Boston Mayor Declares Racism a ‘Public Health Crisis’ in the City

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 13: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speaks at a press conference announcing the postponement of the Boston Marathon to September 15th on March 13, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. The postponement is due to concerns over the possible spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) on Friday declared racism a “public health crisis” in the city and, as a result, announced the reallocation of millions of dollars from the police department’s overtime budget to various community programs.

“Today I am declaring racism a public health crisis in the @CityofBoston,” the Democrat mayor announced on social media. “The health impacts of historic and systemic racism are clear in our #COVID19 case numbers, and the impacts go far beyond the current crisis”:

The executive order states that racism is a “threat to public health and safety, and is a paramount social determinant of health, shaping access to the resources that create opportunities for heath, including public safety, housing, education and employment, and is a persistent barrier to health equity for all Bostonians.”

The coronavirus pandemic, the executive order continues, has “revealed, reaffirmed, and cast in sharp relief the emergency nature of these pre-existing inequities caused by systemic racism.”

Because of this, the city’s government must “recommit to addressing the impact that racism has on the lives of all of our neighbors and how it impacts the overall health of our City.”

“We’re determined to accelerate our work towards systemic change,” Walsh said during a press conference on Friday. “What I’m announcing today is the beginning.”

The mayor, in congruence with the order, announced that the city will be backing the declaration “with an initial investment of $3 million that’s going to be transferred from the police overtime budget to the Boston Public Health Commission.”

“The health commission will work with our city’s departments, including our police department, on strategies to directly assess any impacts of racism have on the lives and the health of Boston residents,” he explained:

The investment will likely extend beyond the $3 million, the mayor added, per MassLive:

The mayor also announced he would propose the reallocation of 20% of the Boston Police Department’s fiscal year 2021 overtime budget, or about $12 million, to be “invested instead in community programs for youth, for homelessness, for people struggling with the effects of inequality.”

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross appeared to welcome the news.

“Quite frankly, what I’ve heard in the community is we wear too many hats anyway,” Gross said on Friday, contending that police are used too often for smaller issues.

“A child doesn’t want to go to school? You call the Boston police. A child’s on the bus being unruly? You call the Boston police. There’s an emotionally disturbed person in a home? You call the Boston police. How many hats do you want us to wear?” he added.

Boston has not been spared from the widespread civil unrest, with rioters in the city defacing the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial to black soldiers in the Civil War and beheading a statue of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus.

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