Mayor Marty Walsh on Monday signed an ordinance to create the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT), which will bring together the Internal Affairs Oversight Panel and the new nine-member Civilian Review Board, and establish “a single point of public access to a new standard in police accountability and community oversight…” according to the city.
Residents will be able to go to this office with complaints about the Boston Police Department, where they will be investigated. The office “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,” according to the City.
“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 City said in a release.
At the virtual signing event, Walsh thanked the Boston Police Reform Task Force, headed by former US Attorney General Wayne Budd, for their work on these issues and for the recommendation of the creation of this office.
Walsh said that George Floyd’s death last spring was “very challenging for me, personally,” and following his death, Walsh declared racism a public health crisis and established a task force for COVID-19 related health inequities, as well as created the Office of Equity in the City of Boston.
“One of the most dynamic things we did,” Walsh said, was create the Police Reform Task Force in June, which made final recommendations to the mayor in October based on a review of the current “policies and procedures” of the Boston Police Department, according to the city. Major areas of review included: “Use of Force Policies, Implicit Bias Training, the Body-Worn Camera Program, and the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel (CO-OP),” according to the City.
Walsh also thanked the City Council for their support on this issue.
“We have the best police department in the country and there’s no reason why anyone should be fearful of what we’re doing today,” Walsh said. “What we’re doing today is adding accountability, whether it’s in training, whether it’s in hiring, whether it’s in diversity, whether it’s in police misconduct, we want to make sure we do everything we can, that people have the full faith and trust in the Boston Police Department.”
Walsh also said, “this is not the beginning of our work, and this is not the end of our work. This is a continuation of our work.”
Walsh continued, “we have an opportunity to be a national model,” adding that “we’re the first city to really respond,” but “we still have more work to do.”
Chairman Wayne Budd explained at the signing event that the Task Force “worked diligently” last spring, summer, and fall and “delivered a robust set of recommendations” to the mayor, including “ways of strengthening the existing CO-OP board,” which a subcommittee of the Task Force tackled. Budd said they “studied and analyzed existing models of the Civilian Review Board.”
He added that “as a Task Force, we debated and deliberated the strengths and weaknesses of various structures,” and recommended the creation of OPAT.
“This new office…would be designed to staff and support the Civilian Review Board,” and replace the previous CO-OP board, Budd said, and will also enable an “enhanced level of civilian input.”
Mayor Walsh said in a statement that “now is the time to act with urgency to dismantle systemic racism across our city.” He added that “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.”
The remaining recommendations from the Task Force that have yet to be implemented are currently under review and implementation by Mayor Walsh, according to the city. Additionally, the city is currently in search of an Executive Director for the Office of Accountability and Transparency who will lead the OPAT office.