BROOKLINE, MA - On the fourth and final night of the June 2020 Brookline Town Meeting Tuesday, the town's representative legislative body decided the police department will not get additional cuts beyond what the Select Board and Advisory committee recommended.
Dozens of speakers took the mic making the case for and against two proposals that would cut the police budget. Town Meeting members Deborah Brown and Bonnie Bastien proposed cutting $2,065,951 from the department’s personnel budget, while Town Meeting member Scott Ananian proposed cutting $1,148,560. Both options called for reallocating the money into town social programs, housing and education.
Debate began at 7 p.m. and lasted nearly three hours. In the end, the Select Board and Advisory Committee recommendations to keep the cuts to the $772,413 and to form a task force to rethink the department held the day.
The hours-long budget hearing swung between critics, who contended the police department is over-funded and money should go toward other town programs such as the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and education and supporters, who said the budget already provides for a number of important social programs within the department. Supporters also argued the Brookline Police Department and its budget was too small for "sledgehammer cuts."
A number of people said any further cuts should be more throughly vetted, and warned against budget cuts that would mean Black officers might be cut.
"It’s important to make sure you’re not accidentally cutting services people need just because police officers are the ones giving them," said the Brookline Police Department's civilian social worker Annabel Lane.
And officer Casey Hatchett, who is also a Town Meeting member said being anti-racist and supporting the police are not mutually exclusive.
"[Being] anti-racist doesn’t mean you can’t support your police," she said.
Officer Will Walker, who is one of nine Black officers in the department, said the police department is much more progressive and open minded than departments in other communities, noting that the reforms that many departments are just now implementing or are being called upon to take, have long-been instituted in the Brookline department.
Chief Andy Lipson told Town Meeting he'd recently formed a task force within the department with the job of having them make recommendations in terms of how the department works when it comes to diversity and opportunity for members of the department who are not white men.
The vote was the final in a four night process ahead of the state deadline to approve a budget for fiscal year 2021. The proposed budget of $317,669,708, comes amid a year when the the town is scrambling to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and a racial justice movement.
Perviously, Town Meeting approved a condition of passing the police budget that would require the police department report what type of riot gear equipment they use and any time civilians are injured to the Select Board.
Amendment: Brown/Bastien proposal to reduce the Brookline Police Budget by more than $2 million
- Vote: Failed. 60 in favor, 173 opposed and 6 abstaining
Amendment: Ananian proposal to reduce the police budget by around $1 million
- Vote: Failed. 96 in favor, 140 opposed and 6 abstaining.
FY 2021 Budget:
- Vote: Passes 201 in favor, 22 opposed and 18 abstaining.
Patch live-tweeted the meeting:
"We are in the midst of a crisis," says petitioner Brown. She's asking that the town cut more than $2 million from the Brookline Police Budget. #BrooklienTownMeeting
— Jenna Fisher (@ReporterJenna) June 30, 2020
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Here's how to watch the meeting: