Watertown residents to meet with officials to discuss equity in policing

WATERTOWN, Mass. — The death of George Floyd galvanized community members to examine its policing practices; they’re meeting with police on the key changes they want to see.

“Black residents are five-to-six-times more likely to be arrested than the white population,” said Sheila Krishnan of Watertown Citizens for Black Lives.

After a summer of racial reckoning, a coalition including Uplift Watertown, Watertown Citizens for Black Lives and two non-violence training groups started pulling data on the disparate impacts of policing on people of color.

According to public records requested by Watertown Citizens for Black Lives in 2019, the number of citations issued by Watertown Police to Black people was greater than the entire population of Black people in the town. They say the numbers for 2018 were similar.

“The police department’s own reports they say that black residents are over-represented,” Krishnan said.

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The police reform group will present its findings in a community meeting later this week. They’ll also ask police and town officials to analyze data on policing activities and make them public, provide additional training to WPD officers, increase diversity on the force and create a voluntary community advisory board with WPD members.

“If Watertown reduced police funding just to match the average budgets of towns of a similar size in Massachusetts, we would actually free up $2 million for community investment,” said Sarah Pardo of Uplift Watertown.

A spokesperson for Watertown Police told Boston 25 News that the department plans to report on department operations at the upcoming meeting.

“The WPD is committed to working in partnership with members of the sub-committee, our community stakeholders and citizens to increase safety, reduce fear of crime and address other issues of concern,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s not just a question of being available to the community, but engaging with the community in dialogue and that’s going to mean perhaps bringing in new people and dealing with some issues that are perhaps uncomfortable,” said Chuck Dickinson of the Kingian Response Team Working Group.

The group is also asking the Town Council to look into the allegations in a lawsuit brought by Watertown’s first female detective claiming the department is a “toxic” and “sexually charged” workplace.

The public safety committee meeting is scheduled for March 12 and 19.