The Boston Police Department budget is absolutely massive, dwarfing every other department other than schools. ACLU Massachusetts lays it all out in a series of charts. These numbers have always been public knowledge. It’s just that now, people actually care.
And what is the city getting for that money? Look at these salaries, including overtime.
Even Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh can’t compete – 530 BPD employees made more than the mayor’s $199,000 earnings in 2019. All in all, in 2019 BPD employees made up 15 of the top 20 highest-paid Boston employees.https://data.aclum.org/2020/06/05/unpacking-the-boston-police-budget/
What cop needs to make more than $300,000? Note that our second-place contestant here, John Danilecki, has been accused of wanton pepper-spraying after the “Straight Pride Parade” last fall.
Much of the post-event outcry focused in on the behavior of one particular officer, Captain John Danilecki, who was accused by witnesses of instigating many of the more aggressive altercations between law enforcement and counterprotesters. Danilecki, dubbed “Pepper Jack” on Reddit due to his apparent penchant for Mace, can be seen in many of the videos from the event, compiled here. Rollins said yesterday that she has “read some articles with respect to a particular officer,” and later confirmed that the officer in question was indeed Danilecki.
Well how are you doing to attract good [aggressive, pepper-spraying] cops if you don’t pay them $300k+, you might well ask. And what is the public getting for all that? How many social workers, librarians, teachers could you hire for $348,000?
This is indicative of a kind of circular logic/vicious cycle, a bit like the military-industrial complex: There’s always been endless cover for funding the police, not least because of the political power of the police themselves. There’s been no political upside to go after these crazy salaries and bloat. And so that likely means that many public-safety, public-health-related needs get “dealt with” by police — even though they’re ill-equipped and ill-trained to provide them. But you don’t have political juice to get those needs funded through any other agency. So the things that actually would obviate the need for tough-guy, threat-of-violence policing — education, health care, civic amenities, jobs — get short funding, while 530 BPD employees make more than $200,000.
As the old saw goes, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. Police in Boston have apparently had unchecked negotiating power, due their own organizational political power, and the prestige they have enjoyed from the public. But now, because of national events and long experience in Boston, the public is paying attention, and starting to question the heretofore unquestionable. It’s long since time to ask if that money could be better, more safely, and more humanely spent elsewhere, for a higher quality of life. Is this time different? Are things changing, finally?
But the moral of the story for public employee unions is Protect Your Brand. That means maintaining internal discipline and high standards, aligning your own goals and values with those of the public. Extracting absolutely everything you possibly can from that next contract with the city — in money and employment protections — might not be sustainable in the long run. And it could be politically costly if it’s perceived that you’re protecting your worst, most dangerous members. When taxpayers see public sector players extracting high pay without no accountability, they get unhappy – so much more so when they see those employees actively threatening the public safety.
There are always three parties at the table: The union, the government, and the public. Don’t forget about the onlookers — they actually run the show.
*Though let’s face it: You’d have to be a magical cop to deserve $300,000.