In a prior post, the Data for Justice Project explored the huge portion of the city of Boston’s budget spent on policing. The bulk of the Boston Police Department’s budget goes towards payroll. Many Police Department employees earn enormous salaries and overtime compared to other city employees. New analysis shows that the BPD’s overstuffed budget and extraordinarily high pay are matched by large contributions to local candidates by police officers and staff and unions representing them.

It’s a cliché in politics: Follow the money. In that tradition, below we begin to explore which Boston politicians received donations from police or police-affiliated organizations, when, and for how much money.

This analysis was completed by the BU Spark! Data project in collaboration with the ACLU of Massachusetts’ Data for Justice project and Mijente

Learn More: Visit our project site which hosts detailed visualizations of police campaign donations to Boston politicians.

About the Data

All campaign donation data presented here are publicly available in raw form at the Massachusetts Office of Campaign & Political Finance (OCPF). 

In determining which political donations originated from police, our analysts included occupations within the Boston Police Department, as well as police membership organizations elsewhere in Massachusetts and around the country. Please note that occupation and employer are self-reported by the person making the contribution.

Our team analyzed contributions from the past ten years for Boston City Council members and the Mayor. 

Police Contributions to Mayor Walsh 

As the chief executive in a strong-mayor system, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh attracted the lion’s share of police donations in the city, totaling $456,548 in the last decade. While the donations began with Walsh’s first run for mayor in 2013, Walsh has seen consistent support every year since. 

Individual and PAC/Union Police Contributions to Mayor Walsh, 2010-2020
Visualization by BU Spark!

The data shows that Mayor Walsh receives a steady stream of police donations month after month, year after year. This includes large and small amounts in contested election years as well as off-years. Mayor Walsh maintains a median police-related donation of as much as $250 across a total of 1477 donations for the last ten years of data.

Police contributions to the Walsh campaign align to the campaign’s general fundraising pushes. As you can see below, contributions from police have historically peaked around the same time that Walsh’s overall fundraising peaked.

Police contributions to Mayor Walsh over time, 2010-2020
Visualization by BU Spark!

Where do the police who have donated to Mayor Walsh live? While many police donors to the Walsh campaign live in Boston, the data shows that many others live in cities and towns across Eastern Massachusetts.

All police contributions to Mayor Walsh by zip code, 2010-2020
Visualization by BU Spark!

The top three most profitable zip codes for police contributions to the Walsh campaign are in Boston, including 02122 (Dorchester-Neponset/Port Norfolk, total: $68,589), 02124 (Dorchester-Ashmont/Lower Mills/Codman Sq, total:$58,961), and 02127 (South Boston, total: $57,375). Yet overall, 26% of the Mayor’s police-related campaign support came from residents outside of Boston, whether BPD employees or not.

Police contributions to Boston City Councilors 

Mayor Walsh isn’t the only Boston politician with strong, consistent financial backing from police. Police contributions to currently serving Boston City Councilors in the last decade totaled $114,276—approximately one fourth of the total police support to Mayor Walsh. Councilor Michael Flaherty, who has served on the council as a Councilor At-Large since 2000, tops the list. Police contributed $38,700 to Councilor Flaherty in the years 2010-2020. 

Police-related contributions to Councilors vary widely. Some councilors received tens of thousands of dollars from police and some received just hundreds. And two councilors newly elected in 2019—Councilors Kenzie Bok and Liz Breadon—have not received any police-related contributions. 

Individual and PAC/Union Police Contributions to Current City Councilors, 2010-2020
Visualization by BU Spark!

Amount (size) and percent (color) of Police Contributions to Current City Councilors, 2010-2020
Visualization by BU Spark!

In the above visualization, the darker the color of a Councilor’s rectangle, the higher the percent of total contributions made to that Councilor by police. The larger the block, the greater the total police contribution amount. Councilor Flaherty leads in total financial support while Councilor Essaibi George leads in percentage of contributions coming from police.

 Councilors Flaherty and Essaibi-George jointly account for a bit over half (56%) of police contributions. As a share of total contributions, Flaherty received 2.13% from police. Councilor Essaibi-George has served a shorter period, though her share of police donations is larger at 4%. Councilors with the smallest share of police donations include Councilors Wu (0.23%), Edwards (0.52%), Arroyo (0.54%) and Campbell (0.60%). 


For many reasons, police nationwide have outsized influence on local and state politics. As concerned community members, we must ensure government officials are held accountable to all of their constituents, not just those with the most money or political clout.

Learn More:

Take action:

  • Sign up for project partner BU Spark!’s newsletter to learn more about BU student tech projects
  • Sign on and support project partner Mijente.org on the front lines in Latinx communities for social and criminal justice
  • Join to become a card carrying member of the ACLU of Massachusetts
  • Learn how to file a complaint against the Boston Police: https://openpolice.org/dept/MA-boston-police-dept 

To learn more or get involved with the Police in Politics project, please email police-in-politics@aclum.org

The Police in Politics project is a partnership between Mijente, BU Spark!, and the ACLU of Massachusetts to investigate police donations to Massachusetts politicians. It is supported by some great technical volunteers, including Steve Backman.