welfare of its members than improving the department’s effectiveness as a public service agency. That attitude might well be justified in an industrial setting, where the trade-off is financial — benefits for union members vs. profits for investors. But, with the police, the trade-off is quite different. For example, higher fixed overtime means fewer police or higher taxes for residents or less money for other important city services; tolerance or protection of the “bad apples” among the police means real pain for some residents.

Nevertheless, the police culture can be changed. Negative aspects can be changed, building on the positive aspects that we don’t hear enough about. Again, corporations do it all the time. It’s not easy, and in the BPD, it will be even more difficult with the expected opposition to change by a strong union. But the effort must be made. Incremental change is better than no change at all.

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Don Carlson

Boston

The writer is a former management consultant with a range of experience in organizational culture change and has worked with the police for more than 10 years as chair of his neighborhood’s crime committee.


Wu’s pledge could prove transformative for the department and the city’s budget

The Globe editorial board is absolutely right: Mayor Michelle Wu’s campaign pledge to tackle police reform through the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association union contract is right on the money. Boston police leaders themselves have acknowledged that policing is the wrong tool to address the root causes of violence and trauma in our communities. Police are not social workers, and they are not well-equipped to handle all the many challenges our society throws at them.

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To address root causes, we need to make investments in basic human needs such as affordable housing, health care, mental health, drug treatment, and job training.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts applauds Mayor Wu’s vision on policing, and we stand ready to work with her and the City Council to ensure that the next police union contract transforms not only the department but also our city budget.

Rahsaan Hall

Director, Racial Justice Program

ACLU of Massachusetts

Boston


A glance at the crystal ball

Regarding police reform in and around Boston: Yeah, sure.

John Troy

Santa Cruz, Calif.