Boston Police Patrolmen's Association: Defunding Police Movement 'A Foolish Argument'

WBZ-TV political analyst Jon Keller talks to Boston Police Patrolmen's Association president Larry Calderone.

Video Transcript

JON KELLER: Welcome back to our conversation about police and policing here in the city of Boston and elsewhere with the president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, Larry Calderone. And Larry, we hear frequent calls to, quote, "defund the police." Some activists believe that's a bad term, and they argue that what it really means or what it should mean is reallocating certain resources to free cops from having to be psychiatrists and social workers. Others clearly do want to punish police financially for perceived excesses in the work they do. What's your response to both of those camps?

LARRY CALDERONE: Well, first off, the defund the police rhetoric that's been out there for the last year, it was simple. And I'm going to direct this at our own city council here because they're the ones that fund the Patrolmen's Association and first responders in Boston. It's very easy to jump on a platform that's nationally raised to defund the police, but look what it's done across the country. Look what's happening in Portland, and look what's happening in Minnesota.

Defund the police, it's a foolish argument. I'm walking the streets and I visit the stations and I talk to the community at community events. I'm yet to receive one citizen to tell me that they want to defund the police, to tell me that they don't want police in their neighborhoods. If anything, I'm hearing they want more police officers. They want to see them on more corners and more playgrounds, in our schools, protecting our young ones.

This defund the police is-- again, it's a popular rhetoric for the council to jump on, especially the ones that are running for mayor this coming November. But the reality is, the general public, the taxpayers in Boston, we want to feel safe. And Boston's one of the safest cities in the country, and it's not by accident. It's by the hard work that the men and women of the police department do day and night.

JON KELLER: How about this concept of replacing-- having certain calls, mental distress calls, as so many of them are these days, handled by specially-trained social workers? There are programs like that already up and running. How about the idea of expanding that? And also, there have been calls for removing police officers from schools and having similar, you know, civilian replacements. What are your thoughts on those two areas?

LARRY CALDERONE: Well, first off, if there's any way to make the job of a police officer easier or better, we're 100% behind it. The EMS division of the Patrolmen's Association the emergency responders for EMS in Boston. We work hand in hand with one another. If the Department sees fit to take their cue, like other departments across the country, and hire more clinicians and social workers that will work hand in hand with both EMS and the police department, we're all for it. I think it's a great idea.

However, the concept of taking police officers out of the response to 911 calls for a mentally-ill person, it's outrageous. If anything, we should be sending the police, EMS, and the clinician together to respond to these individuals as an organized group. That's something that we can grasp.

Because the reality is, someone that's suffering from mental illness, when their family member or someone is calling 911, the social work, the clinician, EMS, they don't want to go to those calls. And that's something that's not being reported out there. They don't want to go alone. They do want to be at the forefront, they do want to answer those calls for service, but they want the police officers in the background responding with them in case it gets out of hand.

The reality is, Jon, if someone's suffering from mental illness, you don't know what they're going to do. They might be sensitive in their approach and soften their approach in your initial response and then become extremely violent at the snap of a finger. And that's what the police officer is there to do, is to keep the peace and protect everybody, not just the person suffering from mental illness, but the first responders, the clinicians, the social workers, the EMTs that are on scene. That requires police response, and that requires response at the same time, not several minutes later when things have already got out of control.

JON KELLER: Thank you for your time today.

LARRY CALDERONE: Thank you very much for having me, Jon. Any time you want me on here-- I have a lot more to say. The men and women of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, again, they're working hard day and night. And I know that-- I know you're out of time, but I just want to touch on this quickly.

We-- you've talked about defunding and allocating money. There is some rhetoric out there pointing fingers at police officers for the money that they are making. But truth be told, we're short 400 to 500 police officers in my career. The reason that these officers are working 75 hours a week and making the money that's being reported is because we don't have enough help. And that needs to be addressed because the men and women are working themselves to death.

JON KELLER: Thank you. That's Larry Calderone, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association. Thanks for joining us. Now, back over to my colleagues for more WBC News.