Race and policing
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The murder of George Floyd in May 2020 spurred a national reckoning around how Black people are viewed and treated by law enforcement and the criminal legal system. Some elected officials, prosecutors, and police have acknowledged their moral responsibility to pursue racial justice by examining racial disparities and inequities. This report addresses one such practice—non-traffic-safety stops. These occur when police stop and detain people for minor traffic violations that pose no identifiable risk of harm to people outside of the vehicle. Vera partnered with the Suffolk County (Massachusetts) District Attorney's Office from July 2020 to March 2022 to study racial disparities in the criminal legal system. Vera's analysis revealed that non-traffic-safety stops in Suffolk County are worsening racial disparities in traffic enforcement. This report shares findings from Vera's analysis, along with proposed solutions that prohibit or deter such stops.
Boston Police Department (BPD) officers have engaged in widespread racially biased "stop-andfrisk" practices, according to a preliminary statistical analysis of four years of BPD police-civilian encounter reports. The analysis found that Blacks were subjected to 63% of these encounters, even though they made up just 24% of Boston's population. The analysis also showed that crime—whether measured by neighborhood crime rates or the arrest records or alleged gang involvement of the civilians subjected to these encounters—does not explain away this racial disparity. Finally, the BPD seems unable to prove that its stop-and-frisk tactics were effective in fighting crime.
The Boston Police Department (BPD) and its fusion spying center, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), have for years been tracking and creating criminal "intelligence reports" on the lawful political activity of peace groups and local leaders, including a former Boston City Councilor and the late Boston University Professor Howard Zinn, according to documents obtained by the ACLU of Massachusetts and the National Lawyers Guild, Massachusetts Chapter (NLG). Officers monitor demonstrations, track the beliefs and internal dynamics of activist groups, and document this information with misleading criminal labels in searchable and possibly widely-shared electronic reports. This collection and retention of data regarding people's constitutionally protected speech and beliefs — with no link to terrorism or a crime —violates federal privacy regulations and the BRIC's own privacy policies.