Black people accounted for 70 percent of Boston police stops, according to department data
"The data confirms what Black residents in Boston already know, that certain communities are disproportionately policed."
Black people were stopped by Boston police at a disproportionately higher rate than white individuals for most of last year, making up 70 percent of stops made by the department’s “Field Interrogation and Observation” program.
The statistics come after police released public data detailing thousands of its stops — which includes “stop-and-frisk” style tactics — for the first time since 2016. The release comes amid calls from activists and city councilors for transparency and racial equity in local law enforcement following the death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old Black man killed in police custody in Minneapolis last month, WGBH News reports.
The radio station, which analyzed the data, said the numbers show a significant contrast between Black and white residents stopped under the police program, considering Black residents account for less than a quarter of Boston’s population.
“I think the data confirms what Black residents in Boston already know, that certain communities are disproportionately policed,” Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who chairs the council’s Committee on Public Safety and Criminal Justice, told WGBH News.
“And so the fear and mistrust that many black Bostonians feel is valid,” she added.
Campbell, who represents parts of Dorchester, Roslindale, and Mattapan, filed a formal request for the information.
“What was really troubling is how hard it was to get this data,” Campbell told the news outlet.
WGBH’s analysis notes that although Black residents made up the vast majority of those stopped by police, the data suggests they were slightly less likely to receive a formal summons or citation.
Of over 7,000 stops carried out by officers between January and September last year, 3 percent of them ended with a summons for Black residents while 4 percent included a summons for white people, according to the news station.
However, information on individuals who identify as Latino or Hispanic is absent in the department’s racial data, according to WGBH, with those who identified as Hispanic listed under another column titled “Ethnicity.”
The numbers are the first time in four years that the department released similar data from the field interrogation program. In 2016, the data was published after the department struck an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which was readying for a lawsuit in order to obtain the records at the time, according to WGBH.
A spokesperson for Mayor Marty Walsh told The Boston Globe the mayor will review the new data.
“The mayor believes there is always room for improvement in our policing strategy, which is why the mayor and the police commissioner have committed to taking action to review and reform police policies to bring about meaningful and lasting change at the police department,” Samantha Ormsby, the mayor’s spokeswoman, told the newspaper in a statement.
Boston police did not respond to WGBH’s request for comment about the findings.
City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, a former public defender who now represents Hyde Park and parts of Mattapan and Roslindale, told the news outlet its analysis is evidence that change in the system is needed.
The statistics speak “to the fact that we do a lot of over-policing of the African-American community,” he said. “At the end of the day, if you live in a community where simply living in that community makes you subject to more stops, simply because you live there, that’s going to cause a deterioration in public trust.”