Boston police union head: City needs to hire 400 more officers

As a mayoral race puts focus back on the police budget, union president Larry Calderone says the city's population is outpacing the police force

By Sean Philip Cotter
Boston Herald

BOSTON — As Boston mayoral candidates take aim at the police department's budget, the head of the city's largest police union is pushing for more cops on the streets — and less political heat on them.

"The city needs to hire 400 to 500 police officers," Boston Police Patrolmen's Association President Larry Calderone told the Herald, rebuffing the calls to defund the police that come from some of the city's mayoral candidates.

He said that the population of the city had increased significantly over the past three decades — and the number of 911 calls has boomed with it. But the police force, now at around 2,000, is about 25% smaller, he said.

"I have a problem with that," Calderone said. "It's just simple mathematics."

The city's heading into budget season, with acting Mayor Kim Janey — a current mayoral candidate who last year who signed onto a push to cut the police budget by 10% — is due to present the first pass at Boston's $3.6-billion-plus budget. The council — which includes mayoral hopefuls Andrea Campbell, Annissa Essaibi-George and Michelle Wu — will hold hearings on the matter before the city puts forth a revised budget, which must be passed by the end of June.

Last year, as protests raged around the city and beyond following high-profile police killings in other parts of the country, calls to reallocate parts of the police budget led then-Mayor Martin Walsh cut $12 million from the department's $60 million for overtime, though advocates and some councilors pushed for a deeper cut. Janey, Campbell and Wu were among the councilors who voted against the full budget because they wanted deeper reforms.

As it's become clear that the department is going to overshoot that OT number this year — statutorily, the city is allowed to go over its budget on police overtime for public-safety reasons — councilors and advocates have begun to refocus on that as an issue, slamming the department in council hearings.

Calderone, who heads up the union of 1,600 officers, said the main reason for so much overtime spending is the lack of bodies. Last year, the demonstrations throughout the summer over racial issues also pushed the budget higher, as the department sends more cops to deal with big protests.

"They're acting like we're wasting our money," Calderone said. Of the forced overtime, he said, "Nobody wants to be forced to work 80 to 90 hours a week."

The department has been bringing on about 100 new officers a year, and has been losing about as many through retirements. Calderone said that's "putting a Band-Aid on an open wound" — he said he wants the city to hire 200 cops a year for a few years to scale up the size of the force.

He also said some of the same city councilors blasting the cops for overshooting the budget are the same ones who were on the horn with police brass last summer to ask for more officers in their neighborhoods.

"The city councilors and candidates for mayor that are consistently saying they want to cut the department budget and the overtime budget are the same councilors that are contributing to the overrides and the overruns from the overtime budget," Calderone said. "They can't have it both ways."

"I'm sick and tired of the city councilors — typically the mayoral candidates — who want to use the men and women of the Boston Police Department as a scapegoat."

(c)2021 the Boston Herald

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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