BROOKLINE, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Members of a police reform task force in Brookline say it's time for the city's "Walk and Talk" police unit to go. Other voices on police reform in the town want to give the program more resources.
The "Walk and Talk" unit was created in 1992, with the goal of being liaisons to the residents of Brookline's public housing agency, the Brookline Housing Authority. The unit's specific task is "...To establish relationships with residents and assist residents and staff with problem solving, quality of life issues, and to promote safety and wellness," according to the department.
Bernard Greene is the Chair of the Brookline Select Board, and also heads up the Police Reform Committee. Greene and the Committee want to continue with the Walk and Talk program, and add more officers to the team.
"When incidents happen, they know how to more creatively deal with the situation than just calling a car and locking someone up," he said.
But there is another police reform body on the Brookline Select Board — the Task Force to Reimagine Policing. The task force was commissioned to come up with "new approaches to public safety and policing in Brookline," amid last summer's national racial reckoning.
The task force gave its report last month. Among the key recommendations was to phase out or entirely abolish the Walk-and-Talk program, and replace it with social services.
Task force member Kimberley Richardson lives in public housing in Brookline, and said the constant presence of Walk-and-Talk officers makes her feel anxious. "As soon as I moved here, I always saw police officers' cars, all the time. It makes you feel like you're on edge. I'm not saying every person that's in Brookline housing feels on edge, but I know that people of color feel on edge," she said.
The task force's final report said that while the officers do some good, the unit should be replaced because it is a "a part of the larger oppressive and violent history of the institution of policing in America and perceived by many Black and brown residents as such."
A final decision on what to do with the program likely won't come until the summer.
WBZ's Madison Rogers (@madisonwbz) reports: