About 100 members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front marched through Boston in early June, allegedly attacking a Black artist along their route. In a Boston Public Radio interview Wednesday, current City Councilor and Suffolk County District Attorney candidate Ricardo Arroyo called for stronger intelligence efforts to combat white supremacy, as well as for police reform, conviction integrety and data transparency in his campaign for DA.
“Law enforcement seems to consistently be caught off guard or taken by surprise by white nationalist, white supremacist groups, and I think we have to ask a question about why and how that keeps happening,” Arroyo said on Boston Public Radio Wednesday.
He called it an “intelligence failure” that the Boston Regional Intelligence Center did not have prior knowledge about Patriot Front’s plans, a group that he called a domestic terrorism group. He also criticized the lack of police response during the march after police were alerted by a 911 call, recalling a meeting with BPD leaders in the wake of the march.
“What they said was they were very concerned that people would take photos and that they would have a public relations issue where it looked like they were escorting a white supremacist group through the city of Boston,” Arroyo said. “If you are prioritizing public optics over public safety, then I have real questions about how decisions are being made.”
Like U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, Arroyo questioned if the police response would have been different at a Black Lives Matter protest. “I marched after Eric Garner’s death, I marched after George Floyd's death, I can tell you that there were police throughout all of those demonstrations,” he said. “The fact that this particular one did not have a police convoy ... I have a lot of problems with that.”
The former public defender pointed to recently announced Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox, and his 1995 beating by fellow officers while undercover, as another example of the need for police reform. Arroyo, who grew up in Boston, recalled seeing bumper stickers on police cars during that time supporting the officers who assaulted Cox.
Arroyo said he is looking forward to Cox’s tenure. “I think it's an incredibly important time for the Boston Police Department with all of the reforms that we are seeking,” he said. “I am hopeful that he is the right person for those sort of things.”
He also called for prioritizing the DA office’s Integrity Review Bureau, which looks at wrongful incarceration — but added that exoneration is only the first step.
“Justice is holding the people accountable who put them behind bars and took those years of their life,” Arroyo said. “Prosecutors who have been involved in these prosecution misconduct should be getting reported, at a minimum, to the board of bar overseers. They should have license checks on those things, and police officers who are involved should be investigated.”
If elected, Arroyo said he is committed to data transparency around the efficacy of criminal justice policies.
“You're going to see in real time the results of my policies, the results of my office, and I'm going to tailor what we do based on that, because reducing crime is the number-one goal,” he said.
Arroyo faces interim Suffolk County DA Kevin Hayden in the Massachusetts State Primary election on Tuesday, Sept. 6.