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Boston could become city with all Black law enforcement hierarchy

Massachusetts

Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 9/12/2018, 10:41 a.m.
If you’re a fan of the show “Blue Bloods” or of Boston in general, here is something you’ve never seen: ...
Steve Thomkins

If you’re a fan of the show “Blue Bloods” or of Boston in general, here is something you’ve never seen: an all Black administration in law enforcement. According to the Boston Globe, after the upcoming election the city could have a Black police commissioner, Black sheriff and Black district attorney. “I’m excited,” said Steve Thomkins, the city’s sheriff. “Because the city is awake. The city is alive. The city is vibrant. When people ask what we’re doing that’s different, I just tell the whole climate has changed.” Thomkins is already in place, as is William Gross, also Black, as police commissioner. Rachel Rollins, a Black woman, won the Democratic primary for district attorney and is expected to beat Michael Maloney for the seat in November. The potential change strikes such a nerve largely because of the close connection between law enforcement and communities of color, writes the Globe. “For those who believe the system is chronically insensitive — or worse — to poor people and communities of color, this moment looms as a watershed.” Said Horace Small, executive director of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods, “We’ve said it’s basically a two-tiered system — one for them and one for us — and we have an opportunity to make it one system. Now they’ve been given the responsibility of creating a model that is inclusive, that listens, that understands. All the things we have critiqued the system for not doing.” Though Tompkins has been in office since 2013, the scenario would have seemed unlikely even a few months ago. But Gross was appointed by Mayor Martin J. Walsh to replace the highly regarded William Evans earlier this summer, and Rollins easily won the Democratic primary last week. “It’s a transformative moment in the city’s history that should be celebrated,” said Rahsaan D. Hall, of the American Civil Liberties Union. ”But it shouldn’t be seen as a panacea to the city’s race issues.” Hall said the change will be far more than symbolic. “I think there will be greater levels of empathy around the way communities of color, and in particular Black communities, are policed and prosecuted and treated while detained. I think it sends a very strong message.” But he predicted that the officeholders will face challenges as well, from supporters and skeptics alike. “I think there are heightened expectations from people in the Black community that the three of them will somehow magically undo a history of white supremacy and racism that developed over generations,” said Hall, a former Suffolk County prosecutor. “And I think there’s always a question about resistance within the ranks, because they are seen as unqualified or undeserving.” For her part, Rollins stressed that she has not been elected yet. But she said she believes this is a moment to address longstanding inequities in the criminal justice system, including the over-prosecution of many nonviolent offenses.