Dated: Sunday February 20, 2005
As we celebrate Black History Month, we must consider whether the accomplishments, gains and goals of communities of color are still being placed forward in the overall scheme of bringing respect and cooperation amongst all communities, and the dedication of the majority culture, particularly in the field of criminal justice, to promoting these philosophies.
We find, then, that we must be appalled at the recent actions of Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole of the Boston Police Department in demoting two high-ranking officers of color within an agency that is reputed to have a nationally recognized agenda towards promoting “diversity” within its ranks. The re-assignment of Superintendent James M. Claiborne has effectively stripped communities of color of a voice in the way that law enforcement interacts with those communities. Particularly so Superintendent Claiborne, who has been moved from being the commander of the Bureau of Field Services, which has the most impact on how law enforcement in Boston’s communities of color is imposed, to a position at the Boston Police Academy. This new assignment has little to bear upon the operational decision making policies affecting rank and file law enforcement personnel and their activities and involvement in the community.
We must further, and particularly note what must now be seen as the total lack of an effective command presence by officers of color within the Boston Police Department, particularly since the tenure of Commissioner O’Toole. While homicide and other violent crimes have increased in Boston’s communities of color, representation of African American and Latino officers in positions which have a direct impact on how law enforcement interacts with those communities has decreased to the point of virtual non-existence. In an agency of more than 2,000 officers, less than two percent hold positions which directly impact how police officers treat members of the African American and Latino community. It is through the active presence, representation and participation of those who look like us, feel like us, and have come from amongst us that a true sense of respect, sensitivity, and trust can be reached.
Commissioner O’Toole’s actions in this issue have shown a total sense of both disrespect and a lack of sensitivity towards issues of diversity within the Boston Police Department, which will ultimately have a disastrous and dismantling impact on the effectiveness of policing within the neighborhoods of color in the Boston area. They provide a mirror-image of her lack of confidence, trust, respect and, ultimately, her treatment of African American and Latino officers under her command. This attitude can only lead to diminished effectiveness in the policing of communities of color, and the promotion of Community Policing in all neighborhoods. And its residual impact upon the safety of all law enforcement officers may yet to be realized.
It is with this sense of disdain that The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers stands with the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, and their community in voicing their outrage.
The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc, a 501.(c).(3) non-profit, is a premier national organization representing the interests and concerns of African American, Latino and other criminal justice practitioners of color serving in law enforcement, corrections, and investigative agencies throughout the United States, and the communities in which they serve.
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