BOSTON (AP) — A group of minority police officers wants Boston city councilors to put pressure on Mayor Thomas Menino to promote more minorities as supervisors and in specialized units after promises were made last year to diversify the department’s ranks.
The City Council has scheduled a hearing Tuesday on police diversity, and minority officers are promising to crowd the chambers.
“We aren’t further along than when we started,” Larry Ellison, president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers. “We need more action now and less talk.”
The hearing comes after Police Commissioner Edward Davis vowed last year to diversify command staff and a recent string of homicides occurred in minority neighborhoods where investigators say witnesses are not cooperating.
Ellison said a lack of minority officers in specialized units —especially as supervisors — is one of many factors hurting police in preventing homicides.
Messages seeking comment were left with the mayor’s office and police department.
Rev. Bruce Wall of Global Ministries Christian Church in Boston said many of the minority police officers come from the same neighborhoods where the crimes occur and should have a better presence in supervisory positions to help fight crime.
According to department numbers, around 16 percent of the department’s 164 sergeants are black or Latino. In addition, the department has only a handful of minorities as supervisors in specialized units like gang and homicide.
Census estimates show minorities account for around 50 percent of the city’s resident
Tuesday’s hearing is just the latest fight between Menino and the minority law enforcement officers’ association. For months, the group has asked the department to change requirements concerning tests for promotions, or at least inform minority officers about open positions so they could apply and prepare for test. The group has said that supervisory positions continue to go to a select few “insiders” without minority officers having the chance to fairly compete for the jobs.
In October, the 300-member group cast a no-confidence vote after they accused Menino’s re-election campaign of warning them to tone down criticism or face negative consequences, a charge the campaign denied.
The group has become more vocal as the city faces a number of gang-related homicides and shootings in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. Menino has reached out to black ministers in an effort to help rally community members to cooperate with police.
Ellison said Menino could instead reach out to minority police officers. “The ministers don’t call us to do baptisms,” said Ellison. “We know policing. We know these neighborhoods and we can help.”
Jose Lozano, the group’s vice president, said Davis has shown a willingness to make improvements. But he said the department still is moving too slowly.
Carmelo Ayuso, president of the Massachusetts Minority State Police Officers’ Association Inc., said members of his group will also attend Tuesday’s hearing in support for Boston minority officers.
But he said Boston isn’t the only police department in the Commonwealth that lacks black and Latino officers in high-ranking positions.
“It’s a problem all over,” said Ayuso.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.