Hub black leaders are calling for an independent review of the Boston Police Department in the wake of Herald reports on a lack of diversity in the ranks and among superior officers, including the failure to promote a veteran black sergeant.
Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said he wants to see “people outside … reviewing the police department in terms of achievement of diversity objectives.”
“The numbers are not pretty, that’s one thing we know,” Williams said.
City Councilor Tito Jackson called for a “top-down and bottom-up review.”
“I’ve seen in the past where there has been a diversity committee that was headed by then-Commissioner (Edward F.) Davis,” the Roxbury city councilor said. “I think we should reconvene. … If we don’t do this then you have people not taking the (civil service) test, people who will be under the assumption that they’re not going to get the look they deserve.”
A series of Herald reports in the past two weeks has showed that the number of minority cops in Boston has dipped slightly during Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s first 16 months in office. They now represent 33.5 percent of all 2,123 officers. In the same period, there was a marginal uptick of minorities in the supervisory ranks of captains, lieutenants and sergeants, 83 percent of whom are white. Boston has a 53 percent minority population.
A Herald report yesterday highlighted the case of Sgt. Paul Joseph, a 25-year veteran with a law degree who scored an 87 on the exam for lieutenant. He was passed over in favor of whites with identical scores, including Lt. Michael McCarthy, who heads the BPD’s public affairs office. Boston police declined to comment yesterday.
Walsh yesterday backed the BPD on the Joseph case, noting an equal number of minority and white candidates were promoted to lieutenant who scored an 87 on the civil service exam. “I’m not reviewing it. It’s simple,” Walsh said about Joseph’s case.
“We had 11 people in the 87 score, 4 of those 11 officers were officers of color,” Walsh said, noting Joseph was the only minority who didn’t get promoted. Six officers got promoted in the 87 cluster — three whites and three minorities.
“You’re promoting the most capable, qualified officers and the score is one aspect of that,” Walsh said, adding job performance also factors in.
But City Councilor Charles C. Yancey — who said he’s open to the idea of an independent review — called Joseph’s case “a missed opportunity” to further diversify the police. “It’s a glaring example of the persistent history of near exclusion at the higher ranks of the police department up until recently.”
NAACP Boston President Michael Curry, who plans to sit down with Commissioner William B. Evans next week to discuss Joseph’s case and how to diversify the department, also said he, too, is open to an outside probe.
“It’s an avenue to have an outside reviewer come in and talk about the challenges and what the promotional opportunities are for officers of color,” Curry said. “Quite frankly, it’s an option for BPD leadership to evaluate internally what it needs to do to deliver those promotions for officers of color.”