Support for Policy Order #7 to Defund The Police in Cambridge


To The Honorable, the City Council:

I am writing to express my support for Policy Order #7 as filed by Councillors Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler and Quinton Zondervan.

Across the country, Black Lives Matter organizers are calling for a reallocation of resources away from policing. I stand with the thousands of Cambridge residents who are actively calling on the City Council to join in this movement via Policy Order #7 to consider options to move funds toward other vital community services. Policy Order #7 would ask the City Manager to reconsider a reported $4.1 million increase to the police budget for Fiscal Year 2021. Instead of an increase to our relatively massive police budget, Cambridge residents are calling on you to "Fund Community First."

The call to "Defund The Police" is part of a necessary conversation around large-scale structural reform. I know it may be possible to make technical arguments to cast doubt on this policy order — but I feel confident in saying that $66 million is too much to spend on policing 118,000 people, and I am grateful to everyone who is engaging in this conversation right now.

Over the weekend, I heard from several constituents who feel very strongly that Cambridge needs to take this opportunity to respond to the failures of policing around the nation. We've seen our own failures in Cambridge, from the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates on his own doorstep in 2009, to the video of Cambridge police officers punching and tackling a Black Harvard student on Mass Ave in 2018, to the recent obscenities tweeted at our U.S. Senator via the official Cambridge Police Twitter account.

On Monday evening, I spent several hours listening to the incredibly compelling public comment in support of Policy Order #7 during the virtual council meeting. Most compelling of all were the people of color who talked about being afraid at the sight of a police officer in Cambridge. As someone who recognizes my own white privilege, I found this testimony impossible to ignore.

I also want to highlight the comments that have recently been circulated by Malaika Moses, a Black woman who was born and raised in the Port. As you know, she is writing to the council to speak on behalf of Janet Moses, the Moses family, and many other Cambridge residents in support of Policy Order #7. Ms. Moses has offered a number of suggestions, listed below, "to re-imagine, to re-think and to re-create a department of public safety for the City of Cambridge."

  1. Reduce the police force to reflect the national average of hires for cities with at least 100,000 residents.
  2. Require that all new hires live in Cambridge and all previous hires who want to relocate do the same. The City would subsidize their housing.
  3. Membership on the Review Board should be an elected office. Review Board members are to be vetted for Anti-Black biases.
  4. Inventory the military hardware that the police department harbors and demand that all such equipment be returned to the federal government, including the three armored tanks.
  5. Disarm the police in multiple ways: study the UK model of using billy clubs rather than guns, eliminate the use of chokeholds and other overly aggressive tactics, and require that body cameras be worn and turned on when officers are on duty. 
  6. Rename the department: We propose that the department be re-named, The Department of Public Safety — a subtle but significant difference. This change in name will symbolize a break from the historical mission of policing in America: the monitoring, terrorizing and controlling of black bodies who were reminded to stay in their place or be beaten or killed. 

In closing, Ms. Moses writes: "For decades, police in Cambridge have reminded black boys and girls that they are black and require a heavy hand. I’ll never forget the looks, the glances, the steady and persistent harassment from officers my older brothers and their friends had to face throughout their childhood. The time is now to make the necessary changes in the funding of public safety, and in the policing practices that are employed to help ensure that Cambridge is a safe, just and peaceful community."

For the record, I would like to associate myself with the comments and recommendations of Ms. Moses and with all Cambridge residents who are calling on you to take a stand with Policy Order #7. May this policy order be part of a sustained effort to dismantle structures of racial oppression in our community and across the Commonwealth. I pledge to do my part in this effort and am grateful for the efforts the council is making to address these concerns on an urgent basis at this evening's special meeting. 

Yours in service,

Rep. Mike Connolly