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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Boston City Councillors divided over decision to grant BRIC funding

Photo: Kellyn Taylor

At the city council meeting on Oct. 4, discussions regarding funding to the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) became heated with passionate debate amidst disregard of the intelligence center’s negative impact on people of color.

BRIC was formed in 2005 in hopes of reducing crime and terrorism by sharing intelligence with local, state, and federal partners in law enforcement. The BRIC is located at the Boston Police Department’s headquarters and has drawn increased scrutiny and pushback over the years from progressive advocates—current city councilors being no exception. 

Four dockets related to the funding were brought up for vote, resulting in a same vote split. The votes were divided along racial lines across the chamber, with councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Kendra Lara, Ruthzee Louijeune, Julia Mejia, and Brian Worrell not in favor of funding and councilors Frank Baker, Liz Breadon, Gabriela Colletta, Sharon Durkan, Michael Flaherty, Ed Flynn, and Erin Murphy in favor.

“We are moving backward on police reform,” Lara said.

Lara argued that the BRIC classification inflicts immeasurable harm on individuals trying to turn their life around. She argued that the council should consider eliminating the BRIC database altogether. Lara also expressed her frustration that the BRIC vote would likely fall along racial lines. 

Arroyo pointed out that BRIC has not provided any measurables concerning its impact on the community. 

“We currently have a gang database … under investigation by our Attorney General for racial discrimination and potential violations of civil rights,” Arroyo also noted.

Louijeune mentioned that there are too many unanswered questions surrounding BRIC and that there needs to be a review mechanism to hold BRIC accountable. 

“As an elected official, as a lawyer, and as a Black woman, I cannot support these grants today,” Louijeune said.

Mejia noted that all parties “understand the politics at play” and how the City Council’s vote on BRIC “is uplifting the racial divide that continues to haunt us [as a city].”

Worrell highlighted his advocating for public safety measures within the city of Boston but also mentioned that, in good conscience, he cannot support BRIC funding expansion due to the agency not prioritizing a more diverse workforce. 

“The [BRIC] database has been proven to be discriminatory toward the Black and brown community, which makes up a majority of my district,” he said.  

Councilor Baker had a different opinion surrounding BRIC, and was one of the seven votes in favor of BRIC funding expansion. 

“I don’t think that we can underestimate BRIC’s involvement in all the communities that surround us,” Baker said. “The state wouldn’t keep sending these grants if they didn’t think there was importance in keeping us safe on many levels.”

Murphy made similar statements regarding the intelligence center. 

“I do believe that providing the Boston police with adequate tools and information to keep our city safe is a threshold issue for policymakers,” Murphy said. “It’s quite literally what we do.”

Other councilors voted in favor of funding BRIC, largely pointing out that the intelligence center is crucial to Boston’s safety.

Flaherty stressed that Boston could be better, but believes the intelligence center does an excellent job. Flaherty further stated that the money was not requested; it came to the council and, therefore, should be accepted. 

Both Breadon and Colletta recognized the intelligence center’s problems, but ultimately voted yes on the order because of BRIC’s development potential. 

I hear and understand my colleagues’ justified anger and frustration. There’s lots of room for improvement,” said Breadon. 

Colletta cited the positive impact of the center, specifically regarding stopping hate crimes and helping the police force make data-informed arrests.

Breadon explained that the grants have already been offered, and thus, the fiscal  “reset button” is next year.

Durkan agreed that people of color have a right to be wary of the police and its organizations. 

“Just because I will be voting yes on these five dockets today, it doesn’t mean I don’t share the same critics and things that my colleagues described in their remarks,” Durkan said.

The BRIC plays an incredible role in our city,” said Flynn. “[We] have to  ensure that the men and women of Boston police have the necessary tools and resources to keep this city safe.” 

Flynn also emphasized the need for the council to respectfully work together to address the concerns surrounding the intelligence center.

“It’s about working together, it’s about treating each other fairly, treating each other with respect,” said Flynn.

The dockets regarding funding for the BRIC all passed with a seven to five vote. Each docket related to grants for different fiscal years from 2020 to 2024. Each grant awarded a total of $850,000. Discussions and reform for the BRIC are still up in the air.

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Iselin Bratz, Staff Writer
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