“They “don’t trust either Trump or Biden with these powers, and believe they should stay lapsed whoever is in office.”
LOCAL – The big headline on the municipal front this past week originated with Chris Van Buskirk of the State House News Service, who filed a public information request to learn that the “City of Boston delivered nearly $5.8 million in overtime pay to police in connection with shifts associated with the wave of protests in May, June and July where thousands gathered to object to police brutality and systemic racism.”
Furthermore, the “$5.8 million is roughly 9.5 percent of the $60.8 million appropriated for paying overtime hours in fiscal 2020 and represents a total of 88,893 overtime hours worked over the three-month period.”
Talking heads and pro-cop trolls have relished what one Boston University prof called a “tremendous irony.” As if demonstrators asked to have hundreds of officers tail them by bike, car, and copter. Nice try, silly TV media, but those who have been following this story know that police spending is on the agenda for reformers, many of whom have been busy pushing for changes in the law locally as well as at the state level. Specifically, they’re seeking restrictions on military equipment, reallocations of funding, and increased regulation of facial surveillance technology. For starters.
STATE – At the Massachusetts State House, where significant top-down change in this area is actually in play for once, police reform will have to wait at least a little bit longer. With their two-year session coming to a close on July 31, Massachusetts legislators scrapped a 25-year-old rule that would have ended the formal session last month, thus giving them through the end of 2020 to abandon many of the aforementioned changes and gut the police reform bill, which will likely now get further compromised in dragged out conference negotiations.
On a more positive note, as nauseating as it is to compliment lawmakers for tying their shoes without tripping, Mass electeds did manage to turn some necessary wheels to get schools gearing up for stormy reopenings. On another track, things are looking far less bright for Boston’s biggest ballers, with sports betting on the ropes, but at least with the deadline extension there’s a chance that we may have new taxes to digest if the COVID ever clears from our lungs.
Finally, DigBoston jumped into the action this session, helping draft a bill to form a state journalism commission. The measure cleared the House as part of an economic development bill, was shot down by the Senate, and may yet live in conference committee. Stay tuned, and contact your state senator to tell Sens. Lesser, Rodrigues, and O’Connor to keep the commission amendment in the economic development bill!
FEDERAL – But at least you can always count on your friends in Washington, DC, right?
Probably not, especially in this theater. As the watchdogs at the Action Network, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization “dedicated to building progressive power,” remind us, “Earlier this year, key PATRIOT Act powers lapsed. House reformers insisted that a bill reviving them should categorically bar the FBI from incidentally gathering internet search and browsing history of US persons without a warrant, and that that protection should also extend to visa holders and asylum seekers in the United States; Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Nancy Pelosi would not agree.”
Action Network has a petition to stop the revival of the PATRIOT Act, and expects House and Senate leadership to “bring these powers back for renewal in the fall or after the election, trusting that a President Biden would abuse them less.” But they “don’t trust either Trump or Biden with these powers, and believe they should stay lapsed whoever is in office.”
Nor should they. If you have some valium, pop a couple and peruse Trump’s remarks from last week’s meeting with the National Association of Police Organizations, which makes his interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios that everyone’s crowing about look like an exercise in pacifist eloquence.
“In recent weeks, law enforcement has become the target of a dangerous assault by the radical left,” the POTUS pandered. “The leftwing extremists have spread mayhem throughout the streets of different cities.”
As a result, Trump thinks local cops need more heavy equipment, but only the “good” kind: “We had hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of equipment—really good military equipment, good stuff. … It was defensive equipment, where—like, vehicles that are very strong in terms of defense capability, where you wouldn’t get hurt; where the windows are, you know, shatterproof, et cetera, and bulletproof.”
Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, where the killing of George Floyd on May 25 by police spurred coast-to-coast protests, the prospect of dismantling the city’s long-corrupt police department has been put on ice. In June, the Minneapolis City Council began the process of fixing their municipal charter to remove the requirement for a formal police department. The idea is to replace the current apparatus with a Division of Law Enforcement Services, as well as a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention tasked with implementing a “holistic, public health-oriented approach.”
Like in Mass, though, all of that will have to wait. Last Wednesday, the Minneapolis Charter Commission voted to take more time to review the reform plan, thus knocking the issue off of the November ballot.
There’s still some hope in the air, but you can put your party hats away for now.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.