Screenshot of the original ad version of this opinion article in the Somerville Times. Courtesy of Joe Lynch.
“A recent USA Today poll shows that only 28 percent of Black people and 34 percent of Democrats support defunding local police departments.”
Should we abolish the Somerville Police Department? The answer to this question should be next to every candidate’s name on this year’s Somerville ballot.
The slogan “defund the police” means many things. But the repeated message from the Democratic Socialists of America-Boston candidates for office in Somerville is clear: the outright abolition of the Somerville Police Department.
The political organization Our Revolution Somerville has many members who are also members of DSA-Boston. In a recent questionnaire for the candidates seeking the ORS endorsement, every DSA candidate affirmed their commitment to abolishing our police department. They committed to a 65 percent, or more, cut in the police budget. Most candidates have since removed this commitment from their campaign literature. Don’t be fooled. They have never refuted their stated efforts to use the Somerville City Council to abolish our police department.
In June of 2020, the existing City Council cut the police department by 13 percent in response to immense pressure from activists. Since then police staff have been working forced overtime shifts to perform our community’s needed safety duties. Yet, the DSA activists, including the Somerville DSA candidates for ward and at-large councilors, think this cut did not go far enough. When their demands were not met they demanded that the City Council reject the entire city budget in protest. It is grossly irresponsible and reckless to expect the City Council to reject a budget that includes not only policing, but DPW, the Fire Department, the Somerville Public School system and every city department and function. Talk about the far right Republican strategy of “starve the beast.” Because their unrealistic, irresponsible and reckless demand was not realized, the DSA activists now want to prevent the appointment of Somerville’s next chief of police. This attitude is exactly why we currently don’t have a permanent chief. If the police are to exist, then the city should hire the most forward-thinking, progressive and reform-minded chief possible. Refusing to allow the city to move forward on this hiring process guarantees that reform will not happen. Preventing the hiring of a new police chief only makes sense if the goal is to abolish the Somerville Police Department.
National and statewide polling clearly indicates a growing lack of support for defunding the police. And an absolute rejection for abolition. A recent USA Today poll shows that only 28 percent of Black people and 34 percent of Democrats support defunding local police departments. Even fewer support abolition.
I think this speaks volumes about this DSA initiative. The abolition/defund ’til it’s gone DSA policy is punitive and driven by ideology instead of reality.
The 2021 Somerville municipal election is not about supporting police. It is about supporting and protecting the many people in our community who need the police: people of color, gay/queer and straight, young and old, rich and less affluent, caregivers and their kids, businesses, and the many victims of hate and violent crimes.
The DSA candidates have proven through their actions and words that they have no regard for the people they claim to represent. What does matter to the DSA candidates is winning Somerville, the Council and the Mayor’s office, to further the “abolish the police movement” that they have appointed themselves the leaders of while excluding everyone else, including the many people who want true change in Somerville policing.
When you vote this year, please let the DSA candidates know that they cannot use our city as a battlefield for their divisive agenda.
This opinion article also ran as a paid advertisement in the October 20, 2021 edition of the Somerville Times.
Joe Lynch is the former chair of the Ward 5 Democratic City Committee.