Walsh moves forward with police reform initiatives

Sets in motion creation of 3 new boards, offices

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Thursday followed through on an earlier promise and signed a pair of executive orders and filed an ordinance with the City Council to create an independent office to oversee and investigate civilian complaints against police officers and a civilian review board with auditing and monitoring powers over that independent office.

The new office for investigating civilian complaints will have subpoena power and be overseen by three commissioners and an attorney executive director. The civilian review board will be made up of nine community members appointed by the mayor and city council.

Walsh is also creating an Internal Affairs Oversight Panel, a more powerful version of an existing office, that will have the authority to review cases initiated by the Police Department’s Internal Affairs office.

All of the new initiatives were recommended by a police reform task force formed in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. The task force recommended releasing more information to the public, including data on use-of-force incidents, weapons discharges, and arrest-related deaths.

To address existing situations involving excessive force and wrongful death, Police Commissioner William Gross said the department will work to resolve the cases and publicly release all data and records related to them.

Tanisha Sullivan of the Boston NAACP and a member of the task force said implementation of these measures will be crucial. “We fully expect that the city and the BPD and the office of equity will continue to engage with the community to ensure that we are increasing racial justice across our public safety departments,” she said.

The 11-person task force included a variety of advocates and law enforcement officials, including Boston Police Department Superintendent Dennis White; Darrin Howell, a political coordinator for 1199SEIU; Rev. Jeffrey Brown of 12th Baptist Church of Roxbury; Jamarhl Crawford; and other community leaders.

“The Boston Police Reform Task Force recommendations laid out plans for real reform at the Boston Police Department,” said Boston Police Reform Task Force chairman Wayne Budd in a written statement. “These actions today will further the goals of the Task Force, and we look forward to these recommendations creating change in our city.”

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Freelance reporter, Formerly worked for CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Walsh also recently filed a home rule petition to give Boston high school graduates preference in hiring at the Boston Police Department in an effort to increase diversity, something the task force had suggested. A City Council hearing on the petition is scheduled for December 3.

The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the BPD’s largest union, did not respond requests for comment on Walsh’s decision. Larry Calderone, the organization’s president, has decried the existence of the task force, and called the proposed oversight office a “new bureaucracy.”