Mayor signs ordinance to create Office of Police Accountability and Transparency
In maintaining his commitment to making Boston a national leader on police reform and creating long-lasting, systemic change, Mayor Martin J. Walsh today joined members of the Boston Police Reform Task Force, Chairman Wayne Budd, and Boston Police Commissioner William Gross to sign the ordinance creating the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT) in a virtual ceremony. The office creates a single point of public access to a new standard in police accountability and community oversight, and will house and support the newly created Civilian Review Board, and the Internal Affairs Oversight Panel that builds on and strengthens the existing Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel (CO-OP) board. It also creates the overarching Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT) Commission, which collectively holds subpoena power for the OPAT, Civilian Review Board, and Internal Affairs Oversight Panel.
"Now is the time to act with urgency to dismantle systemic racism across our city," said Mayor Walsh. "The Office of Police Accountability and Transparency will support lasting, generational change by rooting out impropriety and ensuring the type of enhanced oversight that leads to greater community trust. This is an important milestone, but it's only the beginning. I thank the Task Force members for their dedication to engaging the community to create comprehensive recommendations that will deepen our progress towards equity in Boston."
In June, Mayor Walsh created the Boston Police Reform Task Force, which was charged with reviewing a set of current Boston Police Department policies and procedures, and presenting recommendations for reform. The four main areas of review were: Use of Force policies; Implicit Bias Training, the Body-worn Camera Program, and the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel (CO-OP). The creation of the OPAT was a central recommendation from the Task Force, which issued their final recommendations in Mid-October. Mayor Walsh is currently in the process of reviewing and implementing all of the additional recommendations.
To act swiftly and enact the recommendations, Mayor Walsh previously signed two executive orders 30 days after the Task Force released their recommendations to create Boston's first-ever Civilian Review Board, a 9-member board that will be made up of community members nominated by the City Council and the Mayor's Office, and to reconstitute the existing CO-OP as a stronger Internal Affairs Oversight Panel that will have the power to review all completed Internal Affairs cases. The Panel will also be able to review the policies and procedures of Internal Affairs, as well as engage with the community about their impact. The Civilian Review Board and the Internal Affairs Oversight Panel will be housed within the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, making up a two-pronged system with a single point of entry for residents. The OPAT will provide intake services, research, and administrative support to the Civilian Review Board and the Internal Affairs Oversight Panel, and the OPAT Commission will have subpoena power to investigate misconduct.
The City of Boston is in the process of searching for an Executive Director to lead the Office of Accountability and Transparency. The Executive Director will be tasked with leading the OPAT Office and Administrative Staff, and would serve on the 3-member OPAT Commission, alongside the appointed Chairs of the CRB and IAOP. The City has launched a search to find an Executive Director who is a member of the Massachusetts bar, with the robust experience needed to lead this critical new office, and manage its operations.
"The Boston Police Reform Task Force worked diligently to produce a set of recommendations that will create real reform within the Boston Police Department," said Boston Police Reform Task Force Chairman Wayne Budd. "I look forward to seeing how the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency enhances equity and allows the community to have greater confidence in the integrity of policing."
In addition to formally creating OPAT, the Civilian Review Board and Internal Affairs Oversight Panel, Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston have taken significant steps to enact all of the Task Force's additional recommendations. These include Mayor Walsh filing a Home Rule Petition at the Boston City Council that would give Boston high school graduates a preference in police hiring. The Mayor's Home Rule Petition was passed by the City Council on December 16, and will now go to the State House. Mayor Walsh also charged City leaders, such as Chief of Equity Karilyn Crockett, to work with the Boston Police Department on evaluating and updating their policies through a lens of equity and to create a Diversity and Inclusion Unit in the Department.
These key steps build on the City of Boston's dedication to enhancing equity within public safety offices. On June 12th, Mayor Walsh signed the "Mayor's Pledge" issued by the Obama Foundation's My Brother's Keeper Alliance as one of the strategies to address racism as an emergency and public health crisis. The Mayor committed the City of Boston to review police use of force policies; engage communities by including a diverse range of input experiences and stories; report review findings to the community and seek feedback; and reform police use of force policies. The Boston Police Reform Task Force was composed of members from the community, law enforcement, advocacy organizations, and the legal profession, to ensure that these commitments are translated to actions.
"Our success is rooted in the bonds we create with the community and the trust we build through those relationships," said Boston Police Commissioner William Gross. "The creation of the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency will ensure we are living up to the ideal standard of community policing."
On June 11, 2020, Boston Police Commissioner William Gross announced he completed a review of Boston Police's policies against the recommended use of force policies outlined in the "8 Can't Wait" effort, resulting in clarified rules and the implementation of several reforms. In addition, as part of Mayor Walsh's Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget, Mayor Walsh allocated 20% (or $12 million) of the Boston Police Department's overtime budget to make a significant investment in equity and inclusion across the City.
The signing of the ordinance for an Office of Police Accountability and Transparency is a significant step forward towards a more just police department and represents the tireless work of the Boston Police Reform Task Force and the community members who engaged in this process. Over the summer, the Task Force held five separate public listening sessions, and received over 100 pieces of testimony from the community, over the course of two written comment periods.
The ordinance, final report and full recommendations are available online.