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Panelists discuss racial make-up of BPD, controversy over Pax Centurion

Posted by Patrick Rosso  August 7, 2012 04:00 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

Panelist Juan Cofield, president of the NAACP New England Area Conference, speaking with MAMLEO president Larry Ellison.

Residents and activists at a recent Dorchester forum criticized what they say is the slow pace to create a police department that better represents the city’s growing diversity, and raised fresh concerns about the content of a Boston police union newsletter that has come under fire as hostile toward racial and religious minorities.

The forum Sunday at the Global Ministries church in Codman Square drew several dozen people, who were white, black and Latino. It was sponsored by the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers.

Attendees questioned why the make-up of the BPD does not reflect a city where people of color make up more than 50 percent of the population. Currently, no person of color holds the rank of captain, the highest-ranking position in neighborhood districts.

“We feel it’s important to inform the community about what is happening,” said Larry Ellison, president of MAMLEO and a 30-year veteran of BPD. “We are trying to get the Boston Police Department to look like the city it serves.”

The group recently sent a letter to Mayor Thomas M. Menino, whom the group has opposed in the past, saying that if he feels the need to stand up to Chick-Fil-A because of the chain’s opposition to gay marriage, he should do the same for people of color in the city.

“If you feel so strongly that discrimination is wrong,” the letter said, “you should look to all of the discriminatory practices that you have allowed to exist in the City during your reign.”

The mayor’s office however, rejected the claims, saying the Mayor always works to support all of the city’s residents.

“The mayor has worked tirelessly to ensure that we have a city that works for all of the people, not just some of the people,” John Guilfoil, deputy press secretary, said in a statement.

Guilfoil said the mayor has made efforts to bring more people of color on the force and increase promotions, setting aside money for the city to conduct its own testing for Boston Police promotional exams instead of relying on the standard Civil Service exam, which critiques have claimed is discriminatory.

Sunday’s forum included Allison Nevitt, a Roslindale resident, stay-at-home mom and member of the group Clean up BPPA, which has ties to Occupy Boston; Juan Cofield, president of the NAACP New England Area Conference; James Gilden, chief counsel for MAMLEO; and Will Bradley, the director of safety and security for Randolph Public Schools and former member of BPD.

“We’re [people of color] not valued,” said Bradley, who said the problem with race in the department goes right to the top. “You change the environment [of the department] by changing the mayor.”

Ellison agreed. “The community change comes when it votes. This isn’t something we’re doing tonight; it’s something we will continue to do until BPD reflects the city it serves.”

Meanwhile, the union's newsletter, Pax Centurion, came under renewed attack. Although the newsletter is not the official voice of the department and is published exclusively by the union for union members, some have taken offense at articles that they say are offensive to murder victims, some races, and communities.

“If you don't think illegal aliens and welfare-cheats have their own network consisting of how to drain the benefits from the most social programs, then you are indeed an idiot,” James Carnell, the editor of the newsletter wrote in the November/December 2010 issue, that was highlighted by the Boston Phoenix. “Every welfare recipient has been well-schooled in participating in the ‘crazy-check’ scam, the ‘disabled’ alcoholic/drug addict scam, or the ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’ scam in order to maximize how much they bleed from the taxpayers.”

Some support has been coming MAMELO’s way from Police Commissioner Edward Davis, who tweeted that the rhetoric in the newsletter was “juvenile” and “wrong.”

Sponsors have also been pulling their advertisements from the newsletter. As of August 1, 10 companies have withdrawn their ads from the newsletter, according to Clean Up BPPA, a grassroots group formed by community activists and members of Occupy Boston with the aim of changing the atmosphere in the association.

Community members have also called on Carnell to resign.

The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association however, has defended Carnell and the newsletter.

“We utterly reject the ugly accusations which are currently being hurled against Jim Carnell, our Union, and our members,” the union said in a letter on its website. “The Pax has always explicitly stated that any opinions expressed in the paper are those of its editor and not necessarily those of the leadership or members. We have respected Jim’s right to express his personal views.''

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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