Boston Mayor Martin Walsh signed an ordinance Monday to create a board independent of the Boston Police Department (BPD) to investigate police misconduct allegations.
The ordinance was signed by Walsh in a ceremony conducted virtually. It establishes the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT), which will “investigate complaints of police misconduct, ensure that the Boston Police Department’s internal affairs review process is fair and thorough, and review Boston Police Department’s existing and proposed policies and procedures.” According to a press release published by the Mayor’s Office, the ordinance also establishes the OPAT Commission, a body empowered to subpoena which oversees 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,” Walsh commented in the press release. “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 … towards equity in Boston.”
Establishing the OPAT is in line with recommendations made by the Boston Police Reform Task Force, an 11-member group created by Walsh last year to review the BPD. Establishing the OPAT was a “central recommendation” issued by the task force to Walsh. Other recommendations included increasing diversity in the BPD; requiring all uniformed BPD officers to use body-worn cameras during work hours, among other improvements to the BPD’s body-worn camera program; creating disciplinary policies; and creating practices which maximize the BPD’s accessibility to the public.
Signing the ordinance as part of Walsh’s “commitment to making Boston a national leader on police reform and creating long-lasting, systemic change” comes amidst significant public concern about police brutality and systematic racism. Black Lives Matter protests gained prominence in legal, social and political spheres last year, bringing international attention to entrenched issues. Calls for a national defunding of police permeated the US and beyond. Although the task force’s recommendations addressed some of the public’s concerns, defunding the police was not addressed.
An Executive Director for the OPAT is yet to be appointed but a non-practicing Massachusetts bar member is sought.