Black Lives Matter leads to Questions about Malden Police

I hope that Black Lives Matter leads to real changes at interpersonal, local, national and international levels. There is a lot of work to be done, especially among us white folks. Uncovering the racist acts of individual police and examining the complex interactions among racism, police, and governing bodies are a good place to start.

Black Lives Matter logo

In 1990, I chose to live in Malden, a city of 60,000, just north of Boston, heralded as “the most diverse in Massachusetts.” Malden is neither the least “white” (about 50%), nor the most black, brown or Asian. Rather, we are a mix of races, cultures, ethnicities, economic classes, religions, etc. We have a plethora of adults who were born in other countries (I believe 37%), and 77 languages spoken at home by students at the high school. Diversity doesn’t mean that racism and white privilege aren’t prevalent: they are. Everywhere.

I wrote to my city councilor on June 12, 2020. Today, I modified it for clarity to post here, and to send to the rest of the city council, the police chief, and the mayor.

The Letter

Dear Malden Officials,

The resurgence of Black Lives Matter has refocused my attention on the systemic racism that surrounds and is within us. I’ve seen many of the connections before, but this round of furor has deepened my thinking and my desire to push for changes.

Brave people with video cameras posting on social media have, once again, exposed police brutality in the killing of George Floyd. I think the Malden police do a good, civil, job without undo force. But then, I’m white and live in the west end of the city. USA Today has made available a database that contains records of police misconduct. I wanted to see if have been any reports made in Malden, but Massachusetts is not one of the 44 states from which they were able to get data. The New York Times has an important article on the role of police unions in covering up misdeeds. I’ve read a lot in the past about the war on drugs (a.k.a. on poor and black people), and about military equipment and grants made to local police to stop terrorism (Timothy McVeigh?).

All this reading has finally prompted me to ask my local officials:

  • Are there stats about police misconduct or reports available for Malden?
  • Do our officers wear body cams (not that I’m exactly for them, from a civil liberties vantage)?
  • How much hardware does our department have provided by the military?
  • What portion of the city’s budget is for the police department?
  • Are there ways that our city can reportion that budget to put mental health, homelessness, and arguments back into the hands of more appropriate professionals?
  • Can we start by no longer requiring a uniformed officer to direct traffic for construction so our officers are on the ball when they’re on duty? [update: I’ve learned these assignments are required by state law]
  • Do we have an overtime issue, i.e., too much money spent on overtime that can be managed some other way?
  • I know the city has worked on minority recruiting and there is some diversity in the police force. What’s the breakdown by years of service, race and ethnicity (class and religious background would be useful too, but that data probably isn’t kept), and rank? [update: 38% of the last 34 hires are minorities or women]
  • Does Malden have its own police union, or is that at the state level?

I would like you to push the city council to address these questions. I’m concerned that in a city like ours, there is nothing about Black Lives Matter, no statement about the mayor, police chief, or city council’s position, on the web site. I know the chief publicly condemned the action of the police in the George Floyd video.

What actions are the city council and mayor currently taking? 

Thank you,

Kimberly H. Brookes

Please note, I am happy for any relevant comments
about this blog post, but no trolls.

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