Madeline Ranalli is a Newton resident and organizer with Defund NPD
Last night, in her address to Newton residents concerning the recent murders of Black Americans at the hands of police and our next steps as a city, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller outlined three primary acts she intends to take in the coming weeks to address systemic racism and unconscious bias in Newton. Her second step outlined an independent reform task force, approved this past week by the Newton City Council as Resolution 7, to better understand POC residents’ experiences with the Newton Police Department and possible ways forward via surveys, focus groups or interviews. Then, in her third point, Mayor Fuller said that cuts or changes to the budget should not be made until after the commission officially reported back to her office and the city council with findings. While this commission is well-intentioned and a solid first step, it is simply not enough to make substantive change at a time when residents are crying out for it. While evidence should always inform policy, the evidence is already here.
We do not need to rely on focus groups or interviews when there are Black residents in Newton who have shared their experiences and concerns publicly on numerous occasions, both online and in person.
Defunding the police can seem intimidating and abstract, I know I saw it that way at first. But we need not shy away from the imagination and creativity that creating a new understanding of public safety will require. If we want to make the systemic change that Mayor Fuller and many others agree to be necessary, we have to be willing to brainstorm and listen to new ideas which require us to think outside our traditional parameters of power and authority, whether that be creating new bodies of public safety or new methods of accountability. Because if the issues are systemic and we agree that the solutions we demand for them must be as well, it is time to think past reform. There are a growing number of cities and public officials who are willing to do just that.
Now is the time for the Newton community to join cities like Boston, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Cambridge who are not just reconsidering where their funds go, but actually changing it. Newton has the opportunity to live up to the progressive values it espouses right now. Not in sixth months or one year or two. Now. I am proud to work alongside so many incredible Newton students, graduates, and parents at DefundNPD and imagine a brighter, bolder future together at this very moment. If you’re interested in getting involved, please email us defun[email protected] or follow us @defundnpd.