'Morale Is Very Low,' Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association Says

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

Video Transcript

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JON KELLER: Well, good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us on this Sunday morning during this past week, as we've marked the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. And throughout the year that's passed, we've tried to bring you a variety of perspectives on issues involving police and policing. This morning, let's hear from a 27-year veteran of the Boston Police force, Larry Calderone, a native of Jamaica Plain who's now the president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Union. Larry, good morning and welcome.

LARRY CALDERONE: Good morning, Jon. Good morning to your viewers, and thank you for having me on.

JON KELLER: Thank you for being on. Now, you have said publicly of the police tactics we all saw in the infamous Floyd murder video, quote, "it goes without question, as a human being, you know that's wrong," end quote. You've also said, quoting again, "we don't have this problem in Massachusetts," yet there's been plenty of protest and anger and calls for reform directed at police in Boston and elsewhere around the state. Has that surprised you, and do you reject all that criticism or accept some of it?

LARRY CALDERONE: Well, first, I'd say first off, yes, it surprises me. The amount of violence that was created here in Boston on May 31 that our officers were subjected to was very surprising. I had stated, like you said, that we don't have these issues here in Boston, Massachusetts, and we're very proud of that. It's not by an accident.

We are very highly trained. We are highly educated here in Boston. We've come a long way in my 27 years here as a police officer, and I'm proud of that. But it was very surprising to see the amount of anger and violence that was projected at our officers that night during the protest.

I'm not saying we're immune to issues in the police department. I'm not going that far to say that it would never happen here in Boston. However, we have a very good track record, and I believe us to be one of the best police departments in the country, Jon.

JON KELLER: Give me an example, if you can, of an issue that's been raised-- and you, we should point out-- of course, the state passed a rather broad police reform bill. It creates a special commission to oversee training and other issues under the new law, and you're going to be a member of that commission when it begins its work. What-- in terms of the calls for reform, what came through to you as a good idea and something you can get fully behind and your officers can get fully behind?

LARRY CALDERONE: Well, there's quite a few, actually. Yes, let me start off with, yes, I am one of the nine commissioners appointed to the commission-- very proud of that-- to represent all law enforcement labor organizations throughout the Commonwealth, and I'll do it to the best of my ability. As far as the issues at hand that I think we can relate to right away, several months ago, for the first time in the history of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, I invited down members of the Black and Latino caucus from the legislature. They were here a few times in our building talking about issues of police reform, that being duty to intervene, banning of chokeholds, de-escalation of force when on scene, the need to increase diversity not just in Boston, but throughout the Commonwealth. Another issue is accreditation and certification of all police departments to receive the same training across the state.

They may seem like no-brainer issues to some people that are listening, but they were a big concern to members of the legislature and members of the Commonwealth. And in Boston, I'm very happy to say that we've been practice in many of these things already. That's not to say that we're better than other police departments in the Commonwealth. That's not true. We just-- we have the luxury of having a good command staff over the years to give us more access to training. And the more training that police officers can receive, the better we're going to be at our job.

JON KELLER: Right now, considering a lot of the hostility that's been directed toward police and is, on a daily basis, is my understanding, how would you characterize the morale of the typical Boston police officer?

LARRY CALDERONE: Morale is very low right now. Sad to say, it might be the lowest that I've seen in my entire career, Jon. It's very tough, especially for our younger officers. We have a fairly dominant young police force right now. They go out every day giving 110% to keep the citizens in Boston and our visitors safe.

But it is extremely hurtful to continually hear the same rhetoric not only from some anarchists that are from outside of Boston, but from our own elected officials as well. We're looking for somebody to stand up for us. Our men and women come to work day and night, here to protect not only themselves and their families, but every citizen in Boston, every visitor that comes here.

So morale is very low, but we're the best here in Boston and in Massachusetts. And that's where I come from when I say we don't have those issues. We have offices that are out there. They're coaching in your community. They're answering calls for service. We're embracing police reform. We need to be recognized from that to make us feel better. It's hurtful, Jon.

JON KELLER: I've got to take that break, but I-- you said we need someone to stand up for us. Will your union be endorsing in the Boston mayoral race at some point?

LARRY CALDERONE: That is unknown at this point. That's going to be up to the House of Representatives and the membership that I represent. And I'll take my cue and direction from them when that time comes.