The Boston School Police dates back to 1978 as a supportive tool that was created to provide a safe learning environment for the students of the Boston Public Schools and their staff. At one point, the department had over 150 officers and operated as a 24-hour policing agency. Now, due to budget cuts, as well as the strategic and arguably sneaky redirection of funding by the administration, that number has been decreased to less than 70.
Eliminating police officers in schools is part of many Boston City Councilor’s plans, including Mayoral hopeful, Andrea Campbell’s, nine point plan to “increase accountability, transparency, diversity, and justice in the city’s policing system”. She aims to eliminate both the uniformed Boston School Police as well as the officers from the Boston Police Department Unit who work in conjunction. Recently, the School Teachers Union has also expressed similar ideas calling for “BPS to remove all police from schools including Boston School Police, the Boston Police Department (BPD) (including BPD’s school unit), and all other law enforcement”, in June of last year.
The Teachers Union went even further during Black History Month this year, weaponizing
their students as political pawns through propaganda type assignments such as instructing students to re-budget the School Police’s funds and to imagine a system without police. Many saw this as a blatant political attack in which the Teachers Union used their students as fodder in the attack. Not only did this put students in a difficult position, but as some Boston School Police Officers pointed out, this sent a message to students that the Department was not to be taken seriously, further eroding the trust and relationships the department has worked so hard to create with students.
Now, one may ask, “what does that 4-million dollar price tag actually get us. Is it worth it?”. Well the simple answer is: not enough. Luckily, under the leadership of BSP Chief Neva Coakley-Grice, who happens to be the first African American and Female leader of the department, she has done what she can to keep the department relevant. BSP’s primary goal is that of a school-based community policing module. Officers serve as a visible law enforcement presence in the schools, and are also assigned to mobile units that are used to respond to schools who no longer have permanent officers assigned due to administrative cuts.
BSP officers are trained by the Boston Police, and attend annual in services at the BPD academy. BSP officers are licensed under rule 400A, and maintain the ability to enforce the laws of the commonwealth on all BPS property and surrounding areas as a result; All of which are compliant with the new Police Reform legislation. BSP officers work closely with the Boston Police, in particular the BPD school unit.
BSP Officers also receive NASRO training specific to operating inside schools, and receive specialized training on how to interact with juveniles. These officers also serve an important secondary role in the community, acting as mentors, athletic team coaches, and are consistently volunteering their time at outside events, showing their commitment to not just safety but also the community.
BSP officers are first and foremost the first responders for incidents that occur inside and around BPS schools. They are the primary law enforcement agency for the Boston Public Schools and the first line of defense. They are those who stand to protect our children. They respond to a myriad of incidents, including assaults, fights, drug-related incidents, and weapon recovery. BSP officers respond to thousands of service calls every year; where officers recover hundreds of weapons from inside schools. Even with the increase in violent crime and prevalence in firearms in the city, BSP officers have now reduced their arrests to between 100 and 150 arrests every year; lowering the arrest average from 400 per year back in the earlier 2000’s.
BSP Officers have made multiple loaded firearm arrests inside school buildings and on school property, and have effectively stopped several external threats to BPS, including armed trespassers. Dozens of their officers are assaulted every single year, with many of their officers requiring ER visits. Just last year, 10% of their staff were hospitalized, with a number needing long term recovery and sometimes even surgery.
Despite the department’s accomplishments one of the main goals of the Boston Public School Leadership as well as the Teachers Union is to undermine the authority and ultimately destroy the department. Luckily, there are some who still support the Boston School Police. Over the summer, a petition with nearly 5,000 signatures was published calling for the saving of the department. That petition is still open and can be signed here. This will be a pivotal topic to follow as the new race for Mayor of Boston heats up. Will the Boston School Police live to see another year or will 2021 mark the end of their service?