Boston, MA — Earlier this week, Michael Leary, President of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA), opposed the Boston Teachers Union’s (BTU) support of Black Lives Matter At School Week—an annual week of action organized by a national coalition working for racial justice in education. Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) condemns the BPPA’s actions and stands with the BTU in its efforts to fight racism.
To be clear, Black Lives Matter is not against police. It is against police racism and violence toward Black people. Calling Black Lives Matter an “anti-police organization” is at best misinformed, if not deliberately misleading and incendiary. It is well known that police misconduct and violence, far too often, target Black people. 1004 people were shot and killed by police in 2019, and the list of Black men and women killed by police is unfortunately long and growing each year.
As the Supreme Judicial Court held in Commonwealth v. Warren, Black men may have a legitimate reason to flee police “to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled….”
It is these realities that the Black Lives Matter movement seeks to change. The BPPA’s racist and divisive rhetoric only leads to increased—and legitimate—distrust of the police. It makes victims and witnesses less likely to trust police, thus perpetuating the ongoing tension between communities of color and law enforcement. Despite the BPPA’s inflammatory statements to the contrary, there is no evidence that Black Lives Matter has led to increased violence against the police. In fact, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the number of police officers killed in the line of duty in 2019 was down 18% from the previous year.
BPPA is also wrong to take issue with Black Lives Matter’s call for increased counseling, not increased police presence, in our schools. School-based social-emotional and behavioral services are vital in order to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. Harsh discipline disproportionately pushes Black and Latinx students—particularly those with disabilities—out of school and into the school-to-prison pipeline, leading to the mass incarceration of people of color.
LCR applauds the BTU for standing strong in its commitment to racial justice and sending the critical message to Black students that their lives matter.
LCR also calls on BPPA to publicly retract its statement; support Black Lives Matter At School Week; correct its false representations about Black Lives Matter; and require its leadership and membership to undergo racial and cultural sensitivity training, as well as education around the school-to-prison pipeline.