Boston mayor commits to police reform task force recommendations

Boston is now set to create a new police oversight office with the subpoena power to investigate internal and external complaints

By Sean Philip Cotter
Boston Herald

BOSTON — Boston will create a new police oversight office with the subpoena power to investigate internal and external complaints after Mayor Martin Walsh said he plans to adopt that and the other recommendations from the Boston Police Reform Task Force.

Walsh also said he plans to file an ordinance that would give hiring preference to would-be police officers who graduated from Boston Public Schools and other schools in the city.

“These are bold steps,” Walsh proclaimed to reporters, flanked by members of the task force and his police commissioner. “They will mark a new era in Boston and police practices and community relations.”

The task force’s recommendations included the creation of an independent Office of Police Accountability and Transparency — OPAT — with subpoena power to investigate internal and external complaints. It also recommended an expansion of the police department’s body-worn camera program, more required reporting of police records and changes in use-of-force rules.

Walsh created the task force as calls and protests for police reform grew in June following several high-profile police shootings of Black people.

The Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel has been the mechanism to oversee some complaints against the department, but despite movement by Walsh early in his tenure to strengthen the panel, it is essentially toothless. The OPAT will house a civilian review board and a more beefed-up version of the COOP, Walsh said.

The task force recommendations also include new police diversity initiatives, the expansion of the current body-cam program, and more clarity and reporting on use of force.

Police Commissioner William Gross — the first person of color to run the department — said he too accepts the recommendations.

“I think it’ll be fair to the community and the police,” Gross told reporters. “Because we have folks here that saw not only through the eyes of the community, but what a difficult job it is for any police department.”

The task force was led by former U.S. Attorney Wayne Budd, and included community activists, local clergy and two police officers. Budd said the recommendations were the product from “frequent vigorous debate.”

Walsh’s proposal for local hiring preference would involve change’s to the city’s usage of civil service hiring. It would add a couple of points to people who graduated from BPS or other schools in the city. This can only be done as a home-rule petition, so Walsh’s proposal would need the sign-off of the city council and then the approval of the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker.

©2020 the Boston Herald

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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