Boston To Establish Office Of Police Accountability And Transparency

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The Boston City Council voted Wednesday to establish an Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT), in an effort to set up a system of "effective civilian oversight, accountability, and transparency in policing" in Boston.

The City Council voted 12 to 1 to pass the ordinance establishing the OPAT, which also creates a Civilian Review Board and an Internal Affairs Oversight Panel.

The legislation is the result of a collaboration between the Council and the Administration to reconcile two ordinances, one filed by Mayor Marty Walsh to establish the OPAT, and another filed by Councilors Andrea Campbell of District 4, Ricardo Arroyo of District 5, and At-Large Councilor Julia Mejia to establish a Civilian Review Board (CRB).

“This ordinance establishes, for the first time in Boston, an empowered office and civilian review board to provide consistent and effective oversight over our police department," Councilor Campbell said. "This is a win for the City, and a major step forward toward eliminating racial disparities in policing and ensuring justice in this system, both of which require systems of accountability and transparency."

The ordinance ensures the City of Boston will have an effective system of civilian oversight by ensuring the OPAT, CRB, and IAOP have authority, with subpoena power, to investigate complaints of police misconduct and review internal affairs investigations "to create true accountability."

It also establishes a system for regular, public reporting of data on police stops and arrests, police use of force, police misconduct, and findings related to disparate treatment, discipline or termination of BIPOC officers, broken down by demographics including race, to increase transparency; and ensuring this office is independent from the police department and accessible to the public.

"Creating an empowered Civilian Review Board was long overdue and I believe this ordinance, which combines the best practices of both proposals, does that," said Councilor Arroyo. "I am keenly aware that a Civilian Review Board is ultimately only as empowered as its staffing and budget allow it to be. I will continue to advocate for those resources and for continued systemic changes that directly address systemic inequities and racism."

The ordinance maintains key recommendations from the Administration and Police Reform Task Force, most notably the overall structure of the OPAT that houses and supports the CRB and IAOP.

It also includes important provisions from the Council’s legislation, such as requiring reports of complaints and policing data on a monthly basis, a designated seat for a young person on the CRB, and an empowered role for the Council in nominating CRB and IAOP members, and, most importantly, ensuring all three elements of this system are codified in an ordinance, which must be passed by the Council and signed by Mayor, to create an enforceable, lasting system of civilian oversight.

The 9-member CRB and 5-member IAOP will be composed of members appointed by the Mayor based on nominations from the City Council and the community, and will receive extensive training upon appointment and annually thereafter.

The OPAT administrative office will be under the charge of an Executive Director, and will include staff to support the work of the CRB and the IAOP, as well as carry out various other designated review and reporting duties.

Together, the Chair of the CRB, the Chair of the IAOP, and the OPAT Executive Director comprise the OPAT Commission, which will oversee the OPAT at large, create rules and regulations for the OPAT, have the authority to issue subpoenas, and hold community meetings regarding the work of the OPAT.

In addition to reviewing civilian complaints, the CRB will review and make recommendations regarding BPD policies and procedures, allegations of disparate treatment by BPD in human resource matters, instances where a BIPOC officer is disciplined or terminated, and alternatives to the civil service examination process.

As well as reviewing internal affairs cases, the IAOP will also review policies and procedures relevant to the integrity of the complaint and internal affairs process.

On top of supporting the duties of the CRB and IAOP, OPAT staff will also review and analyze FIO data and BPD statistics to identify trends, track and report on the progress of BPD reform goals, coordinate with BPD staff to review and provide recommendations related to the selection and implementation of grants, publish publications and results of investigations, and maintain a publicly available website to publish OPAT data, updates, findings, and reports.

OPAT will release semi-annual reports to the public, deliver an annual report to the Mayor and Police Commissioner to be filed with the City Council, and will publish disaggregated complaint data and BPD statistics on a monthly basis.

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Written by Brit Smith

(Photo: Mario Jarjour/WBZ NewsRadio)

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