Boston Mayor Michelle Wu told Boston Public Radio on Tuesday she hopes “with every fiber of [her] being” to have Boston Police union contracts negotiated and resolved by the end of the year or early into 2024.
“That’s been one point in my conscience that has been sitting pretty heavy,” she said. “This has been far too long that our police officers have been without a functioning contract. They deserve it, their families deserve it, and the residents also deserve to know we are moving forward with the parameters that our city needs.”
Wu said the sticking points remain around medical leave, overtime, and disciplining and firing officers determined to have committed a crime or offense that makes them incompatible to be a police officer.
The mayor reaffirmed Tuesday that she would not send any proposal to Boston City Council if it does not include significant reforms sought by the city.
On Boston Police Captain Jack Danilecki
Wu said Tuesday that she has received a “high-level briefing” from Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox on an internal investigation into Captain John Danilecki relating to allegations of abuses of force, but has not read the full file.
Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox told Boston Public Radio on Monday he would announce disciplinary action against Danilecki this week, but he would not fire the officer.
Cox told Boston Public Radio some information released to the public relating to Danilecki has been untrue.
“My understanding is there were several categories of complaint that were working their way through the internal affairs process under Commissioner Cox, and that he’s come to a resolution on those,” Wu said Tuesday. “I don’t know if what you’re referring to might be something that was prior to this in a previous set of processes, but my understanding is that the commissioner has made his determination on a different batch.”
While Wu was tight-lipped on the specifics of Danilecki — who a Dorchester man claimed used excessive force during an incident several years ago, and who has earned the nickname “Pepper Jack” for his frequent use of pepper spray — she pledged her faith in Cox’s leadership of the department, and pointed to her recent support for new funding for the Boston Regional Intelligence Center.
When Wu was a city councilor, she blocked grant funding for the agency, but as mayor has pushed for more funding. The City Council just approved roughly $3.4 million for the BRIC, which brought on criticism of Wu from the council’s political left.
“Under Commissioner Cox’s leadership, I really believe we are in a different place,” she said, referring to surveillance ordinances and oversight reforms, including the new Office of Police Accountability and Transparency. “Thousands of names have been taken out [of the gang database] and the process for even adding to that database is different and has many more layers of review.”
Wu said the database still needs monitoring, but acknowledged the value of the regional intelligence center for coordinating across agencies.
“Before we had organized places where things were tracked and all in one place around information, it was lists of names in different precincts that might overlap with one another," she said, "and this helps us really be as effective as possible.”
Wu said the data from BRIC is being largely used “not to direct surveillance” but for “every other city department to understand where to put resources to close gaps in communities that frankly have been under-invested in for a long time.”
On rent control
Wu, who campaigned on rent stabilization as one tool to rein in the cost of housing in Boston, said she has some concerns with a new ballot campaign put forward by state Rep. Mike Connolly.
She worries about losing the opportunity to implement rent control if it gets on the ballot in 2024 and fails to pass.
“I haven’t yet sat down with [Connolly], I’m more familiar with the language,” she said. “I’m concerned whether or not there’s momentum for the sustained campaign that would be needed at the ground level ... but I haven’t yet made an official decision on what my involvement will be.”
If a ballot question fails, petitioners must wait two state election cycles before trying again.
On liquor licenses
Wu and members of the City Council have vowed to change an archaic liquor license system in Boston. She recently signed a home rule petition asking the state Legislature for more liquor licenses targeting underserved neighborhoods like Mattapan, Hyde Park, Roxbury, Roslindale, Dorchester and East Boston.
Braude asked Wu about the process, referring to a Boston Globe editorial board characterizing the home rule petition as “begging” Beacon Hill for city-specific change.
“It felt like it a little bit in the moment, to be honest,” she said.
The current system allows for licenses to be sold on the secondary market, rather than reverting back to municipal ownership — since there’s a cap on the amount of liquor license, the existing system breeds scarcity — driving up the price of licenses, some going for as high as $600,000.
“The disparities really layer across the city,” Wu said. “Where Downtown, Seaport, North End, Back Bay, these are neighborhoods ... that have 70-plus liquor licenses and sit-down restaurants, and then neighborhoods like Mattapan don’t even have a single one of them.”