Some Boston mayoral candidates attend emergency-responders forum

Four of the six Boston mayoral candidates attended a forum put on by Boston first-responders unions, with most of the candidates in attendance saying the police department was understaffed.

The forum, which took place virtually at 4 p.m. Thursday, was hosted by the various police unions, plus the labor representation of EMS and firefighters and attended by former city economic development chief John Barros, City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George, state Rep. Jon Santiago and City Councilor Michelle Wu. Herald reporter Sean Cotter hosted the forum.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey didn’t attend; her campaign said she was conducting City Hall business during the 4 p.m. forum. City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who has publicly beefed with the largest police union, also didn’t attend, citing her issues with the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association and her pledge not to seek money or endorsements from police groups.

Campbell’s campaign said she regularly works with individual officers, but, “Sticking to this commitment, and because the BPPA has lost credibility and broken trust with thousands of Bostonians amidst horrific allegations of abuse and corruption by current and former members that the organization has yet to even address, she declined the BPPA’s invitation to this forum.”

Janey’s campaign manager Kirby Chandler said, “Mayor Janey hopes to attend as many candidate forums and debates as her schedule and duties allow” and “appreciates all the efforts of our first responders.”

Three of the four candidates who attended said the 2,200-or-so-member BPD is understaffed, and needs hundreds more officers.

“We used to have a bigger force when we were a smaller city,” Barros said, saying the department needed to hire more with an emphasis on bringing on a diverse group of residents.

Essaibi-George said she believes the city is short about 300 cops.

“We need to increase the number of police officers across the board,” she said, adding that was a way to get police officers “out and about” for community policing.

Santiago said the city needs about 200 or 300 more officers.

“We need to get real serious about our overtime issue, and that’s gonna require bringing more cops, because we don’t need to be requiring existing cops to work 90-plus hours a week,” Santiago said.

Wu wouldn’t bite on the yes-or-no question, saying, that the department needs to think about “redefining” roles in its administration and “think about moving some responsibilities away from armed law enforcement into more of a public-health-led approach.”

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