Boston's mayor and police commissioner on Tuesday committed to a set of police reforms, including a new, independent oversight office and expanded use of bodycams, proposed by a task force appointed in the wake of the death of George Floyd this spring.
The Boston Police Reform Task Force, joined by Mayor Marty Walsh, shared its final recommendations on how to change the Boston Police Department at a news conference at City Hall, where Walsh and Commissioner William Gross enthusiastically endorsed them and committed to bringing them into practice.
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"I accept and endorse each of these principles," Walsh said. "I will use every tool at my disposal to make this a reality."
The five recommended reforms, suggested for implementation within 180 days, are:
- Create an independent Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (“OPAT”) with full investigatory and subpoena power, i.e. the ability to call witnesses and to compel the discovery of documents.
- Formalize and expand the BPD’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through the creation of a Diversity & Inclusion unit.
- Expand the BPD’s adoption of the body-worn camera program and continue to ban the use of biometrics and facial recognition software.
- Enhance the BPD’s Use of Force policies (Rule 303, Rule 303A, Rule 303B, Rule 304) so that they articulate clear and enforceable disciplinary code of consequences for violations and infractions and hold the BPD publicly accountable for the violation of these policies.
- Adopt practices that maximize accountability, transparency and public access to the BPD.
Read the report in English below, or in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Haitian and Cape Verdean Creole here at the city of Boston's website:
Gross, who in June modified department policies to align with proposals from the 8CantWait campaign, also said he accepted the proposal, saying, "I think it'll be fair to the community and to the police."
Appointed by Walsh and led by former U.S. Attorney Wayne Budd, the task force submitted its draft recommendations in September. They were opened up to public comment, including at a hearing that month.
"We want residents to feel comfortable coming forward with any concerns that they might have," Walsh said at the announcement in September.
On Tuesday, the mayor said he would create the recommended Office of Police Accountability and Transparency within the next few weeks. He's previously said that the oversight office will be staffed by civilians, not police officers, and housed in a city building that isn't City Hall or Police Headquarters.
Members of law enforcement, advocacy groups, legal workers and the city community were appointed to the Boston Police Reform Task Force in June to review police practices in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Boston was one of many cities across the United States that saw major protests this spring in the wake of the killings of Floyd and other Black people by police.
Most of the recommendations from the task force can be taken care of by Walsh and Gross, the mayor said, but some will require legislation from the city council or state legislature.
The head of the ACLU of Massachusetts, Carol Rose, called the work commendable, but added in a statement, "it remains to be seen whether the policies will be implemented over likely objections from police unions, and how much it will inflate the police department’s already enormous budget."
One of the main focuses of protests in Boston was the police budget, and task force member Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston NAACP, said Tuesday that the group took that into account.
"We spent a lot of time as a task force talking about how these reforms would be funded," she said at the news conference, adding that the group was recommending that the Boston Police Department reorganize or restructure as much as possible to accommodate the proposed reforms.
Walsh said the task force's 26-page report is part of Boston's continued commitment to bringing about change, which has included Walsh's June 12 declaration of racism as a public health crisis. The mayor also announced the formation of the panel that day as part of a pledge to the Obama Foundation's My Brother's Keeper Alliance that committed to review and reform of the BPD's use of force policies that includes community engagement through a public process.
"What I realized was that doing better than before is just not enough," Walsh said Tuesday. "We have to change the system that we inherited, and we have to change it in a foundational way."
He added that the task force's recommendations are just the beginning of that work, and called on everyone in Boston to take part.
Tuesday's announcement comes amid the coronavirus pandemic. Walsh said the city reported 18,136 cases and 768 deaths as of Monday, the most recent day for which data was available.