The painful truth

By EDITORIAL  |  April 4, 2007

Rather than take note of that sorry state of affairs, Menino suppressed the results. The survey was subsequently discontinued. Is it any wonder that Boston has had trouble recruiting a sufficient number of recruits now that it is prepared to expand the force?

Commissioner Ed Davis, who is still learning his way around a new city and a new job, has instituted a number of important changes — such as restructuring how detectives report and the gang unit works — that require time before they can hope to bear results. And although the larger situation is dispiriting, there are also some genuine signs of success, particularly in the South End and parts of Jamaica Plain in and around Hyde Square.

Davis does not need at this critical point to be forced into doing things he doesn’t believe in because of pressure from the public, the media, the Guardian Angels, or Mayor Menino.

Does the public think that all the new initiatives that have cropped up over the past couple of days — such as increasing federal prosecutions or “tailing” suspected gang members — came from Davis? Or are these measures Menino’s way of responding to the heat of the past several depressing days, of showing he’s doing something?

Quick fixes and feel-good solutions will not solve a crisis that has been developing for years. The well-intentioned but ill-conceived campaign to ban “Stop Snitchin’” T-shirts was not much help. And while it could be argued that without the recent gun buy-back program violence would be worse, recent events suggest it did not work as well as hoped.

If Menino wants to use his bully pulpit, let him tell the governor and the legislature that if there were 100 unsolved murders in Wellesley or Belmont or Duxbury, the state would dedicate serious resources to help. Boston needs help now, and it is up to the mayor to articulate the need.

In the meantime, political Boston — city councilors, state representatives, and state senators — must overcome its fear of the police union and make clear to Menino that the Boston Police Department is in need of serious, not piecemeal, reform.

The larger societal problems that contribute to Boston’s murder and shooting crisis may be beyond the power of City Hall to solve. But fixing the police department is the mayor’s responsibility. At this moment in time, better policing is the only hope the residents of Boston’s troubled neighborhoods have.

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