Three Boston City Councillors on Monday filed an ordinance that would establish a Civilian Review Board to investigate allegations of police misconduct. If approved by the rest of the council and signed by Mayor Martin Walsh, it would replace the existing Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel (CO-OP), which critics say is inadequate.
District 4 and 5 Councillors Andrea Campbell and Ricardo Arroyo, respectively, and at-Large Councillor Julia Mejia co-filed the ordinance.
“For many who have been mistreated or harmed by our policing system, justice is accountability, but the current oversight board is ineffective in creating true accountability,” said Campbell. “Establishing a civilian review board independent from the police department, with the authority and resources to review complaints, conduct investigations, and recommend action, including disciplinary action, will bring more accountability and transparency to this system and justice for Bostonians.”
The new Board would consist of 11 members, 5 appointed to 2-year terms by Walsh and 6 appointed to 3-year terms by the Council. Currently, each of the CO-OP Board’s 5 members are appointed by Walsh. The review board would serve as an independent body to primarily review, investigate, recommend disciplinary action, and resolve complaints of police misconduct submitted by members of the public or by other BPD officers or personnel.
“An important aspect of this ordinance is the dashboard where people will be able to review public complaint and misconduct data,” said Mejia.
The ordinance would give the Board the power to review complaints against BPD alleging misconduct, including but not limited to: excessive use of force; abuse of authority; unlawful arrest, stops, or searches; perjury; use of offensive language, including, but not limited to slurs relating to race, expression, sexual orientation, and disability; theft; and any other categories deemed appropriate by Police Commissioner William Gross.
It would also have the power to review internal affairs investigations findings and conclusions upon referral; provide investigation reports to the commissioner, annually review and publish recommendations on BPD policies and procedures; and collect and publish the number of complaints the Board receives, of BPD arrests, stops and use of force incidents.
The CO-OP Board reviews complaints against BPD’s Internal Investigation team in instances that individual cases were found “not sustained” or “unfounded,” the defendant was exonerated, or the appeal applicant “feels they weren’t given fair treatment.”
The Campbell-Arroyo-Mejia proposal is expected to be formally introduced to the full council at its next meeting on July 29.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Walsh said that the city aims to tackle systemic racism as it relates to police by “centering voices in the Black community that have been most impacted by this history.” He told reporters outside of City Hall, “That’s the purpose for our Boston Police Reform Task Force which we appointed.”
The mayoral unit, led by community members and chaired by former US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Wayne Budd, was commissioned by Walsh in June.
“All of their work that they’re doing is moving forward. I’m going to announce today that starting next week, the task force will be holding listening sessions on key issues where residents will have the opportunity to share their experiences and beliefs.”
Walsh said there will be two hearing sessions that will be open to the public later this week, on the BPD body camera program on Wednesday, and on implicit bias training on Thursday.
Next week’s sessions will include hearings on the civilian oversight board and use of force policies.
“I want to reaffirm my pledge to act on the recommendations of this board as informed by the community,” the mayor said.