KEY POINTS

  • Racism is a public health crisis, says Boston Mayor Marty Walsh 
  • To address this emergency, he is diverting police funds to public health programs
  • Police Commissioner William Gross welcomes the changes, which will allow the police to focus on keeping Boston safe

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh declared Friday (June 12) that racism is a public health crisis. To deal with this emergency, his office is planning to cut 20%, or about $12 million, from the police department’s 2021 budget, which and reallocate them to public health programs benefitting youth, the homeless, and people affected by inequality.

“We’re determined to accelerate our work towards systemic change to renew our nation’s and our city’s promise of equal opportunity and justice for every single person,” the mayor said in a statement, per CBS Boston. “The health impacts of historic and systemic racism are clear.”

They will redirect some $3 million of those funds, taken from the overtime budget of the cops, to the Boston Public Health Commission led by Chief Marty Martinez. The mayor said the health commission will have to come up with strategies to address the “… impacts of racism on the lives and health of Boston residents.”

Other proposals for the redirected funds include the creation of programs for responding to traumas and counseling, emergency clinicians, home security, elder support, violence prevention, food security, and support for businesses owned by minorities and women. The mayor is also creating a task force that will review the policies of the police department.

19499941525_0792e764d5_k Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said racism is a public health crisis and has redirected part of the police department's funds to public health programs. Photo: Don Harney/Department Of Interior/Flickr

Commissioner William Gross welcomed the changes because, ultimately, the police can focus on keeping the city safe.

"Quite frankly, what I’ve heard in the community is we wear too many hats anyway,” the police commissioner said, via Massachusetts Live. "A child doesn’t want to go to school? You call the Boston police. A child’s on the bus being unruly? You call the Boston police. There’s an emotionally disturbed person in a home? You call the Boston police. How many hats do you want us to wear?"

Walsh also said that there would be more announcements from the mayor’s office as reforms in policing is but a start in fixing this public health crisis.