The Police and Police Procedures Subcommittee of the Public Service Committee of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council held its first community listening session on police and community safety on July 19.
The virtual conversation took the format of breakout rooms on Zoom, where a member of the subcommittee on police facilitated the conversation in each room, and members of the community could share their experiences and ideas about police and community safety in Jamaica Plain.
The three breakout rooms included: Culture of Policing, Accountability and Transparency, and Perception vs. Reality of Police Work.
In the Accountability and Transparency room, Public Service Committee Chair Michael Reiskind talked about things like community policing where the neighborhood has “a lot of interaction with the police” so they have familiarity with each other.” He has worked on implementing this in JP since the late 1970s, he said.
He said that the efforts on community policing hvae “clearly not been working fast enough or adequately enough,” and he said that he and others have been “trying to do some more radical reforms of the Boston Police.”
Resident Drew Eliot said that he doesn’t “see any way right now for police to be accountable” when it comes to things like “salary abuses” and “how they manage their time” and “training.”
Reiskind said that the Boston Police Department does “respond to requests” in JP. “But that’s not the accountability I think you’re talking about,” he said. “Their internal affairs department is very opaque and hard to get to.”
Louise Johnson, a member of the Public Service Committee, brought up several issues she has noticed with the police department, including stories of those who have abused overtime, and “this is something really wrong that’s going on that’s very hidden, I think, and there’s sort of day-to-day issues,” she said.
Shew said that while “they do their best to try and help out,” she added that “there certainly are issues there. I think the accountability is a really deep issue.”
Samantha Montano, a member of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, brought up issues of the power dynamic between police officers and people in low income communities and communities of color. She said police walk around with a “gun,” and a “stick.” She said that “some folks more than others” are “susceptible” to this type of power dynamic.
My’Kel McMillen reported back on the Culture of Policing breakout room, saying that the group talked about some improvements that could happen within the police department. A topic that kept coming up is the hot dog nights at the Mildred C. Hailey apartments, where the police show up and talk with residents.
McMillen said that Gert Thorn, a member of the JPNC, said that he does not feel these interactions with the police are genuine ways for them to connect with the community.
Another resident said she feels that the hot dog nights are a good event for police to come to as “their faces are needed,” and this gives them an opportunity to talk with residents.
Louise Johnson said that “the police have a huge impact on community and the way that policing is done,” adding “especially if they’re set up to act in isolation. It can be very devastating on a community.”
Johnson also talked about the fact that police and fire often all show up together and it can be “intimidating” for residents to handle that. She said it is a “hard way for a community to live all the time.”
Montano also brought up disparities in income among residents, and the fact that “many low income folks” and residents of color deal with mental or physical illnesses as well.
“Wealthier folks don’t have to deal with pressure of being watched or controlled,’ she said.
She also mentioned the fact that many community service officers are people of color in the Jamaica Plain area, and those who work with youth in the JP neighborhood are “representative of their community and that’s nice,” she said.
Kathryn Duarte mentioned all of the violence in the city and that she believes something needs to be done about it.
This conversation was one of at least a couple, and will help the subcommittee and the community learn more about each other and what they feel needs to be done about public safety and policing in Jamaica Plain.
Before another conversation is held in the fall, a Google Form has been created for residents to fill out to provide feedback.
Additionally, feedback from the listening session will be included in a “Community Safety Values Statement,” according to Subcommittee on Police Procedures member Paige Sparks, “which will serve as a guiding document for continued work.” The subcommittee also encourages new members to join the subcommittee.
The form can be found at docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdCbmSaiiFjUlWAHIZYMFb1LHpBxr6aKnYJ-M3HkClRg6_ong/viewform. Questions and comments can also be sent to Paige Sparks at [email protected]