Jon Keller spoke with Boston mayoral candidate Annissa Essaibi George about the Boston Police Department.
JOE KELLER: Welcome back to our conversation with at-large Boston city councilor and Boston mayoral candidate, Annissa Essaibi George. And councilor, Acting Mayor Kim Janey in her budget proposal the other day passed on making the deep cuts in the police budget that some activists were calling for. And in fact, she committed to hiring 30 more police officers. I saw you quoted in the Globe saying you thought that wasn't enough. Why, what do you mean?
ANNISSA ESSAIBI GEORGE: Well, we know we need several hundred more police officers to make sure that we have a safe city, that police are able to respond to 9-1-1 calls and work to end the public safety crisis that we are experiencing as a city. We've heard through our countless hearings, whether it's on the overtime budget and other issues around public safety and policing in our city, that we need more officers on the street.
And when we think about this, you know, the significant cost overruns when we look at the overtime budget and the challenges that creates when we think about the budget, the biggest problem there is we do not have enough police officers. And I, as an at-large councilor, I hear from residents every day that they are looking for a better response from police, that they want to make sure that we are focused on public safety.
And we can do two things at once. We can rein in some of those budget costs and make sure that our police officers-- our police force is right sized. That's really important for me. I think part of the other conversation, though, needs to be, when we bring in additional police officers, are we making sure that our force is a diverse force? That it's reflective of and responsive to the communities that they serve.
There's a lot going into this upcoming budget cycle that we're going to be discussing as it relates to policing and staffing and our budget. All of those things are really important. And 30 police officers does not help with the challenges our city faces today.
JOE KELLER: Do you think Dennis White, the commissioner appointed by outgoing Mayor Walsh, who's yet to assume the duties of commissioner because of investigation of his past, do you think he's up to the job?
ANNISSA ESSAIBI GEORGE: Well, I think it's important to see the investigation, the results, and the information that will be shared through the investigation that's happening. I think it's important that we do that as a city and certainly make sure that we are, again, responsible in the work that we do for the people of the city of Boston. And Commissioner White and, you know, through this very difficult time for him I'm sure personally creates a very difficult time for us as a city.
We need to make sure that we have a leader in place that can lead the police department, especially during this very difficult time. And I look forward to seeing the results of that investigation. And then I'm sure we'll have some more public discussion about this.
JOE KELLER: By the way, what's taking so long with that investigation?
ANNISSA ESSAIBI GEORGE: I'm not sure. I'm not privy to those details or that investigation.
JOE KELLER: OK. So you mentioned police overtime as a budgetary pressure. The current police contract, as you know, gives the BPD a monopoly on private traffic details. That's an expensive arrangement that leaves thousands of requests for details unmet each year. Would you as mayor push for broader use of civilian flaggers who tend to be less expensive?
ANNISSA ESSAIBI GEORGE: Well, I actually feel very different about that. If we are to bring in civilian flaggers, we need to commit to paying them that same rate. And I think it's really-- it's an unfortunate conflict that we find ourselves in. The opportunity to do details that are paid in the private sector, that commitment of that wage and of that pay is really important to me. And to bring in a civilian and say, you're not going to earn as much as the police officer who was just doing this job last week I think is irresponsible for sure.
When we think about wage fairness and pay fairness, that's an important piece for me. That's what I will do as mayor. But I do think-- I support police officers doing details. I think it creates opportunities for more police officers to be present in our communities and across our city. But I do think we have to look at the unfilled details and the opportunity there to be creative about who could fill those positions and that-- and do that role if police officers are unable to fill a detail.
But the wage piece, that's a nonstarter for me. If person A was able to earn this particular wage doing that job, then person B should also have the opportunity to make that wage. We also have to look at, when we bring more people on board to do this work, we have to be very careful about some of the legacy costs that come into play, that have to be considered when we think about the cost of doing this work.
JOE KELLER: Well, councilor, that's all our time for this first conversation with you. But we'll look forward to talking with you more as the campaign wears on and getting some insight into the contrast between you and your competitors. Thank you for joining us this morning.
ANNISSA ESSAIBI GEORGE: Jon, thank you so much.