Between 2019 and 2020, Boston police officers earned nearly $4 million in overtime pay for employment at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, or Mass. and Cass, a neighborhood plagued by a seemingly never-ending cycle of homelessness, crime, substance abuse, and poverty.
Opinions of Mental health Professionals and Public
According to homeless advocates, mental health professionals, and public policy experts. Millions of dollars could have been spent more wisely on health and recovery services during that time.
“If $4 million were used transparently for services, it wouldn’t be as easily dismissed as a line item in a police department budget,” Maggie Sullivan, a nurse practitioner at Boston Health Care for the Homeless, said. “That money could make a big difference at Mass. and Cass.” “Who should ever have to wait for a detox bed if there’s $4 million available?”
According to police payroll records obtained by GBH News through a collaboration with the Boston University Spark! Lab, overtime spending at Mass. and Cass occurred between July 2019 and November 2020. A spokesman for the Boston Police Department confirmed the overall overtime total but declined to comment further.
As the encampment grew and neighbors complained about crime, officers began logging thousands of hours of overtime. Between 2019 and 2020, Police sweeps were authorized by the city to remove people living in tents, under tarps, or outside in sleeping bags, adding to overtime costs. However, the majority of the overtime was submitted in daily eight-hour shifts.
The same ones who complain about “too many services being at Mass and Cass” are now mad about potential services in their neighborhood. When I worked at the City, I’d always hear about the hotel (currently at this site) as a hub for violent sex trafficking. This response is gross https://t.co/znLCItbqdW
— Brendan Little (@blittle86) September 28, 2022
Without warning, Boston Police officers descended on Mass. and Cass in 2019. Hundreds of people were arrested, hundreds more were displaced, and the property was confiscated or destroyed. Overtime pay for Operation Clean Sweep, as it was known, cost around $20,500 over two days.
In city payroll reports for 2019 and 2020, all Mass and Cass Overtime hours were listed under the “special events” category. A term also tracks police hours worked during the Boston Marathon — Southie St. Patrick’s Day parade, Red Sox games, and Fourth of July celebrations.
Public Scrutiny Of Police Costs
Natalia Linos, executive director of Harvard University’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, stated that More transparency and accountability are required for public scrutiny of police costs.
“When it comes to public health, the price tag can be shocking sometimes.” “People will question whether you’re going to spend $3 million on 200 people,” she predicted. “However, we’ve already spent it.” We just passed up an opportunity to discuss the best way to spend that money.”
According to Sullivan, those millions could be used to construct more homes in low-income housing, improve mental health care services, or even raise wages for outreach workers at Mass. and Cass.
“If you’re paid $15 an hour to try to connect people to services while someone else is paid $66 an hour to maybe — or maybe not — intervene when there’s a safety issue happening, it just… it demonstrates what our society values,” Sullivan said. “It breaks my heart.”
The police officers’ union defended the spending, claiming that it is the city’s responsibility to fund needed resources at Mass. and Cass, including more money for social services. The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association president, Larry Calderone, blamed city leadership for not providing enough resources for everyone.
“I’m tired of hearing that you can’t pay other people because you pay cops too much. That is entirely false, “Calderone explained. “You can do both, just put it in the budget and make sure you have enough money for all the resources. The city has the funds.”
According to Calderone, officers are frequently required to work overtime shifts, which can amount to 16-hour days due to understaffing.
“We’re being forced to do all of that over time,” he explained. “The city is paying so much overtime because they will not hire more cops, period.”
Transitional Housing: Left Many Homeless
Mayor Michelle Wu’s administration increased housing resources in January, moving more than 150 people from Mass. and Cass into transitional housing — but more than 100 others were left homeless.
Three people in khaki pants and black jackets stand on the sidewalk late at night, talking with five others standing and sitting around the edge of a building.
Officers from the Boston Police Department’s street outreach team instruct people waiting in line for services to clear the sidewalk after a sweep in January 2022.
A spokesperson for Wu, who took over the Mass. and Cass problem from previous mayors in 2022, said the city is working to create more pathways for people living on the streets to find housing and that police and public health workers collaborate at Mass. and Cass.
The statement said, “To ensure we are best serving individuals living in the area, Boston is constantly evaluating its approach in response to feedback from city workers and community partners.”
Tents began to appear at Mass. and Cass after the abrupt closure of the Long Island shelter in 2014. Methadone clinics, hospitals, detox centers, and homeless shelters are located at the intersection, as are the sidewalks and street parking lots. People are increasingly looking for resources, a top, or a safe place to use drugs.
Encampments gradually returned after Operation Clean Sweep in 2019, when U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh was mayor. SIn 2020, some residents became so fed up with the neighborhood’s conditions that they dumped used needles from Massachusetts and Cass outside Gov. Charlie Baker’s Swampscott home.
Removal of Tents Results in Relocation
Acting Mayor Kim Janey will take office in November 2021. Oversaw the removal of 350 tents, only to have new ones appear in the following weeks. Following Janey’s sweep, people living at Mass and Cass told GBH News that they would rather live on the streets than in a house.
He was subjected to violence and theft in a shelter or forced into rehabilitation before they were ready to mend a rip in his tent. He recently relocated from Topeka Street to Newmarket Square as part of the City of Boston’s tent-clearing effort on Tuesday, November 16th, 2021.
The $4 million in overtime costs for Mass. and Cass policing in 2019 and 2020 astounded Sue Sullivan, President of the Newmarket Business Association. She has long advocated for aggressive crime-fighting measures in the area. She claims that some officers walk the block, respond quickly, and get to know the community, but that too many officers at Mass. and Cass appear hesitant to “engage with the population.”
“We have a lot of officers,” Sullivan said, “but they’re sitting in cars.” “I wouldn’t say there is a sense of safety among the business owners down here.” The city is making an effort, and the plan is to put more resources down here, but we need to think differently.”
Sullivan said she has frequently taken matters into her own hands. She was communicating with concerned residents over the radio. She is driving around with a flashing police light on the top of her car. Sullivan also stated that her organization had paid a private security firm “between $500,000 and $1 million.” Since July, to serve private business owners and residents in the area.
“For things that aren’t emergencies, private security is a lot more immediately responsive,” she said. “When you dial 911, it may take 45 minutes or longer for someone to respond.”
Sullivan is “probably correct,” according to police union president Larry Calderone, about the According to slow response. The slow response stated that due to overtime commitments that can total 90 hours per week, officers are “completely exhausted and cannot operate at 100% capacity at the end of their shifts.”
“Our officers’ untimely response is due to a lack of officer availability to answer those calls,” Calderone explained.
Boston Police Department: Homeless Community Are Assaulted
Some members of the outreach team of the Boston Police Department, dubbed “the khakis.” who walk the streets were praised by Sullivan. Sgt. Paul L. Donlon. For example, she has assisted her in getting people living on the road into treatment. She says she can contact him directly if she needs help.
According to payroll records, Donlon was the highest overtime earner. In 2020, he will earn nearly $110,000 in overtime pay at Mass. and Cass, bringing his annual earnings to $240,000.
Others who lived at the Mass. and Cass encampment earlier this year. According to GBH News, some uniformed police officers do not respond or intervene when members of the homeless community are assaulted.
The Newmarket Business Association hired Ware Security at Mass. and Cass.
According to Maggie Sullivan, a nurse at Boston Health Care for the Homeless. Those homeless and Those suffering from addiction or mental illness should be safe at the site.
“The important thing to consider is who the police are serving,” she said. “It’s clear that it’s not to keep people experiencing homelessness or substance abuse disorder safe.”
They are policing At Mass. And Cass Appears Rising Every day.
The cost of policing at Mass. and Cass appears to be rising. In January, Mayor Wu ordered expanding “24/7 operations” and “daily collaboration among internal and external law enforcement agencies.” To be part of the police presence. According to the Boston Police Department, arrests have increased by 81% this month compared to last year.
Eva Tine, a case worker at Mass., and Cass, a National Association of Social Workers’ advocacy group member. She questioned whether the ongoing costs were worthwhile. At the same time, she applauded the city’s efforts to provide housing and services for some. Eva said the police expense was staggering for services that did not address fundamental mental health. Other problems encountered by city dwellers.
“You’ll never see an improvement in the things that are making everyone in the area unhappy unless you address the root causes [at Mass. and Cass],” she said.