By Mayor Martin J. Walsh
Last month, we welcomed the Boston Police Academy’s newest recruits. These men and women had spent the last six months learning to serve and protect the people of Boston with the highest standards of excellence and professionalism. As each recruit crossed the stage, they stopped to shake hands with me and Commissioner Gross. It was a powerful experience meeting each and every new member of our city’s police department, which is the oldest—and the best—in the nation.
Among these recruits are veterans, former teachers, and youth sports coaches. Many of them brought their families, friends, and loved ones up on stage with them. It was a powerful reminder of the deep connections our police officers share with our community.
This graduating class also reflects Boston’s rich diversity of languages, cultures, backgrounds, and religions. It includes more people of color than any class in recent memory, and the largest group of former cadets to graduate from the academy since we reinstated the cadet program in 2015.
The cadet program is a paid, on-the-job training program for young people in Boston’s neighborhoods. It prepares them for the rigors of the Police Academy, and connects a more diverse pool of candidates with local careers in law enforcement.
When I was elected Mayor, I made it a priority to reinstate the cadet program. I saw it as a powerful way to make our police department more representative of the people it serves. In the four years since we brought the cadet program back, the results have spoken for themselves.
Sixty-three percent of cadets have been people of color, representing Boston’s Black, Latinx, Asian, and Native American communities. The percentage of female cadets has steadily increased, and the current 2019 cohort of cadets is exactly fifty percent female.
To see how significant these numbers are, take a look at the national landscape. Throughout the United States, about 25 percent of police officers are people of color, and about 15 percent are women. The Boston Cadet program is pushing doors wide open for a much more diverse, more inclusive police department in Boston.
A diverse police force is crucial to our public safety strategy. It helps ensure that our men and women in uniform deeply understand the challenges people are facing in our neighborhoods. It also helps build trust between our police and the people they serve, so that residents feel safe coming forward and asking for help.
Our police officers are trusted and familiar faces in our neighborhoods. They are an important part of a support system for our communities — working with public health, social service, and youth work professionals.
This is what community policing looks like, and it has helped make Boston one of the safest cities in America. Our crime rate has fallen by roughly 25 percent over the last five years. This year alone, major crime is down by about 10 percent. Our motto is that we keep Boston safe by “lifting people up, not locking people up.”
Diversifying and strengthening the Boston Police Department is part of a broader, citywide commitment. We’re working with the State to create a cadet program for the Boston Fire Department. And through our CityAcademy hiring initiative and improved outreach, we’re drawing from a more diverse candidate pool for EMT’s and paramedics. This commitment extends beyond public safety and first responders — it’s about every part of city government. My cabinet is the most diverse in the history of our city, and nearly half of all full-time city employees hired over the last five years have been people of color.
Together, we’ll continue building a culture of trust and resilience across all our neighborhoods, replicating the success of the cadet program, and continuing to push doors wide open for everyone in Boston.
Martin J. Walsh is the Mayor of Boston.